Emmanuel Macron is the man of the moment after beating Marine Le Pen in the first round of the French presidential election, and following Wednesday’s debate, he’s projected to get 60 per cent of the votes in the second.
Yet a year ago, few people outside of France had heard of him.
His rapid ascension, regardless of your views of the man, is impressive. Business leaders should take note – they could learn a lot from this political ingénue.
Here are six take-aways any chief executive would do well to consider:
Action over photo opportunities
Last week, he visited a factory and was heckled by a gaggle of Le Pen-supporting workers. Most politicians would have simply had their picture taken in front of a handpicked, carefully-vetted crowd. Instead, Macron engaged with the angry mob and debated with them.
As well as saying a lot about his character, his approach contains a lesson in how to grow your business and engage your staff and customers. If you want to understand and address their thoughts, concerns and fears, you have to actually talk to them (and listen) in the first place.
He understands the power of digital more than any of his rivals and has built his profile with it.
Macron is the social media king.
A lot of chief executives sit in an ivory tower when it comes to all things digital, allowing staff to do the grunt work so they don’t have to understand it.
If they embraced the transformational power of digital experiences, not only would they have a headstart on their contemporaries, but they’d increase visibility for themselves and their brand, and help boost the bottom line.
Think outside the box
Macron realised most French people were sick to their baguettes of politics and politicians, and so created his En Marche! party from scratch, with its simple mantra of change. Crucially, it’s not a traditional party, but a movement. People wanted something different – et voila.
It proves a scorched earth approach can be the most likely to bear fruit, and breaking with tradition can be a winning formula.
His social media presence is massively engaging younger voters. The movement’s virgin birth also means it has no baggage – no previous scandals to cover up or old policies to flip flop on.
It shows what you can achieve if you build from the grassroots up, and how you should – and could – be reaching out to customers who aren’t being catered for.
Calm in the face of adversity
Macron has skilfully deflected brickbats from every direction, not least for having an older partner. When even the Russians are trying to undermine you, you know you’re doing something right.
But he’s taken it all on the chin. Rolling with the punches and keeping the calmest of exteriors is as vital in business as it is in politics.
Cultured and clever
A millionaire former investment banker who went to the École nationale d’administration doesn’t exactly scream “man of the people.” But his erudite past – a voracious consumer of arts, literature and popular culture – has led him to be described by peers as having an “Olympic” intelligence.
Having such a breadth of knowledge outside of politics makes him a more rounded person, giving him a broader outlook and a mind for creative solutions that broaden the political debate.
If business leaders could adopt just some of his lessons, perhaps Britain will be in better shape to navigate Brexit. After all, if he wins, the young europhile is unlikely to give us an easy ride – so it might pay to think like him.
Chris Pearce is chief executive at TMW Unlimited.