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Swedish industrialist Pehr Gyllenhammar was born in Gothenburg in 1935, the son of insurance executive Pehr Gyllenhammar and Aina Kaplan Gyllenhammar. He graduated in 1959 from Lund University with a Bachelor of Law degree, and studied at the Centre d’Etudes Industrielles in Geneva. Mr. Gyllenhammar was Managing Director and Chief Executive of Skandia Insurance Company, then became the CEO of Volvo when just 35 years old. His 24-year tenure leading the company was an historic and groundbreaking era in Volvo’s history.
Gyllenhammar directly shaped industry in Europe by founding the European Round Table of Industrialists, which conceived of and implemented major infrastructural improvements such as the France-England Channel Tunnel. Mr. Gyllenhammar is a former member of the International Advisory Committee of the Chase Manhattan Bank, and has worked with or served on the board of such institutions as United Technologies, Kissinger Associates, Rothschild Europe, Lazard, the Reuters Founders Share Company, the Aspen Institute, and the London Philharmonic Orchestra.
SUCCESS STORY PODCAST
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On the Success Story podcast, Scott has candid interviews with execs, celebrities, notable figures and politicians. All who have achieved success through both wins and losses, to learn more about their life, their ideas and insights.
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Scott D Clary, Pehr G. Gyllenhammar
Scott D Clary 00:06
Welcome to the success story podcast. I’m your host, Scott Clary. On this podcast I have candid interviews with execs, celebrities, politicians and other notable figures, all who have achieved success through both wins and losses. To learn more about their life, their ideas and their insights, I sit down with leaders and mentors and unpack their story to help pass those lessons on to others through both experiences and tactical strategy for business professionals, entrepreneurs and everyone in between. Without further ado, another episode of the success story podcast. Alright, thanks again for joining me today. I am very excited to be sitting down with Pehr G. Gyllenhammar, former longtime CEO of Volvo, who has a new book coming out in September called character is destiny, reflections on innovation and integrity from Volvo’s longest serving CEO and a little bit of a background. Pear has a 24 year tenure. That was historic groundbreaking in Volvo’s history, when he became Volvo CEO in 1971. He completely redesign the company’s plants assembly methods to prioritize the health well being of the workers a man way ahead of his time. He addressed the first global environmental convocation in 1972 un Environmental Conference and made a public commitment to make Volvo more environmentally friendly and to protest the regime of apartheid. He closed Volvo’s Durban plant in South Africa in 1976, one of the first CEOs to divest in addition to transforming Volvo Elan hammer directly shaped industry in Europe creating European roundtable industrialists, which conceived of and implemented major infrastructural improvements such as the France England Channel Tunnel. He has also worked with or served on the board of such institutions as lathered rotors, Rothschilds Chase Manhattan Bank, the Aspen Institute, the Rockefeller University, and the London Philharmonic Orchestra, Gillan hammers writing has been published on CNN, business news, automated news, and many, many more. Thank you so much for sitting down. Very, very excited to understand how you became the man you are today. So thank you.
Pehr G. Gyllenhammar 02:16
Well, you’re very welcome. Nice to be with you.
Scott D Clary 02:19
Oh, no, it’s my pleasure. It’s my pleasure you, as I read these things off, over your career, environmental impact, moving away from countries that don’t do business properly, like you did in South Africa and whatnot, these all seem to be very commonplace now. And a lot of organizations fall in line with this type of ideology, very forward thinking. But you have to remember in 1971, that was not always the case, as you were a leader in many of these, but before that, walk me through how you even became the CEO of Volvo and your career, and then we’ll go into what you’re doing now.
Pehr G. Gyllenhammar 02:59
Well, it was a was the chairman of Volvo at the time, who visited me, I lived in Stockholm at that time, and said, Could we have a conversation with you? I said, fine. And then he said, without any ado, he said, We would like you to be the C, Chief Executive of Volvo.
Scott D Clary 03:21
And how and how abouts did you fall into that role? How did you handle it? What was what was your I guess? Your preparation for managing such a large company?
