Leadership

Why partnership is the new leadership: Volvo Group's Lars Stenqvist on Meet The Leader

Linda Lacina
Digital Editor, World Economic Forum
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  • The CTO of Volvo Group says companies that can leverage partnerships will have a competitive advantage in the years ahead.

As Volvo Group tackles transport decarbonisation, its Chief Technology Officer Lars Stenqvist understands that fast progress will require more than just new tech solutions. A true transformation will require a new way of working, leading and delivering solutions.

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Key to this approach? Partnerships. To move quickly, companies will no longer be able to work alone. They will need to partner with a range of groups, including ones that they ordinarily would not consider, as well as those they traditionally saw as rivals.

To this end, Volvo recently announced a joint venture with Daimler called Cellcentric, an initiative to put fuel cell technology in production for both long-haul trucking and other applications. "Cellcentric will provide fuel systems to Volvo and to Daimler," he explained. "On a vehicle level, when we are installing and optimizing the vehicles with these fuel cell systems, then we will remain competitors."

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The venture merges the firms' unique capabilities in areas such as technology development and large-scale vehicle production, but helps them scale fuel cell technology in a way they couldn't do quickly on their own.

"I think that it is very important that you find new ways of working where you for one piece of the puzzle you can be partners but for the majority of the pieces of the puzzle, there you stay competitors," Stenqvist said.

Given the impact effective partnerships could bring, those who can partner could have a true competitive advantage, said Stenqvist. "If you're viewed as the company with whom others want to join, with whom others want to partner, then that will be a true competitive edge to your company."

These new approaches to innovation won't just depend on open-mindedness. They will require leaders willing to step away from traditional top-down, 'control-tower' directives. Leaders will need to tap their teams' creativity and accountability to maximize their ability to deliver on the most most innovative solutions.

On his own teams, Stenqvist is known to go beyond asking for ideas. Instead, he might ask them for the roadmaps they'd put in place for those concepts, or even where they'd take the team if they were CTO.

These questions don't just keep teams engaged and challenged, they prompt shared accountability, a quality Stenqvist believes is key to overcoming the common hurdles that emerge during the innovation process. "If you have people around you that are truly accountable, when you are losing the game, you really have the passion to be back in the saddle to learn from loss and win the game."

"Accountability is the single most important word for me as a professional," Stenqvist added.

Learn more about Stenqvist - and how he sees leadership and transport transforming in the years ahead - on the latest episode of Meet the Leader.

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