Interview Jonas Ridderstrale Zurück
Larry Hochman
1. You were selected as “The European Business Speaker of the Year” and your portfolio counts nearly 400 speeches. What is the source of your inspiration for all these speeches: could it be the experience of the ten years you spent at British Airways, where you held the position of Director of Customer Service?

My inspiration for speeches everywhere in the world (in 2006 I did speeches on every continent) is a deeply held belief in a future that is positive. Even though I am often identified as a futurist, I never try to predict the future. What I try to do is to prepare people for the future by identifying trends already underway that I believe will impact both their businesses and their careers. Individuals can then decide what personal actions are necessary to build the foundations for success. We live in truly remarkable times of unlimited opportunity for many. People must open their eyes and minds and as Leonardo Da Vinci once said, "Know How To See". I hope that my speeches help people better understand the world they live in and therefore are better able to take advantage of every opportunity in the unique globalised world where we all now reside.

2. How could companies build strong customer relationships that last a lifetime? How could an organization create a long-term relationship with his customers? Is there a special recipe to achieve success or does it depend on the company or a top management team?

In the kind of world we live in today, commercial success is indeed impossible without the BUILDING OF CUSTOMER RELATIONSHIPS TO LAST A LIFETIME. This, in fact, is more important now than ever before. Customers, everywhere, have more information and more choice which gives them more power and more control than anyone ever imagined would ever be possible. This is the most profound commercial reality of the so called "Information Age". The key element that must be present in order to build a strong relationship of any kind is TRUST. This is true in both personal and professional relationships. Perhaps the single most important question to be asked of the very best customers of all businesses, when conducting research of any kind, is the following one: "Do you trust us and if not, why not?". Having this information, feeding it back into the organisation and responding accordingly, will give you a true picture of what must be done to better retain your most important customers and therefore be a profitable enterprise in the future..

3. We are living in times of radical change all around the world due to the innovations in technology, due to new talented people organizations are struggling to attract. Could you develop a little bit the concept of ‘global leadership’ in the context of the globalization process that many have been discussing for some time now?

Questions 3 and 4 both refer to Global Leadership, so I shall combine my answers.

3-4) We live in world where all the rules are changing, with the key features being globalisation driven by new technologies. Boundaries, barriers and bureaucracies are falling everywhere and things are on the move like never before; people are on the move, goods and service are on the move, ideas are on the move and of course capital is on the move. A successful global leader in today's world must have, more than anything else, the VISION to see and the COURAGE to act. It is impossible to lead successfully without a vision of what it is you are trying to inspire people to accomplish, and what are the issues and trends that must be contended with along the way. Vision alone, however, is not enough. The courage to take concrete action, and the ability to inspire confidence in others to take actions of their own, is of equal importance. Every leader should ask themselves occasionally the following question: What is the last courageous decision I have made? Leaders must also be responsible for helping to create an environment where people can realise their full potential, with more individuals therefore contributing fully to the success and growth of the organisation.

4. Could you give us your own definition of the successful leader?

Refer to question 3.

5. Once a leader, how can you protect yourself from falling into the trap of conceit, and not really being able to see the way anymore, or on the contrary, of becoming so close to the people you lead, and not being able to guide them on the right track?

Having been the Personal Mentor to many Chief Executives and Directors all over the world, I have contemplated for several years the challenge for leaders to not fall into the trap of complacency. In order for anyone to continue to adapt and change, they must be free of three things: denial, nostalgia and arrogance. Leaders must be open enough to allow colleagues to confront them as often as possible, and challenge their behaviour when these traits appear. Surfacing and discussing these issues in an open manner helps you to identify when they exist. You must first acknowledge the existence of denial, nostalgia and arrogance and how they manifest as personal behaviour, in order to move beyond them. Often you need other people to help you do that. And move beyond them you must. Otherwise, ego and vanity will certainly destroy your career and perhaps your company as well. Of course corruption, lies and ethical lapses can even more quickly destroy the career of any leader. We thankfully live in a world of increasing transparency (and instant communication!), which will dictate the swift exit of any leader who fails to meet the highest possible ethical standards.

6. From your personal experience of 10 years at director level in multi-national companies British Airways and Air Miles, what were the most challenging/delicate situations you were faced with and how did you manage to overcome them? Could you give us a couple of concrete examples?

The biggest challenge in any global organisation is how to build a corporate culture with a common purpose. This is even more important today, with staff and customers spread all over the world. To me, the only common purpose that should exist is to put your CUSTOMERS AT THE HEART of everything that is done, said, promised and delivered. This must be the organising principle of any company that wishes to succeed and grow in the years ahead. The single biggest mistake to make in any business, big or small, is to fail to deliver on the promises made to customers. This is the responsibility of every single person in every single company in the world, regardless of where in the organisation they may work. At British Airways, Air Miles and every business I have ever been associated with, building a common purpose around meeting the demands of customers, and helping people understand their individual responsibility in doing so, has always been the biggest challenge.

7. In this competition for talent, what is the near future of HR, in your opinion? What are the most productive and up-to-date recruitment techniques at the moment of speaking?

The biggest challenge for HR departments anywhere in the world is first to make themselves relevant, and second to be certain everything that they do is seen to be linked to the commercial success of the business. Their most important and most relevant focus, by far, is assuring that the company becomes a "MAGNET FOR TALENT". There is never a shortage of talent, just a shortage of great companies that the best people want to work for. Once they have helped to attract the most talented people possible, they must then manage that pool of talent and reward and retain the right people for the right amount of time. HR must also manage the sharing of intellectual capital in the organisation, a vital process in order to succeed and grow in the kind of world we live in today. Finally, HR must keep the leaders of the company honest in regard to that well used phrase that "people are the most important asset in the business". This is said by many if not most leaders, but these words are seldom matched by their actions, in particular when the business hits a few bumps. HR must help to make certain that there is always investment being made in the people of the company and their continued growth. If not HR, then who will do this??
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