Pehr G. Gyllenhammar 03:34
Well, I had no preparation except I was the head of the largest insurance company in the Nordic area. For one year and nine months, I think it was when they came to say that, would you like to join Volvo? And I thought it was so tempting with Volvo as the car and truck manufacturer. Aviation and Space. Two I said yes. Without without thinking.
Scott D Clary 04:12
Was it was it difficult to move into a roll like that? Did you have struggles hurdles? Or was a lot of it? You were prepared for it
Pehr G. Gyllenhammar 04:19
now and not prepared for it at all? It was a great surprise, a great surprise. But I think I said yes. Within one hour. While I was still had of Scandia the insurance company we were the largest insurance company in the Nordic area. So it was very dramatic in my surroundings. Not not least the chairman of the of Scandia who thought that I was his goal boy, I think and he he’ll he lost me very quickly.
Scott D Clary 04:57
And as you moved into as you moved into Volvo You did a lot of things that I think were ahead of their time. What? How did you come to some of these decisions as I read off your background divesting from Durban or divesting from South Africa, closing the Durban plant, prioritizing, and all these different complications and other campaigns that you did? Where did that come from? Where did that was that something that you were always championing? Or was it just you trying to look ahead of where work and leadership was going at the time,
Pehr G. Gyllenhammar 05:32
I was very independent. And I had, I had a, an examination and in law status, I was a candidate of law. And I don’t know why it was just, it was partly liberal, it was partly historical, it was partly with the time and and I studied both in England, and I started in the United States. And I decided to do the legal studies. And they were terribly boring. And therefore I did it in three years, instead of the normal five and a half. And after that, I didn’t know what to do. I thought earlier that I would like to be an actor. But I discarded that and came to the insurance company and began give the check one of the youngest in the world in Europe, really. And then Volvo, where I was also, many years, the youngest, because many of my colleagues in the automotive industry and in the aviation space industry, they were about 50 at the time. So I was seen as very young, which probably was true.
Scott D Clary 06:52
And how did you manage that, from a leadership perspective, managing all these individuals that were much older than you was that difficult?
Pehr G. Gyllenhammar 07:02
Well, it was difficult, but I was also I was vigilant, I was fairly tough. So, I wanted to make a totally different organization with delegation of responsibility. So eventually, I had a headquarter of 100 people, instead of 1200, no 2200 that the company that I took over had, so I slimmed it down, I made every part of the business, their own company subsidiary of a mother company. And, and that changed also the whole organization, because you had to have a chief executive within the group on on every one of these five sections. So it became much more flexible, and much more dynamic. And that is what I was looking for. And one year after I exceeded the the chief executive, I, I also called a council of blue collar workers, and some white collar workers. Because the blue collar workers, when I moved there, I said, I will see to it today are the best, and that they have a very good environment. And that is my motto. And we had a council of about 20 people, most of them blue collar workers. So that was how I started.
Scott D Clary 08:47
I want to I want to understand because I feel and correct me if I’m wrong, but I feel like a lot of the lessons. The the book is entitled, character is destiny, which I absolutely love. And it’s such a yes, it’s such a meaningful title. And I’m sure there’s a lot as to why you call it that. But you also the subtitle is Reflections on innovation and integrity from Volvo’s longest serving CEO. And I think that, you know, I realizing this as we speak like a lot of the lessons that you implemented as CEO of Volvo, I think these are the lessons that are discussed in the book. Correct. I want to draw that parallel. Yes, correct. Good. So as you made these changes to Volvo, as you make it more agile, more lean, you put together a council of blue collar workers, what, what are the results that you see or rather, you can even speak about it in the reference to your book, let’s speak about how the book is is divided and broken down and maybe that will give a little bit more structure for for some of the things that we can chat about too.
Pehr G. Gyllenhammar 09:54
While you go ahead, you’ll find a book.
Scott D Clary 09:57
No, that’s fair. So as some of these come out, As you start building out some of these actual processes and programs, what is the result that you see when you put unionized blue collar workers? Is this something and I want to put it in perspective for today’s listener for today’s real? Yeah. Was this a commonplace and in your time, or is this groundbreaking?
