Former CEO Of Volvo, Pehr Gyllenhammar, On Why We Need To Put People Ahead of Profits

Pehr Gyllenhammar is the former CEO of Volvo and has been voted Sweden’s most admired man nine times. He became CEO of Volvo when he was just 35 years old and led the company for 24 years. Pehr led his company through lots of tough times, including recessions and an oil crisis. While many companies were sacrificing their people to save their profits, Pehr didn’t let go of a single employee. In fact, he told me he would rather let go of a white-collar worker in a management role than a blue-collar worker on the manufacturing floor. Pehr’s lesson is all about appreciating the people who work for you and remembering that it’s often the people on the front lines who make your business successful.

There are very few leaders today who actively put the well-being of their people ahead of profits. Pehr says, “I put people before profits in the sense that if I didn’t have good people, we couldn’t have productivity or have our aspirations come true. So I have people before profits and it’s not declining profits. I think that profits are very important for any shareholder company and that the shareholders should have their part, but the people will create it.”

He says companies today are not only laying people off, but doing so brutally. That’s not the way to lead. During the recessions Pehr went through as a CEO, he made it a priority to take care of his people and to protect the most vulnerable. Because of that, his employees trusted him and felt safe and motivated.

Over the last 15 years, I’ve had the privilege of speaking and working with some of the world’s top leaders. that I learned from the CEOs of organizations like Netflix, Honeywell, Volvo, Best Buy, The Home Depot, and others. I hope they inspire you and give you things you can try in your work and life.

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