Carlos Ghosn Promotes Diversity in Business
|CEO Carlos Ghosn
Nissan and Renault CEO Carlos Ghosn told AUB's business students to embrace
diversity, since it is exactly what will spur them to be creative and
succeed. At a special seminar held in West Hall's Bathish Auditorium on
August 27, he inspired them by sharing his experience in cross-cultural
Humans, by nature, Ghosn said, like to fit in and often seek people who
are like them. "But we can hardly learn anything from people who
are very much like us. So even though it's not comfortable, [embracing
diversity] is the only way you can enrich yourself," he said.
Ghosn, himself, is the product of diversity. He was born to Lebanese parents
in Brazil and grew up between Lebanon and France, where he is also a citizen.
Later he also lived and worked in the United States, Japan, France, and
Brazil. His diverse background helped him a great deal in business, he
said, noting: "When you are an outsider and you cannot be categorized
into one culture, it makes people feel that you are unlikely to be biased."
"He is the quintessential global executive," said Olayan School
of Business Dean George Najjar in his introduction of Ghosn, saying he
is the first businessman to be the CEO of two major automotive companies.
Thanking Ghosn for taking time out of his busy schedule to speak with
the students, Najjar briefly listed some of the auto-industry magnate's
list of seemingly endless accomplishments.
Credited with turning Nissan around and saving it from near-bankruptcy,
Ghosn was nicknamed "Samurai" [or, "he who serves"]
in Japan, earning celebrity status there. He has also been dubbed "Le
Cost Killer" in France, for bringing growth and profits to Renault
as well as to Nissan, in which Renault owns 44 percent of shares. In 2003,
Ghosn was also named Man of the Year by Fortune Magazine, and was awarded
an honorary doctorate by the American University of Beirut. "He is
the living embodiment of how far you can go with a doctoral degree from
AUB," quipped Dean Najjar, prompting laughs from the audience.
In addressing the topic of diversity and cross-cultural management, Ghosn
remarked that people's first reaction to difference and diversity is usually
criticism, but he encouraged his audience to go beyond that initial reaction
and open up their minds in order to learn from their differences, especially
since the world we live in is increasingly one with fewer boundaries,
where people from different cultures and countries have to work together.
"What's important is to respect the other's identity and not try
to change them, but to add to your experience and enrich it," he
The audience, which remained intensely engaged for all the ninety minutes
during which Ghosn spoke, responded with dozens of questions on business
and cultural concepts. Even politics had its share, with one questioner
asking if Ghosn could confirm rumors that he was considering running for
the Lebanese presidency. "If someone wants to succeed at something,
they have to really know what they are doing and what they are getting
themselves into," responded Ghosn. "I am a businessman, not