Pehr G. Gyllenhammar 10:18
Groundbreaking, because the automotive industry around the world, in the United States in Europe, and you know, England and France and Germany, and you had the assembly line? Yeah, I started a plant a new plan, because we needed more capacity that had no assembly line, it had assembly, but it didn’t have assembly line. So it was not moving. The blue collar workers didn’t have to move with the assembly line, they could stay. And they could do their mandate, which was at least 20 minutes for a team of nine to 10. And that made it more interesting for them. It was more demanding. They put together part of a car, and the engine and the transmission and the whole system. And there were three, three to four teams who could do the whole car. And that was new new, and I had interest from people from outside the Sweden at the time, our biggest market was already in the United States. And when we opened the plant, Henry Ford asked if he could come and visit. And he did. And the head of the Auto Workers Union. He also came and wanted to see it. So I had those two at the same time. And also the Prime Minister of Sweden, who almost came in the shadow. Yeah, and these rather two giants. Yeah. So that was an interesting start. And then we had to close the plant for visitors, because there were too many who wanted to come from different parts of the world. But the plant was successful, it took probably about a year to make it out through the Iranian, but then it worked extremely well. And a it had platforms that moved through electric engines, and just came up to the team that was going to do the work, that the rift was about 20 minutes where each team
Scott D Clary 12:58
that’s,it’s incredible, because you know, you mentioned, Henry Ford, who is thought of as almost one of the revolutionaries in the automation process in the assembly line. And this is taking it to another level. And even just having that kind of observance of what you’re doing is as a, as a younger CEO, that’s probably very, very stressful. But I appreciate that a lot. I can only imagine. Because these are these are, you know, when you say a name like that, I think it shows the impact of what what you were actually bringing to Volvo. So you’re making a ton of changes. You’re making socially conscious changes, you’re making innovative changes. How can you make these changes? Without hurting profits, scaring off shareholders or stakeholders? How could you do it then? How can you do it now?
Pehr G. Gyllenhammar 13:56
Well, how could I do it? It takes takes a bit of imagination, it takes a bit of freedom in thought, I’m still paying consideration to the people in the in the company. And I think the the blue collar workers were were extremely satisfied after a couple of months when they knew the rhythm and how to manage it. And there was so much attention to what we did that that that became a worldwide story within a couple of months.
Scott D Clary 14:40
And then as that becomes a worldwide story, and it starts to work, is that when you gain a little bit more trust in the stakeholders in the in the financiers and whoever in the customers, you know, everybody who could be a naysayer and innovation. Does that how it
Pehr G. Gyllenhammar 14:58
Well, I think that that that took quite some time. Because I think that people also my countrymen, who is a very small market, the Swedish market or the Nordic market, but but they were suspicious. And they thought that it was strange that you could change a mode and the the way of building cars the way we did, so there was quite a lot of skepticism.
Scott D Clary 15:33
You find that there are lessons that businesses and organizations can learn from, to perhaps eliminate some of that skepticism with innovation. Now,
Scott D Clary 15:48
I because I look, you know, as I go through your book, there’s several parts, there’s communication, there’s innovations, all these different things that are very good leadership qualities that I think, though putting words in your mouth, these are things that we should look for in organizations. And these are things that leaders of organizations should keep top of mind. So were there things that you learned out from being socially conscious and innovative, that other people should sort of take heed of
Pehr G. Gyllenhammar 16:16
what and they didn’t, because in the United States, for example, I think that the, the automotive industry, for example, is still more or less the same as it was in the 1930s. And 1940s. And very little has has, has changed. And it’s, it must be very monotonous for the blue collar workers, because they have perhaps 60 seconds or 90 seconds to do one detailed thing, like a boat, whatever. And it doesn’t give them any inspiration. It doesn’t give them any knowledge, and no non know how, on how a car is built. Of course, I know it is they’ve been there a couple of years. But you know, also they’re there. Physically, it is very difficult, particularly for women to use man’s tools. So I changed all the tools. So there were tools for women and their hands, and for the man, and, like through a magic and magic change all their problems with health disappeared, the women, because they had tools made for women’s hands. Sure, that was in itself a revolution, you could have females that didn’t didn’t have to report themselves suffering. So it all disappeared. So now that was one of the good things. And the other thing was that’s quality improved. Because you didn’t you didn’t have to intervene all the time to improve quality. So all the other plants in the system Evolver whether it was engine plant transmission plant reactions, from taxes, whatever it was, you could benefit from the system that we had at the karma plant. So all the all the all the factories, were gradually changed to this type of system. And
Scott D Clary 18:46
as you made this change, one point that I saw that I really enjoyed the you made that differentiation to move shareholder capitalism to stakeholder capitalism, yes. What does that mean, exactly?
