Chief executive or titan?

This article first appeared as a Comment in the 4 March issue of Flight International

Anyone who saw a dinner-suited Tom Enders address the Royal Aeronautical Society in December or saw him deliver Airbus’s annual results in Toulouse last week, saw a man at ease in his role as head of one of Europe’s largest companies. For sure, things have been going well and he has probably relaxed, with key programmes on track, profits up, political dramas behind him and a major restructuring well underway.
But the past few months may have marked a more subtle change. Gone is a slight prickliness he occasionally betrayed. Ascendant is a new manifestation of what military people call command presence, an invaluable trait that cannot be taught. Enders has it in spades, but now he is radiating rather than imposing it.
In short, for the first time since he took over in mid-2012, Tom Enders is both in charge and in control.
For Airbus, that is crucial. Transformed into a “normal” company determined to shape its future without regard to the preferences of Paris and Berlin, Airbus today needs a new dimension of strategic vision. To formulate and follow that vision, it needs less of the collegial, European style of management that has served it well so far, and more of what might be called a French style of management, well-known to Napoleon.
The next 18 months or so will say much about the new Airbus – including whether it is led by a chief ­executive or by a true titan of European industry.


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