Alumnus Freeman Shen, '03 EMBA, wears three hats: he is group vice president of Geely Holding Group, chairman and CEO of Shanghai Geely Zhaoyuan International, and chairman of the Volvo Car Group China.
In 2009, Shen led Geely's acquisition of Volvo. The move positioned Geely Group, a company founded only 18 years prior, as a major player in the global automotive industry.
To carry out the massive acquisition, Shen led a team of 20 professionals who hailed from the United States, Canada, Sweden, Belgium, and China. An international business leader himself, Shen has worked in the United States, Europe, and Asia. And in creating harmony among the diverse team, he has adopted a leadership approach in stark contrast with typical Chinese business practices.
"I'm very open to hearing new and different ideas," says Shen. "I always welcome challenges from my fellow team members. I'm not a typical Eastern manager in that way. In Asian cultures, leaders typically use the top-down approach. I prefer to listen to people from across the organization, then make a decision."
Shen believes his propensity to elicit insights from all corners of the company leads to confident decisions and solid strategy. He says when employees get the opportunity to contribute their ideas, they're more likely to buy into a new plan.
"Leadership is about showing confidence and a clear direction in the strategy and action plan," he says. "You have to ensure your team fully buys in, and they're willing to be part of your process to reach the target. It's not easy, but it's essential."
The alum reflects on his time at the Carlson School as his greatest opportunity to read, think, and take part in spirited discussion--a process most professionals have little time for.
"When I began my MBA, it was a critical time for me to move from middle management to a more senior level," he says. "Even after 10 years, I still remember plenty of what I learned."