Pehr G. Gyllenhammar 19:02
And how can we accomplish that? It means that if you look at some of the systems that are more or less classic now or old fashioned, it was all for the shareholders and tell the good things for the for the staff. But in my case, I think that shareholders is one thing, and they should understand that there are limits to how much you can distribute. First of all, because you need capital to invest and reinvest. And secondly, because there are other interest groups that are very important, and that’s the staff. The labor it’s the is the society where you’re working is taxpayers money part of it that that your profit goes to. So So you have to be more more diverse than just think of the shareholders and the chief executives. And I must say, within brackets that I am shocked by the salaries that chief executives get in the United States, I think is grotesque. And if they leave, after five years, they get a bonus, even if they’re bad, or if they’re good, they get a bonus. And the bonus is a few times more than their annual salary. So I find that, you know, not not acceptable, because I think that there are more things to do if you have a well functioning, or even badly functioning organization, that you have to distribute the profits. And
Scott D Clary 20:56
that the sky high CEO pay golden parachutes when when they leave an organization, that extra bonus, is that not something and excuse my navy, I’m looking at it from a lens of North America. Yes. That’s not something that you see as much in Europe, or, or is it still prevalent?
Pehr G. Gyllenhammar 21:15
Well, it is prevalent in the United States. So if you compare to salaries, for example, in in Europe, or perhaps in Japan, I don’t know Japan that well, I’ve been there many times, but I don’t know exactly what they say. And what they mean. But in in, in most of Europe, the salaries and remuneration for chief executives are more modest, quite different from him, they are pricey states. But in Europe, there was increased a lot, a bit inspired by the United States. And I think you know what, when you’ve been five years in a company, you have not learned very much about that company, you haven’t contributed very much. And when you are five, plus, you get a very high salary, even if you’ve failed completely.
Scott D Clary 22:21
Now, these are all things I love, I love the direction this is going so socially conscious companies, moving shareholder capitalism to stakeholder capitalism, even you know, making sure that CEO pay that executive pay. These are all great leadership lessons. But it’s it’s hard to it’s hard to implement them. Yes, it is. Outside of a complete cultural change. How do you how do you do and I don’t even know if there is a correct answer. I think somebody would have thought through it. But what’s your opinion on how you how you actually revolutionize the workforce in a positive way?
Pehr G. Gyllenhammar 22:59
Well, I had that. People around me were very, very surprised that I devoted so much time to the blue collar workers. But I thought from the first hour that I came to Volvo, that they are the core of the company, if we can’t have blue color force, that is both women and men adapted tools adapted to how they could work that better, more smoothly, less damage, and less injuries. That would be great. So I got a very close relationship with them. And I remember when I first visited the, the biggest plant in where we were based. And I came down and and a suit and a tie. And the head of the plant said to me, could you take off the tie, sir? I said, What Why would I take off the tie? Oh, he said, you know, the workers here. They don’t like people who tie. I said, I don’t care. I don’t care, and they will not care about me when they see me. So I went in, and there was a lot of, you know, curiosity when they had the new very young head of the company. And after a year or so, and I visited all our plants as I went around the world and always had the suit that I usually had, and, and tie and I didn’t have to take my tie off just to go for 45 minutes in for blonde. So they accepted that. And they after a couple of years. I had approval ratings, because we also measured approval rate It comes from different parts of the world and different parts of the company. And I got the sky high. After a couple of years, the approval rating from the blue collar work.
