For a company boasting €22 billion in annual sales, Florent Menegaux’s appointment in 2019 as the CEO of the Michelin Group was a staid affair. At the time, Le Monde reported that internally, there simply wasn’t any contention around the 22-year-employee-turned-general-partner taking the driver’s seat of one of France’s most well-known companies.
“As a leader, I had to learn, ‘I cannot achieve things if I think I am the solution. I have a set of responsibilities, but I have to rely on others if we want to achieve great things’.” -Florent Menegaux, CEO of Michelin
“Florent has two great qualities,” the newspaper quoted Jacques de Chateauvieux, a member of Michelin’s auxiliary governing board, as saying. “A very clear vision of the orientation to be given to the group. Then there is his character. He is modern, with a lot of humility, possessing great leadership qualities.”
Those leadership qualities were on full display on Thursday, May 19, when Menegaux joined the HEC Paris MBA Programs for their inaugural Leadership Beyond Business Conference.
Organized jointly by HEC Paris MBA and EMBA students, the Conference focuses on the personal and professional journeys of very senior international leaders. Participants are asked to share their career highlights and low points—successes, failures, and challenges, as well as what they’ve learned about leadership along the way. The Conference first began in 2012 within the HEC Paris MBA under a different name and format, but were re-branded in 2022.
MBA Programs Associate Dean Andrea Masini and EMBA student Anatoly Solovyov, a current employee of Michelin, introduced Menegaux to the audience in Bellon Auditorium.
“When I started my career,” Menegaux explained, “I had many processes and books that I’d read that told me how to be a leader. One of my first lessons was that you may be right, but if you don’t have others who are with you, so what? If you really want to influence or achieve something, you have to be in, and working with other people. You’re much more powerful when you attempt things with others.”
Leading a company that spans 174 countries with 25 separate businesses brings unique challenges, Menegaux said to the 120-plus HEC Paris students in attendance Thursday night. He then delved into his work to solidify the company’s value statement and purpose in a way that could resonate with each of its 130,000 employees.
The end result is Michelin’s leadership model, summarized by the acronym, “I CARE.” It defines 5 dimensions to being a successful leader: the ability to Inspire others and serve as a role model; the ability to Create trust; having Awareness about yourself and others; being Results orientated, and Empowering others.
“Empowerment was very intimate to my journey as a manager and a leader,” Menegaux explained. “As a leader, I had to learn, ‘I cannot achieve things if I think I am the solution. I have a set of responsibilities, but I have to rely on others if we want to achieve great things’.”
When he took the wheel at Michelin in May, 2019, Le Monde reported on Menegaux’s vision for everything from strengthening the company’s family business culture to his plans to keep its headquarters in Clemont-Ferrand. And although the Group’s head office remains far removed from Paris, as CEO he has brought substantial changes—both physical and philosophical–to Michelin’s Executive Committee.
To align with the company’s I CARE model, he explained that individual offices, including his own, have been banished among the C-Suite executives. The Executive Committee now shares a common work space with an online platform assigning seats. In addition, when Michelin’s ExCom formally meets, the agenda now includes an hour at the beginning and the end to discuss “how are you?” to make everyone more aware of the difficulties they each face.
“You’ve taken it from, ‘my knowledge is my power’ to ‘your knowledge is our power’,” commented moderator Piers Cumberlege, the EMBA Adjunct Professor who guided the discussion.
The Q&A part of the evening was opened by HEC Paris MBA student Myrtil Mitanga, J22, who asked the CEO of the world’s 2nd-largest tire manufacturer about sustainability. Next came a cocktail outside on the lawn near T building, where Menegaux and recruiters from Michelin mingled informally with students over appetizers and drinks.