Markus Leithe is managing director of Infiniti Middle East, a Japanese carmaker known for its innovation, its boundary-pushing, and its human-centred approached to automotive design
What’s the story behind your business?
Infiniti was introduced to the premium vehicle segment of North America in 1989. We entered the automotive industry in a time of great volatility – sales were the slowest since 1984 and the market was shrinking. Quite simply, people thought we were crazy. Yet this came to define what the INFINITI brand is today – a progressive challenger.
We are bold in our actions and we do not follow the pack, and where there is challenge, we push the limits of what is possible. Today we are widely acclaimed for our daring design and innovative driver-assistance technologies, as well as our industry-leading VC-Turbo engine this year we celebrate our 30th anniversary and one of our core focuses will be to define a new benchmark for Electric Vehicles (EV’s).
What’s the industry’s biggest challenge?
The automotive industry is in a complete paradigm change. On the product side we are developing new powertrains using electric and other alternative fuels, as well as technologies for autonomous driving, and on the retail side of the business there is a strong focus on digitalization and e-commerce. By 2020, 40% of the market will be made up of millennials, meaning their buying power will gain even more influence.
Where do Infiniti’s ideas come from?
Everybody! One of the objectives as a leader is to create an environment where your team is engaged and feels encouraged to think outside of the box.
Who has influenced you as a leader?
One of my bosses earlier in my career had the most profound impact on me professionally. He was demanding in his requests but he always showed confidence in your ability to deliver the impossible.
When faced with two equally qualified candidates, who do you hire?
Ultimately, the candidate with a positive attitude, open mindedness and an eagerness to learn is the one that will fit the most within our organisation.
What advice would you give to someone going into a leadership position for the first time?
Be humble and ensure to listen; a leader is not somebody that knows best but makes sure that he learns from his team every day.
What are characteristics that you believe every leader should possess?
Encouragement - Encourage your teams to be confident in their voices and opinions so that you can get a variety of perspectives.
Accommodating - Create an environment that allows your teams to innovate.
Confidence - Give your teams ownership and invest in their success.
What’s the best way to prepare for uncertainty?
Be open-minded and agile; the only thing that’s sure is that the future will be different from what you plan, so be ready for that. Every challenge is also an opportunity.
What makes you get out of bed each day?
Every day is a chance to learn something new.
What do you do in your free time?
I like to explore and gain new experiences every day. This can be a new country, hearing a new song, reading a book, learning a new skill, or even testing a crazy new dish to cook and eat.
How do you manage a large company and still find time for family?
The secret is to empower your teams and trust them to deliver. It is almost impossible to do it all and have it all, so build a team that looks after each other in and out of the office.