Scott D Clary 25:13
I think it’s I think I think it goes without saying it’s because you focus on building that relationship with them, which Yeah, yeah. You know, it’s something you were doing in the 70s. And it’s something that companies still missed the mark on today. Probably less. Yeah. Then it left. No doubt this. Yeah. Yeah, definitely do. Now, another another model you speak about? Is the ESG. environmental, social and governance investing model? Is that a way to make companies more in line with these values that you that you brought into Volvo in the 70s?
Pehr G. Gyllenhammar 25:44
I didn’t quite understand the term there.
Scott D Clary 25:47
The Okay, so the the ESG model, environmental, social and governance investing model? So So okay,
Pehr G. Gyllenhammar 25:55
well, I have, I’ve seen that, but I’ve seen it later than I started it. Because I think that has been developed. And there’s so so many vocabularies around industries. Sorry, no, no, no, I’m sorry. I excused myself when I when I said that, too. But I don’t try to get some of these terms. And I was extremely interested in the environment. And I can tell you one little anecdote that when, when, when we can with a foot my first new model, which was looked like the previous one, but was totally different inside, and the whole drive line was different. And I was, there was a new authority in the United States 1974, about the way that you marketed your cars. And they sent a demand to the company, and said that we would like we would like you to come over and explain how you can have you can have, you know, a language where you say that in Sweden, cars or so and so. So normally, a company of any size says we’ll send someone over a lawyer or someone in in in on in the country, itself. And I got so upset over this reproach from a new authority. So I took a plane the next day, to Washington. And before I did, I asked the chief executive of that agency that was new and just created. I said, I’m coming myself, am I welcome? And he was so surprised is that, Oh, you are the chief executive? I said, Yes, that’s why I’m copying. So I met him and his office, which was, you know, an office in Washington that was fairly, fairly spacious. And I was so upset when I came in. So I instead of being well, I was polite when I said hello, but then I also, you know, threw myself at him. As I don’t understand what this is. And I said, I think that it’s so important for me and for all my employees to understand what you’re after here. And he said, Mr. Hill, Anambra come to the window here. So I came to the window, and he said, Kenya, is this the big parking space? Can you see that row? I said, Yes. And he said, Can you see my car? And he, he illustrated the color. And then I said, That’s my Volvo. Isn’t that quite something?
Scott D Clary 29:28
That is I like that a lot.
Pehr G. Gyllenhammar 29:30
And then he shook hands, and he said, lovely to see you. You are one of the first visitors, but you are definitely the first important person in the day have had otherwise they come, you know, with from their legal department. I like that
Scott D Clary 29:51
and that that was all just highlighting the importance of of the environmental focus on on how you marketed how you how you built the brand. Yeah. Yeah. The other thing that I I really wanted to understand and then I’m going to give you some if there’s anything else that I missed. What is one point that you’ve you’ve made is short termism. short termism so short sightedness in corporate governance, and then its impact on income inequality and income inequality.
Pehr G. Gyllenhammar 30:24
Scott D Clary 30:26
how does, how do you see us fixing that piece? And what is that piece
Pehr G. Gyllenhammar 30:31
about? I think it is really, more than gas rules and regulations. Paragraph, it is your view of the whole corporation, the entire corporation, who is interested to work there, who is interested to improve, who is interested to be a very good person with customers, and understand the role of customers. Not only that, you have to sell it, but you have to maintain it, the quality, the environmental care, all those things are one whole thing and one whole system. And it that was also the part of when we came into the we made the engines for the aircraft, fighter aircraft, and attack aircraft. And that was partly exported. And then we came to be a partner in the European Space Agency. And our spacecraft, we lifted off the ramp, we lifted with our base, the whole the whole skyrocket. So we had so many men interest, and then we had marine engines as well, but but my whole world, what I try to inspire, to my, you know, my blue collar workers that white collar workers and the the management is how we should think. And is that if they couldn’t accept it? Fine, that then I would say goodbye to them, but most of them would accept it. And they were proud of it. So that was one piece of the business.
