Leaving a lasting leadership legacy

Adaptation, reflection and stewardship are forward-looking life lessons according to Jean-Claude Biver. The manager and watch expert shared his insights about successful leadership with Felipe Monteiro, Senior Affiliate Professor of Strategy at Insead.


Jean-Claude Biver is something of an icon in the Swiss watchmaking industry. The former head of brands like TAG Heuer, Hublot and Zenith is being credited of turning the Swiss watch industry around saving the industry from the quartz movement and initiating an astounding recovery leading into the digital age.

Biver encountered his biggest personal hurdle in the midst of one of his biggest successes. While working on the TAG Heuer Connected watch – a transformative partnership between Swiss luxury and Silicon Valley, he fell ill and eventually stepped away from the day-to-day business. Since then he has decided to give back and share his advice. With Felipe Monteiro, Senior Affiliate Professor of Strategy at Insead, he spoke about adaptation, reflection and stewardship. Ambitionet has summarised the most important aspects of his thoughts.


“The name of the game is adaptation. You adapt by having doubts,” he said. The underlying learning that goes into adaptation is an openness and an understanding that others may know best. “When you start to listen to others, you are in the learning process. Then you will get the adaptation you need.”

As an example: A few years ago, Biver established an advisory board of young people who shared their views with him to help foresee trends on the horizon. He acknowledged the importance of listening to their voices.


Biver’s advice about reflection for today’s business leaders is to disconnect from the everyday routine as it is hard to see the bigger picture when you focus on a meeting, agenda or specific result: “We have to learn generosity, we have to learn that we belong to a community and that we have a role in this community. It's to connect with others.” For Biver, reflection breeds connection.


For Biver, education maximises our humanity. He is supportive of artificial intelligence but emphasises that it will never have our human characteristics of intuition, instinct, love or a soul. In his opinion, teachers should encourage students to develop these rather than learning by rote or gaining skills that can be done quicker and better by a machine. “AI should not be a threat, it should be a help,” he told the Insead professor.


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