Managing a company with 47,000 employees worldwide and a large portfolio of products does not faze Kasper Rorsted, the chief executive of Henkel, which owns brands including Persil and Schwarzkopf. He speaks about the importance of making leadership visible within a company.Henkel is headquartered in Germany, so why are you here in Dubai?
The emerging regions are 43 per cent of our total business. The Middle East plays a very large role for us. I come out on an ongoing basis to see how the business is and understand what is going well and what is not going well … [and] so [employees] understand who I am.
Why do you think it is important for your employees to understand who you are?
It's not about me as a person. But I think that it is important in an organisation that the leadership is visible. It's so people get a … tangible feel about who is running the organisation. When I sit, for example, in the breakfast meetings for the high-potentials, I want them to understand what I think is important, I want them to answer [my] questions so we have a dialogue.
Experts have said companies focus on high-potentials at the expense of the rest of their staff.
I don't agree with that. I know the top 200 leaders personally. Number two, town hall meetings is how you pick up, quote-unquote, "the rest". That's where you stand and spend time [with employees]. I travel 160 days a year every year. If you do that consistently I think you build a rapport.
What has been the biggest challenge in your career?
If you manage very large organisations, you manage people or lead people. You don't at the end of the day manage the business. So getting the right competence around you is the biggest challenge. It is much more difficult than numbers. Either the number is good or it's bad. But with a person, is he or she good? Can they manage the business? It is where you have most joy, but it is also where you have most disappointment.
Henkel has a huge range of products. Have you tried every single one?
I try to use as many products as I can [but] I don't know all of them. If we have new products coming out, particularly on the personal and home-care side, I pretty much use all of them. I also say what I like and what I don't like. But I never have an opinion about advertising. I am not an advertising [expert]. If we have the right [advertising] people, that's their problem. I will tell the brand manager whether I like or dislike the product, but I will never take it off the market. Very often I'm not right, but I try to figure out which products I like.from national news.