Scott D Clary 32:34
It’s just it’s just it seems it’s again, the one the one driving point that really is hitting me as I go through this is these things all make so much sense. They make it’s common sense. Focus on long term, it’s common sense to focus and be socially conscious. It’s a few other things. But it’s just it’s about doing right. It’s about actually acting on it. Now I have I have a couple more questions that I’d like to ask sort of rapid fire about your career. But before before I get into that, is there anything that I didn’t ask about the book or about the reflections that you that you spoke on in the book that you wanted to touch on?
Pehr G. Gyllenhammar 33:15
No, I can just perhaps mention a few of the periods in my life where where I did different things. So after, after 2324 years at Volvo as head of all the time I left because first of all, I thought it was time. And secondly, I had other possible potential successors that that I would let come through. So I moved and I had first of all, a period where when I thought that we should have better environmentally friendly vehicles. I organized a club that was called the the club of the 17th of the 17. So it’s like the, like the council around Prince King Arthur’s Court, from the middles. From from the 14th to 15th century, but so we were 17 and we were only industrialists and we were not anything else. And the 17 we started, and my my proposal was that we should make an environmentally friendly place of Europe. So I met, I met with leaders of governments. I was the chairman of the club. I met with President Mitterrand, who was the the President Tom France for two, two periods. And with his finance minister, who became the head of the European Union, the chief executive of the European Union. And I had to talk to these people, and also the German chancellor and others to get their attention to what we would like to do, because otherwise it would be a total bureaucracy. And one thing that was quite amazing is that I, I met President miter and I met him at a little private dinner with one of his associates. And he was eating his oysters. And I was telling him what I wanted him to know. And I said, Missoula, press it down, I said, you are going to miss Mrs. Thatcher, within three days or two days. And I have a message for you to give her. Namely, I proposed to her a tunnel under the English Channel. Not a bridge, but a tunnel. He came back, and I got a telephone call. Four days later, it’d been only two days with her. And he said, it’s done. We have agreed to have that Channel Tunnel made. And I think that was quite some.
Scott D Clary 36:47
I think that Well, that’s it. I think that’s a huge. That’s a huge point in in your in your life. And the fact that Oh,
Pehr G. Gyllenhammar 36:56
yeah. And then also we, we organized for a second time alone to the outs, they had won the first time around the journeys between France and Spain. And partly new motorways around Europe. And the high speed trains, the French were the best. And they they had a network over most of Europe. When when I left the round table of European industrials. Very impressive.
Scott D Clary 37:30
And what do you what do you work on now? What’s your current
Pehr G. Gyllenhammar 37:34
focus? Well, my current focus is first of all, I am a an advisor to the chairman of Thomson Reuters. You know, Reuters was bought by Thomson US and Canada and Thomson Reuters, isn’t them. And I was, I was the chairman or the founder Farid company of Reuters. For 15 years, which is the longest and no one, no one has served, because I was asked to come to Reuters when they when they listed their shares. So they said, We need three new independent directors, one American, one English and one European. I was a European and the American was the head of Citicorp. Now
Scott D Clary 38:40
as you know, as this book comes out, is there anything else that you’ve had like a such an impressive life and a very impressive resume? What else do you want to do? Or is this
Pehr G. Gyllenhammar 38:52
wow? I was I will drive fairly soon, I suppose. But
Scott D Clary 38:58
oh, no, don’t say that. Don’t
Pehr G. Gyllenhammar 39:00
what I what I did after all. The other things that I’ve done is, I was asked by the chairman of a British insurance company called commercial union, if I wanted to be the chairman. And then I had moved, you know, moved away from from Volvo. And I said, Yes. And then when I looked at it, I said, it’s fairly small company. Will it be possible to compete in the international world? And his smile a little bit, he said, he’s gone, it’s gone fairly well, but I merged that company, commercial union within six months, with a much bigger company called general accident, which was Scottish, and that merger came to fruition. without any premium, no, just the value they had on the stock exchange. And then the third one I acquired within two to two years later. And that became the biggest insurance company in the United Kingdom. And that was created in three years.
