INSEAD Helped Propel Climb to the Executive Suite

A vital understanding of the importance of teamwork wrapped in a global perspective.

Those strengths, gained through working with a diverse student body and faculty, are identified by Hubert Sagnières MBA’86J as the crucial tools he acquired at INSEAD that set him on the path to corporate success.

“Team work, team work, team work,” he says. “What stands out is the striking evidence that it’s better to work in a team than alone. The whole INSEAD approach is really team-work oriented. Having both the theoretical approach and interactive assignments really helped me to develop a wide repertoire of skills and leadership effectiveness.”

The chief executive of Essilor International, Hubert is one of eight INSEAD graduates who are in the top leadership posts of the world’s largest 500 listed companies, according to a recent Financial Times survey. INSEAD’s total at the top echelon is higher than almost all other business schools, an impressive ranking that comes as no surprise to Hubert.

“I would say that INSEAD gathers talented people from various backgrounds who are inspired by a very strong spirit of entrepreneurship, which explains why they made their way to higher levels of company management,” he explains. “The way in which diversity is valued and encouraged at INSEAD also explains why these leaders’ careers have embraced such a variety of countries and organisations. Thanks to INSEAD’s geographical locations, the school is training managers who know and enjoy diversity. They can then work anywhere in the world, keeping close to the most dynamic markets.”

Essilor, headquartered in France and with operations in more than 100 countries, is the global leader in corrective lenses. The company points to its innovation as the source of its success over more than 160 years. From design to manufacture, the group develops a wide range of lenses to correct and protect eyesight.

The firm’s mission is to improve lives by improving sight. In this pursuit, Essilor spends €150 million on research and development. Hubert draws a connection between his INSEAD education and his company’s commitment to R&D.

Hubert Sagnieres

“INSEAD helped me grasp that in a globalised context, the only battlefield is the world. Essilor’s ambition and my personal engagement in fighting poor vision are supported by a global vision of the challenge and of what is needed to change the world. I believe changing the world is possible,” he says. “If you have a dream, better dream big! I also firmly believe in the importance of doing business according to one’s values and in the necessity of partnering with people who share the same goals and values.”

With Essilor’s extensive international reach, INSEAD’s embrace of diversity and a global vision for management education have contributed significantly to Hubert’s leadership philosophy.

“My INSEAD experience reinforced my belief that to succeed, you need to have a deep understanding of each and every market and of local business as well as to be close to consumers. This concept of proximity is the backbone of our partnership strategy. Our growth is fueled by innovation, but also by acquisitions with local businesses that are willing to join the Group.”

He explains that companies that become part of the Group benefit from Essilor’s innovation strength, technologies, products and brands, while the parent company gains from acquisitions’ skills and expertise, and in-depth knowledge of their markets, consumers and their needs, as well as of local challenges and opportunities.

He adds that the optics market is very fragmented and in every country the company deals mostly with small entrepreneurs, often family businesses. Thus a key lesson learned at INSEAD is that a company needs to be structured properly to be able to integrate hundreds of small businesses and focus everyone’s energies on reaching a common goal.

Hubert praises the rich learning environment at INSEAD and points to two courses in particular that played a key role in his career path.

“Finance was one, and organisational behavior, where I discovered the importance of leadership, team dynamics, and organisational culture. It provided important insights on motivation, individual and collective behaviours, not to mention team work,” he explains. “Also, I think INSEAD is a school where common sense features strongly. I remember something that Gabriel Hawawini, a former INSEAD dean and finance teacher, used to say: ‘There is no such thing as a free lunch’.”

Hubert had embarked on his professional career before determining that he wanted more education.

“After a very valuable entrepreneurship experience in Polynesia, which was really operational and pragmatic, I felt a need to reorient my career path towards Europe and the U.S.,” he explains. “The discovery of new international challenges and my desire to develop and reinforce a theoretical understanding to complement my recent practical experience motivated my choice of INSEAD. My objective was to gain a wider perspective, and a more comprehensive and strategic business overview in order to aim for higher management responsibilities. The MBA at INSEAD was a real opportunity to accelerate my career and gain access to the world.”

Hubert talks also of the benefits of INSEAD’s unique global network, consisting of talented, diverse and successful individuals who share a common spirit. And these connections, he adds, are for a lifetime.

As well, that spirit is not just shared with former classmates and faculty, it’s also enjoyed within the family. Hubert’s son graduated from INSEAD in 2012.

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