Leadership perspectives: An interview with Thierry Vanlancker, former CEO of AkzoNobel

Leadership perspectives: An interview with Thierry Vanlancker, former CEO of AkzoNobel

Thierry Vanlancker shares the key levers of AkzoNobel’s sustainability strategy and discusses the importance of concrete targets to unify an organization.

In this next installment in our Leadership Perspectives video series, Heidrick & Struggles’ Fabrice Lebecq speaks to Thierry Vanlancker, the former CEO of AkzoNobel, a paint and coatings chemicals company based in the Netherlands; Vanlancker is also a board member at both Sika and Etex, and is the chairman of Aliaxis. Vanlancker talks about AkzoNobel's “winning together: 15 by 20” strategy, which was a goal of 15% profitability by 2020 that he implemented when he became the CEO in 2017—and which he delivered on in 2020. He discusses the challenges the company was facing when he took on the CEO role: that there was too much complexity and too many objectives, and he explains how he implemented his strategy as one concrete target. Vanlancker also shared some key levers of AkzoNobel's ESG strategy and his perspective on how boards can move executives in the right direction in terms of sustainability, the importance of a purpose-driven organizational culture, and what leadership capabilities he believes are essential for future leaders.

About the interviewer

Fabrice Lebecq (flebecq@heidrick.com) is a partner in Heidrick & Struggles’ Brussels office and regional managing partner of the Industrial Practice across Europe & Africa. He also leads the Supply Chain & Operations Officers Practice in Europe & Africa.

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