Lewis Adams
Heidrick & Struggles
View from the Top

Searching for Leadership

Thu, 09/01/2016 - 16:33

Q: How has Heidrick & Struggles’ approach to its executive search and consultancy services benefited Mexico’s auto industry?

A: As a leadership advisory firm, Heidrick & Struggles focuses on executive search, leadership consulting and culture shaping. We work with CEOs and many of the most influential multinational companies around the world, regardless of the business sector. These include Global OEMs and Tier 1 suppliers that have gone through cultural restructuring processes. This makes us uniquely qualified to share global perspectives with leaders in a variety of sectors, although automotive is a major focus for our firm. Ever-changing technology within the automotive industry forces companies to continuously adapt their operation models, making secure leadership and cultural development crucial for success.

Q: How has global leadership training been received by Mexican automotive companies?

A: The majority of OEMs and Tier 1 suppliers traditionally have international expats as top executives but this has gradually shifted over the past few years toward strong local development. KIA is leading this trend by placing Horacio Chávez as its leader in Mexico, while other companies such as Ford and Nissan are also moving toward local recruitment for managerial positions. Another example is Bosch, which has a significant proportion of expatriates in leadership roles in its Mexican division. This company is taking note of the advantages of having Mexican leaders, leading to three to four-year leadership rotation programs in Germany, where executives are prepared for senior managerial positions with a view to returning to Mexico and creating a local leadership team. The market is receiving this preference for local executive talent very positively.

Mexican players such as Metalsa are also facing leadership challenges after integrating acquisitions during a strong growth period. The company is transitioning from a national entity to a key international player in the automotive sector without losing its culture and personality. The traditional organizational model adopted by some Mexican companies can be rigid and slow to adapt to changing markets. Any company aspiring to a position in the global market must ensure it has the right leadership and culture to adapt to more complex customer demands.

Q: What distinctions characterize Mexican human talent compared to international candidates and how is Heidrick & Struggles working to improve this?

A: In terms of talent, the automotive industry is probably one of the most developed in Mexico. Most companies here have solid organization development programs, which ensure Mexican operations remain globally competitive. Nevertheless, there is a deficit in leadership talent with no sign of change in the foreseeable future. The education system is the main obstacle to developing talent in Mexico and the automotive sector is competing with other industries for strong graduates. Changing cultures and leadership approaches takes time and can face resistance but it can be achieved through constant communication by aligning the approach to tangible business outcomes. We meet people all over the country who share the same philosophy and are ready to drive that kind of change, which takes courage and tenacity.

Q: What are Heidrick & Struggles’ priorities regarding the future of the industrial and the automotive segment in Mexico?

A: Our focus is across all automotive tiers in Mexico. Alongside OEMs and Tier 1 suppliers already based here, we see an opportunity with the rest of the supply chain, particularly new investors who are entering the market. There is tremendous interest from US suppliers to establish facilities in Mexico and we expect this trend to continue over the next few years. The automotive world is undergoing unprecedented change driven by technology developments, regulatory environments, heightened customer expectations and fierce competition. Companies operating in such an environment need visionary leaders, high-performing teams and thriving corporate cultures. Our firm is well-positioned to help automotive clients achieve this.