From Athlete to CEO

Leadership lessons from Jean Hornain, MBA ’88

While most people are considered successful if they make it to the top of one industry, Jean Hornain, MBA ’88, has made it to the pinnacle of three.

At 18 years old, Hornain was the youngest player recruited to the 1979 French national volleyball team. After representing France in nearly 200 international competitions, a knee injury caused him to reflect on his career. That’s when things really got interesting.

First, he earned an MBA degree from HEC Paris. From there, he took a job as an Associate at a London-based investment bank. Finding he missed the teamwork so prevalent in professional sports, he went on to found Equipe TV, and eventually become CEO of Le Parisien, a daily newspaper.

“As a former athlete, I was not predestined for this moment,” he explained during a recent presentation at an MBA Afterwork Drinks event. “The HEC Paris MBA made it possible, transforming a volleyball player into a CEO.”

Two years ago, Hornain took over as the Managing Director of Citeo, an environmental firm dedicated to waste sorting and recycling.

During his speech at the April 5 MBA Afterwork Drinks event, Hornain named three main drivers which give meaning to his work:

1. Surround yourself with inspiring people

Hornain’s professional partners were instrumental in shaping his career ambitions. He says he has always carefully surrounded himself with people who he admires and who inspire him.

His advice: “Don’t choose a job. Instead, choose your boss, choose your colleagues, and choose the people you’re going to work with.”

2.  Build strong teams, and leverage those teams’ collective energy

Even in individual sports, Hornain says, the biggest champions have a solid team around them. The key to building that team is to create an environment and atmosphere where success is guaranteed.

His advice: “You and your teammates must share the same values. Find good, talented people, then enter into sincere and truthful relationships with them. Be yourself and allow room for emotions and vulnerability. That will create confidence, give energy and transform people.”

3. Be useful to humanity

The financial performance of a company must exist alongside a sincere commitment to the betterment of society. Companies increasingly have a role to fulfill: building a more sustainable world.

His advice: “Companies will survive only if they have a sincere commitment to the collective game, and exist in a more open, collective, cooperative mode. They must contribute to the common good, and not only to shareholders’ value.”

Special Thanks

afterwork drinksWe’d like to thank Jean Hornain and MBA Afterwork Drinks for joining forces to bring us this special Evening with a CEO. To stay informed of all the upcoming events hosted by the Afterwork Drinks team, follow their Facebook Page: Their networking evenings, which are open to all current HEC Paris MBA students and alumni, take place in Paris and throughout the world. They are always looking for volunteers to help organize their next event.