Scott D Clary 40:26
Very impressive, very impressive. You know, if you never retire, you just keep going. Very good. Alright, so let me let me ask a couple insights from your life and, you know, whatever, whatever you feel comfortable with? What advice would you give somebody who’s younger in their career trying to pursue something similar to yours?
Pehr G. Gyllenhammar 40:50
I would say that, if they are utterly fresh in mind, they should be without participant’s partisan weaknesses. They should have integrity, independence, and freedom from bias, they should be, you know, rid of a lot of sanctions that they may have had from other parties, in their education. And that to be to be neutral and unbiased is a very good thing. Very good. And it makes you makes you much more open minded.
Scott D Clary 41:32
Agree very, very much agreed. I think that’s one of the issues that we’re seeing with a lot of individuals right now. It’s so polarized. Where do you go to learn and stay on top of what’s relevant to a resource
Pehr G. Gyllenhammar 41:48
person. Now, it’s not a resource or person, but I have I have a couple of long term friends. For example, David Rockefeller, he came the year that I became, had a lover. He asked if you could see me, and he can, literally for weeks after I had started as, as my career is to check, and then he remained a friend until he passed away 101 years old, a couple of years ago. And then I met Henry Kissinger, when when I was at Aspen Institute, where I tried to make peace between the Middle East and states which was quite an interesting travel. You know, what Aspen Institute is?
Scott D Clary 42:48
When the the Aspen Institute No, I do know, I do know, Mr. Kissinger, though, but I don’t know the Aspen Institute what’s what is that
Pehr G. Gyllenhammar 42:55
Aspen Institute was a an institute that was founded, I think, in the 60s and was very much based in California in San Francisco. And then the leadership appeared that made it a more or less global force for first global in the United States, and then almost global around the world. And I was invited once to that. There I met Henry Kissinger first.
Scott D Clary 43:34
I understand. Okay, that makes sense then, so that’s okay. Gotcha.
Pehr G. Gyllenhammar 43:40
And then they, and then they said, because that were top people that that came to the Aspen Institute, which was in Colorado, at the time, Aspen, Colorado. That’s why That’s why I called Aspen Institute, but and they said, Well, parinama, we would like you to chair this group. How many people would you like to have? I said, No. They said no one. I said I think I think it’s better alone. And with one deputy. Because coming a group, it’s like a it’s like, you know it, it’s like an adventure. Or it’s like, like diplomats. And I don’t like it. I like to talk to the leaders directly. So I met with Anwar Sadat, the head of Egypt at the time and who was killed. And I visited Israel. I visited Jordan and I flew with a private plane from Jerusalem to Amman, which was forbidden and I had to permit from the the ambassador or the consulate in Jerusalem and the King of Jordan. Very it took 10 minutes. And to fly, when we will say, you know, it’s just next door to Jerusalem. But anyway, and then I met with Arafat, and then I met with the, the Prime Minister and in Israel. And we had a very good package when I came back from the Middle East to New York and Aspen Institute, because they thought it was quite remarkable. And the problem was that Carter was the president. And he had only one term. And in December, it was clear that he was going to be succeeded by Ronald Reagan, who knew nothing about politics. And when this was presented to him, and his deputy, not deputy, but foreign foreign secretary, Alexander Haig, who was like attention soldier, a puppet and very, very difficult to talk to. And he was just engaged with Reagan. And he was the infamous person who when Reagan was fraught, he said, I’m now in charge and moved into the White House. And that was a serious mistake, because it was the vice president who would have done it. And that was, that was partly the end of it. But but also, Reagan, who had no experience of foreign foreign foreign office and foreign service system, international, you know, diplomacy. A, he wouldn’t even listen to this. He thought it was something show strange to him that he wouldn’t deal with it. That’s a
Scott D Clary 47:33
story. Very, very interesting story.
Pehr G. Gyllenhammar 47:36
Yeah. Very good. Um,
Scott D Clary 47:40
what was I gonna say? What would be won’t be a lesson that you would tell your younger self?
