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Should Business Leaders Change Their Attitude?

IMD business school professor reflects on Paris tragedy

Can business leaders learn from incidents as tragic as those which took place in Paris on November 13?

Jean-Pierre Lehmann, a professor in international political economy at IMD business school, believes they can. While geopolitical incidents sometimes bring an immediate impact to a company’s markets – he cites a Danish dairy firm losing business to the Middle East in the wake of a Danish newspaper publishing ‘Mohammed cartoons’ in 2005 - Lehmann’s main point is that business leaders don’t seem to take matters of global geopolitics seriously enough and that they should be looking to change their attitude by factoring them into their thinking.

Business leaders prefer to ‘pretend that all is well’

 “It has been my experience that too often business executives do not want to hear the unpleasant music of the global communal cacophony, preferring to put in ear plugs and pretend that all is well,” said Lehmann, who teaches in the EMBA program at IMD business school.

It’s not the kind of news that anyone really wants to hear but, in Lehmann’s view, the Paris attacks are no isolated incident, rather a sign of uncertain times. He also points out that while Islamist extremism is the most widely reported at the present time, it is certainly not isolated. The IMD business school professor makes references to recent attacks perpetrated against Muslims by extremist Hindus and Buddhists in India and Burma, respectively, as well as to attacks on African-Americans in the US to bolster his opinion that “The phenomenon of pure blind hatred on racist or religious grounds is virtually everywhere.”

IMD business school professor outlines fragility of global market

Is any of this the responsibility of business leaders? It might well be if you consider their part in building and developing global markets to be an integral one.

“While we are actively aiming to build an integrated global market, we are failing to create an integrated global community. Clearly, however, without a global community the global market will be fragile and in constant risk of fracture,” reasons Lehmann, who is also the founding director of the Evian Group, a coalition that promotes an open, inclusive and equitable global market economy.

“Business leaders must integrate the geopolitical dimensions in their views of the world and strategies, not just in foreign markets, but in domestic markets as well,” the IMD business school professor concludes.

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Written by Tim Dhoul

Tim is a writer with a background in consumer journalism and charity communications. He trained as a journalist in the UK and holds degrees in history (BA) and Latin American studies (MA).

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