Leadership in Romania, a time for opportunities

Romania enters the global circuit of managers

Practically, we can talk about modern management in Romania only after the '90s when, alongside the newly free economic market, foreign business came in. The market required, at that time, special developmental and entrepreneurial abilities. Corruption, an uneducated market, or at least one with very different habits, unstable economic, social and political environment made the Romanian market a new and very challenging one.

Business leaders, expatriate managers and local entrepreneurs, were characterised by a remarkable capacity to build businesses from nothing. International companies, desperate for local knowledge, took engineers directly from factories and sent them to generate markets for, for instance, detergents. Top managers remember when one only had to accept a top multinational's offer without having been asked about experience or competence.

The positive result of that era is that today’s’ managers were formed under extremely demanding conditions. Pressure was generated by an atypical market where the know-how brought by experts was limited to general rules. Production or commercial managers of international companies had the chance to be involved in the majority of the stages and areas that built these companies in Romania, so exposing them rapidly to many other business disciplines.

Their development was permanently supported by intense training and coaching, in Romania or abroad. Within their budgets, companies allocated a great amount to training. Leaving a good learning system but one that concentrated almost exclusively on theory and less on practical skills, the need for vocational and further education was and is substantial. The training market in Romania is thus big and growing.
Relatively few of the Romanian managers were formed at the famous European Management schools.  By using imitative learning or mimetic behaviour, they developed a competence and abilities kit that is compatible with the Western one, a professional attitude that gives employers and shareholders the confidence to promote them within their organisations.

Currently, a common topic in the economic media refers to local managers' opportunities to progress beyond their initial levels so developing their competency levels. The first signs of this were when multinational companies started to repatriate their expat management at top levels and replace it with local Romanian managers..

Now, companies with very ambitious plans are prepared to appoint local executives to the top positions. Romanian managers know the local market very well, the culture, have the vision of the economic specificity and they meet the quality demands imposed internationally. Until now, the low overhead cost of the Romanian managers did not warrant reducing the number of expensive expats especially since the former didn't have the necessary abilities and experience to take over the tasks of the latter. Nowadays the quality and experience differences are much smaller and the overhead costs are a significant consideration in headcount planning.

In the Romanian economy there is a relatively stable balance between industries led by Romanian managers and those where the top jobs are filled by expats. We have some international banks' branches where the top level is still dominated by expats. The current view though is that the obvious trend is to form a solid local management that will soon replace the majority of expats.

For the first time in the recent history, Romanian managers have to think strategically. Economic and political stability has permitted businesses to plan for the long-term. For Romanian managers it's really essential to have a long-term vision and for the first time this vision will make a difference to their company’s performance.

These considerations have resulted in Romanian managers entering into the global executive circuit. There are constant media reports about Romanian executives leading international companies or their branches throughout the world. For instance, in 2006, Holcim sent over 13 Romanian expats in management positions, Lafarge had over 30, over 50 for Coca-Cola as well as ING Bank and Vodafone. These are only a few of the most high profile examples and the trend is growing at a remarkable rate.

Romanian managers' experience is especially valuable in emerging markets. One of the features of an emergent market – the necessity of taking quick decisions with the ability to change plans often – has been experienced in depth by most modern and successful Romanians, which makes them sought after by the global players.

To illustrate this, I can cite that Lafarge relocated one of its Romanians to lead its Indonesian division, Unilever sent Romanians to Brazil, Inbev entrusted its operations in Central Europe and Cuba, Saint Gobain in South America – these are but a few examples..
Coming from an emergent economy, Romanian managers are valued as being able to bring  fresh vision – they can see business opportunities that the Western managers don't notice anymore. All this demonstrates just how far Romanian executives have progressed on the Global Executive Market.


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