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Leaders: Creativity, Expertise, & Risk

Marwan Lahoud
Former Chief Strategy and Marketing Officer at Airbus & Former CEO at MBDA

Learning outcomes

  • How to think about the three core characteristics of leaders and understanding where your strength lies

Executive Bio

Marwan Lahoud

Former Chief Strategy and Marketing Officer at Airbus & Former CEO at MBDA

From 2007 to 2017 Marwan served as Chief Strategy and Marketing Officer of Airbus and was a member of the Group Executive Committee. Marwan is credited with having been the chief architect behind the creation of both Airbus and MBDA and also a key individual in the decision to re-engine the A320ceo to launch the A320neo. He led the strategic and international development of Airbus to position it as a global enterprise: during his tenure, the order book of the business grew from €265bn to more than €1,000bn. Previously, Marwan served as CEO of MBDA, the global missile systems company jointly owned by Airbus, BAE Systems and Leonardo. Having begun his career at the French Ministry of Defense in 1989, Marwan was appointed Special Advisor to the Ministry in 1995. Read more

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Interview Transcript

What characteristics do you think are most important, as a leader?You need to be humble, because you need to be able to assess yourself. Who am I? What are my strengths? What are my weaknesses? As a leader, your job is going to be to assemble a team that compensates for your weaknesses. If I were to draw a graph, I would say, you need to assess along three different axes. Creativity, risk awareness and expertise.Expertise is, how much do I know about what I’m supposed to do? Risk awareness is, am I paranoid enough? Creativity is, how much am I capable of thinking outside the box? First, you need to position yourself in this triangle. Am I of the risk-aware type? Am I of the creative type? Am I of the expert type? Am I more an expert that is creative? Am I more an expert that is risk aware? Where am I, in this triangle?Once you have assessed yourself, you assemble a team that pushes the whole to the center of gravity. You have as much creativity as risk awareness as expertise. Where this becomes difficult is that this is dynamic in time. Your expertise grows. When you get hits, one after the other, you become much more risk aware. When you grow older, your creativity is less and less at the edge. You need to keep thinking of that and this is where humility plays. The temptation is so big to say, okay, I’ve succeeded in everything. So we’ll just do it as we did before. This applies all down the chain of leadership. It’s not just the chief executive. We’re always the leader of something.How do you cultivate humility?Besides what you can do in personal training, nothing is more humbling than comparing. Inside your organization, you put teams together and we compare cases between two different companies. Keep comparing. You may be the most successful leader in the world, but I can always show you things that can be improved. The first one to whom this applies, is myself.
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