Leading Across Cultures

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How did it come to this?
Olivier Chalon leant back in his chair and let out a frustrated sigh. For the first time in years he was starting to question his leadership style. Jeff Armstrong, the head of human resources for Michelin’s North American operations and whom Chalon knew personally, had just left his office. He had mentioned to Chalon that several of his colleagues and subordinates had bitterly complained about Chalon’s management approach. Some individuals thought they were going to be fired or were seeking other positions within the company.

Chalon was shocked by the complaints people had made to Armstrong. Was it really true that people felt his leadership style was demoralising? That he lacked people skills? That he was an arrogant manager? Chalon was dumbfounded. Throughout his career he had been known for his ability to motivate teams to accomplish great things and attain outstanding results. In his previous position he had successfully motivated a workforce of over 1,500 European employees to restructure a €1.2 billion business, leading to a profit increase of over 50% on a quarterly basis. The outstanding career success he had enjoyed over the last decade was largely built on his strong interpersonal skills and his ability to mobilise large groups of employees. Where could this criticism be coming from? Chalon knew he had to better understand this situation and to make some changes. “I need to address this before things get out of control and really damage the business,” he thought. He was concerned that his new position might be in jeopardy just six months after moving to Michelin. The stakes were high at Michelin and he was in charge of an important division that was in the midst of a turnaround.

Chalon’s Background
Up until now, Chalon had had a long and very successful track record in the corporate world as a talented leader who consistently delivered top results. Trained as an engineer at one of France’s highly selective and...
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