Pehr G. Gyllenhammar 47:47
Well, a lesson I would tell my younger self is not to give a specific advice on anything. But be open minded, have integrity, as freedom from bias. And try to be a very decent person. And, and be very take real care about the people you have in your employer. If you have anyone in your employ. Be open minded, you can be sharp, you can be tough, but you have to be absolutely honest, fair, and generous.
Scott D Clary 48:26
Very good. And what’s, what’s one way that you think that we can all make the world a slightly better place?
Pehr G. Gyllenhammar 48:36
Well, I think I think it’s late now. To make it a better place because because the environment, the environment is such a disaster. And you have disasters everywhere. I mean, the oceans are dirty. And the species on the world for growth 70% have already gone destroyed completely. So there’s 30% left. And so it’s, it’s really a world that we have destroyed gradually and violently when when modern technologies come, and it’s very late. So so that that is one thing to to watch. The other thing to watch is because this new virus, the Coronavirus, because this is this is a plastic of some sort. And if you look at how the United States has behaved under Trump, I mean, it’s to scandal. And he says, we have had made made more testing of patients than anyone else in the world, which is total nonsense. I mean, he lies about everything. But so so how he does with the United States, and really the Western world is a disaster. So I think that first of all, one has to understand where these plagues come from, and how you deal with it. And that will take a bit of time, and then learn from it. And then also understand how fragile the world is. Because the North Pole now, the ice is melting. Very briskly now, had hasn’t come to talk this yet, but it will come. So if I would be born again, and now, I would really devote quite a lot vanity
Scott D Clary 50:44
wise words, and you know, you, you’ve done so much with your life. It’s it’s a, it’s something that behooves us all to sort of take a second look at who are younger women in our careers. Yeah, yeah, before it’s too late. And the last question before I get some, some places to go and get the book and find out more about what you’re working on now. What is what does success mean for you?
Pehr G. Gyllenhammar 51:10
Success means management, different things. But the most important thing is that the people I serve, and that we work with, feel that they get something even if it is against them, you know, that, you know, the wind blows the other direction, that they have the faith to believe and to stand by, and to work and do good things. Irrespective of how, how it fares, and that there is a good intention behind everything they are asked to do, we’re hoping to do. So I think that’s the most important and the integrity and independence I think are very valuable. And freedom from bias. If you if you have those three, you will do well.
Scott D Clary 52:16
And lastly, most important, where do people connect with you? Website? Is there, Amazon for the book, of course. And when does that when does that release?
Pehr G. Gyllenhammar 52:30
I think it’s about to be released. Let me just take a look here.
Scott D Clary 52:37
For the for the website.
Pehr G. Gyllenhammar 52:42
You can go to
Scott D Clary 52:45
pair, Elan hammer.com. So that’s an easy one. Yes. And everything is there. And then LinkedIn as well. linkedin.com for a pair Elan hammer. And then I think that the book will obviously be on the website, but it will also be on it’ll also be on Amazon. So it’s coming out September so soon. You’re about a month away. But your character is destiny, reflections on innovation and integrity from Volvo’s longest serving CEO. So I’ll link that in the car. Okay, so people can go find all the links, but that’s all
Pehr G. Gyllenhammar 53:21
I have. Okay. Is that enough for you?
Scott D Clary 53:25
Yeah. It’s perfect. It was incredible. Thank you so much, sir. I appreciate your
Pehr G. Gyllenhammar 53:28
time. Well, you’re very welcome and good to talk to you.
Scott D Clary 53:32
That’s all for today. Thanks again for joining me on another episode of the success story podcast. You can download or stream this podcast wherever podcasts are available, including iTunes, Spotify, Google, Stitcher, I heart, radio, and many others. You can also watch his podcasts on YouTube. If you haven’t already. Please subscribe and share this podcast with your friends, family, coworkers and peers. Please leave us a rating on iTunes takes about 30 seconds as it allows other people to find our podcast and lets our amazing guests reach even more people with their message. And remember any rating is fine as long as it contains five stars. I’m Scott Clary from the success story podcast signing off