A Blog series by Elise Misse

Blog #4

Graduation is an Industry Game-Changer at The School for Leaders

In the previous calendar year, I attended the LEAD Network Conference. You can read my report on this critical and eye-opening event here. While I was fascinated and impressed by all the speakers at the conference, one, in particular, piqued my curiosity and left me wanting to know more.

I am referring to Rami Baitieh, the CEO of Carrefour Spain. I was inspired by Rami’s speech on Carrefour’s School for Leaders program, and he proved to be equally inspiring company when we caught up for a telephone conversation. Rami was humble and respectful, regularly pointing out how honored he was to speak with me. The feeling was wholly mutual.

What I really took from Rami’s demeanor was that he clearly values and respects the input and experience of everybody, without regard for gender, race or background. As the CEO of an international company, Rami has plenty of people vying for his time and attention. All the same, he took thirty minutes out of his busy day to speak to me. This is surely the sign of a genuine leader – and the difference between a leader and a manager.

Rami explained how he took up his post in Spain in 2019, having previously worked as Executive Director of Carrefour Argentina. Rami is passionate about the fact that under 15% of Carrefour’s management positions are held by women, despite 55% of customers being female. Rami’s passion for this imbalance was clear throughout our call, making it clear that he considers it a societal responsibility to rebalance the scales.

Rami was also at pains to point out that he is not interested in tokenism, though. He does not wish to bring women into management positions simply to check boxes. He simply wants everybody to have the opportunity to grow and develop. This was the genesis of the twice-annual School for Leaders training program.

The School for Leaders is open to anybody that would benefit from its teachings, whether looking to gain a management position or to progress through the ranks of seniority. Running for six months, the program is partnered with a University in Madrid and offers practical and theoretical elements.

Enrollees need to test their mettle against a series of grueling coursework assignments and exams to graduate, as well as passing a range of interviews. Upon completing the course, graduates are granted a formal certificate from the University. As some entrants have never attended a higher education establishment, this can be quite the motivation.

Rami’s aims are simple on paper. He wants to produce the next generation of business leaders, even if the individuals never dared to dream that they could scale such heights. Rami is passionate about learning and never stops seeking new information. He expects that same level of commitment from his students, believing that the right mindset is critical to achieving business success. What’s more, Rami believes in taking things one step at a time. Small strides can eventually lead to giant leaps forward.

Rami also has some regulations about the school’s intake, however. 50% of the 180 students must be female, and students with disabilities are carefully catered for. Individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds are also welcomed, and given the opportunity to provide feedback throughout the course. This is Rami’s main inspiration – the opportunity to give a voice to the voiceless. As a result, all feedback is acted upon while the course unfolds. This befits the student’s status as the best of the best, as while 600 applications were made, just 180 could be accepted.

Rami Baitieh has the experience to back up his beliefs. Carrefour was struggling when he came in, and he rolled up his sleeves to travel all over the world to turn this around. After stints in Romania and Taiwan, Rami agreed to take on the job in Argentina – a role that nobody else wanted.

Carrefour Argentina was looking for somebody to turn an ailing business interest that was making a significant loss into a profitable enterprise. This was what deterred many other applicants – the risk of reputational damage should they fail. What’s more, the business would have closed down, costing countless employees their jobs.

Although he understood and respected the gravity of what was at stake, Rami was not cowed by such concerns. Rather than focus on fear, Rami saw an exciting opportunity. It took him a while to convince Carrefour to give him the role, but he appealed to his future employers by speaking from his heart.

This emotional approach paid off, for all parties. Rami made a substantial profit for his employers within the timeframe laid out. This success has now been transported to Carrefour Spain, which is seeing positive financial results for the first time in three years. This proves beyond doubt that Rami understands what makes a skilled, successful leader. Who better to provide an education to those that look to emulate his impressive career path?

About LEAD Network Europe

The LEAD Network Europe is a non-profit and volunteer-led organisation whose mission is to attract, retain, and advance women in the consumer products and retail sector in Europe through education, leadership, and business development. The LEAD Network is run by and for its members, women and men, and we value every individual for their unique perspective. With a primary focus on promoting gender equality the organisation strives for the advancement of women of every race, ethnicity, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, age, educational background, national origin, religion, physical ability and lifestyle. Its vision is of a fair, diverse and vibrant industry where everyone can thrive. A diverse workforce where both men and women are enabled to contribute their full potential and lead their organisations to the next level of value creation. LEAD Network accounts for 18,000+ members – both women and men – from 81 countries.

For more information, please visit www.lead-eu.net