05 April 2013


Name: Charles-Emmanuel Daviet

Nationality: French

Intake: September 2012 Full-Time

In his literary work “Persian Letters”, written in 1721, the French social commentator and political thinker Montesquieu recounts experiences of two Persian noblemen travelling through France. During their trip, they comment on various aspects of an environment completely different from the one to which they are used. I enjoy a similar experience: Cavalry officer in the French Army, I have left aside temporarily my uniform to attend the HEC MBA program and will go back to the armed forces at the end.

Why this choice? I decided to apply for an MBA program firstly because I felt I lacked the skills and know-how to be effective in my future appointments. As I progress in my career, I will be offered increased managerial responsibilities in very various branches of the armed forces.  It will require skills that support my understanding of the global working of the military system, such as finance, management, communication, or marketing. I am convinced that most of the things I’m learning here at HEC are transferable to my future jobs.

I also felt that learning to know better how civilian economic leaders think and work could be of huge interest for me. Military means, although essential, are not enough on their own to meet the complex challenges to crisis management, which often implies stabilization and reconstruction in an international environment. I believe that in my future appointments I will need to work closely with various civilian partners on the ground, and the MBA program is a unique opportunity to understand the mind-set and way of working of future top-level managers from many countries.

Finally, I felt I lacked the economic culture I deem necessary in order to serve my country at best. George Washington said, “When we assumed the Soldier, we did not lay aside the Citizen”. For me it means that military leaders of a democratic country must have a deep understanding not only of evolving security threats, but also of societal, technological and economical changes. It requires from them an increasing degree of adaptability. Attending an MBA program is a way of acquiring this.

MBA Presentation

Why HEC? In France, when you think about business schools, there is one name and only one: HEC. The reputation of the school is superb. This is why I decided to apply. General de Gaulle used to say that you should always aim for the top, because it is less crowded there. It is a demanding and developing motto.

Diversity at HEC is incredible. Not only do the students reinforce the international awareness required to communicate fluently with businesses worldwide, but also HEC provides an incomparable list of useful contacts. I receive and I learn a lot from other participants and I feel indebted towards them. So sometimes I ask myself what I can bring to them.

With fellow classmates at the Sustainable Business Conference Cocktail

First, I try to share my vision of the importance of national factors in economy and of the role of the State. I have been a public servant for the last 15 years and I am a great believer in the positive role of the State. I do think that in a world of highly mobile capital, states are still vital to the social and economic well-being of their citizens, not even to mention their physical security. Obviously the way states promote wealth creation and social protection in an era of economic interdependence is changing, but it will not disappear. Moreover, national factors still have a he impact on economics. Sometimes we tend to think that economics are a science like chemistry or physics: raise taxes and achieve result X, cut budgets and achieve result Y. In doing this, we forget about national history, national culture, and perhaps national psychology: in two different countries, perception of the same economic policy can vary a great deal. By exchanging with people from so many different countries, the MBA program provides a unique opportunity to understand this.

Second, I try to share my vision of leadership. In the military, we have a specific understanding of leadership responsibility. We call it Command. It is the authority that a military leader exercises over subordinates. It includes leadership, authority, responsibility and accountability for effectively using resources to accomplish assigned missions where human lives can be at stake. Therefore command is very broad, it includes responsibility for almost everything about assigned personnel: unit readiness, health, welfare, morale, discipline, etc. The true commander is someone of character, presence and intellect. But he is nothing without good followers. In fact no one leads all the time. All of us are alternatively followers and leaders. Therefore it is often illuminating to consider the relationship between followership and leadership. Collective work during the MBA provides good opportunities to assume both roles and learn about their relationship.

Finally, I like to think that I can bring something to other participants about ethics. In combat or complex and dangerous situations, ethical choices are not always easy. Yet decisions have to be made quickly. This is why ethics are so important in the armed forces. Military leaders are expected do the right things for the right reasons all the time. Followers count on their leaders to be more than just technically and tactically proficient. They rely on them to make good decisions that are also ethical. To be an ethical leader requires more than knowing one organization’s values. Leaders must be able to apply them as well as ethical reasoning to find moral solutions to diverse problems. As emphasized by Winston Churchill, “The price of greatness is responsibility”.

After graduating, I will go back to my Regiment (1st Spahis Regiment) as chief of the operations office, in charge of planning and conducting the activities and the deployments of the entire regiment (800 soldiers). Becoming a contributor to the delicate intricacies involved in successfully planning and executing complex military operations on the ground is an exiting challenge. I look forward to it.

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