Business & Leadership

Carlos Tavares (PSA): “I don't believe in the concept of an isolated, charismatic leader”

Once PSA Peugeot Citroën brought “back in the race,” the automobile group took the opportunity to make its comeback in the CAC 40. In this exclusive interview, Carlos Tavares analyses for Leaders League the collective and individual leadership that enabled this spectacular recovery.

Once PSA Peugeot Citroën brought “back in the race,” the automobile group took the opportunity to make its comeback in the CAC 40. In this exclusive interview, Carlos Tavares analyses for Leaders League the collective and individual leadership that enabled this spectacular recovery.


Leaders League. After a serious crisis, PSA is back in the race. Is this the result of individual and/or collective leadership?
Carlos Tavares. Leadership played an important role in our turnaround. Two out of the three goals of our "Back in the Race" Plan were accomplished ahead of time, thanks to an extremely talented and committed team. The collective strength of the members of the executive committee inspired the spirit of sportsmanship and high expectations, which drove the entire company's performance. This is a complex yet precious alchemy that brings added value to the organization.

Leaders League. Doesn’t the new organization of PSA Peugeot Citroën reflect how important collective leadership is for your company?
C. T. For us, collective leadership stokes the flames of performance, and performance protects the company in a competitive environment while inertia would otherwise kill it. I don't believe in the concept of an isolated, charismatic leader, a sort of omniscient seer capable of ensuring the maximum efficiency for each and every part of an organization. This is why I have established a matrix-based organization of regions, brands, and positions, spearheaded by highly-talented leaders. Collectively and individually, we strive for the best for PSA Peugeot Citroën.

Leaders League. What are the ingredients to trigger collective leadership?
C. T. A project should unite people and constitute an essential lever for attaining one or more objectives. Even the best plan will never reach its full potential if it is not put into perspective, patiently explained, and executed with discipline and focus at all times. A project rarely brings about the ultimate performance by itself, nor does it cement the group, unless a leader brings it to life.

Leaders League. Is collective leadership complementary to individual leadership?
C. T. Yes, it is. Collective leadership provides the momentum that reinforces innate, sometimes unconscious self-confidence within each leader. It is the catalyst that creates systematically more space for everybody’s potential. It also boosts performance, making it possible to deliver more than the sum of all the individual potentials.
Collective leadership also allows a team to set ambitious objectives that make the company grow, even if these are only partially attained. However, this requires work. Everything needs to be just right, and you must create the conditions that will enable each player along the value chain to act as a leader instead of a follower. A leader's ultimate satisfaction comes from driving a group of individuals towards an ambitious, perhaps even seemingly unrealistic, goal, and from experiencing the shared pleasure of reaching or even surpassing this goal.

Leaders League. One year after you stepped into the CEO position, how do you see your role in an environment of collective leadership?
C. T. In this kind of situation, it is my role as a coach that becomes essential. The leader must be an "impact player.” In relinquishing control, he or she encourages inspiration and then positions oneself as a demanding facilitator, striving towards the achievement of pre-set objectives and the proper application of the method. He or she accelerates performance by sparking the genius of "and" while fighting against the tyranny of "or". The most important thing is not necessarily that the leader wins every battle, but rather knowing that a leader will return to the battlefield with an understanding of why he or she failed in the past.


Translated from the French articles of Jean-Hippolyte Feildel


This article is dedicated to our fortnightly newsletter “Leaders Wisdom Journal”. To Subscribe.

Other articles of the same issue:
Yuanqing Yang (Lenovo): discreet speaker, ambitious doer
25 impactful African business leaders
Shackleton’s Way: Leadership Lessons from the Great Antarctic Explorer
Wisdom on courage

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