Difficult is fun

It is in adversity that you get to show who you are, says Hege Eike Lie.

Hege Eike Lie

Position: CEO

Employer: Continental Tires Norway

Master of Business Administration with specialization in micro- and macroeconomics

As a BI student in the early 2000s, you felt like God's gift to the world, because all the companies came to BI to sell themselves. But in practice, it was not as easy.

What made you choose the exact civil economy study?
- I discovered in high school that the business and social economics subjects fell easily for me, and I wanted an education that could give me access to different professions. Plus, I wanted to get away from Stavanger, and then it was four years in Sandvika.

What kind of leadership ideals did you get from BI?
- I did not understand it while studying because I think it was challenging to get what management actually was. In retrospect, I have realized that value-based management was what suited me. To be allowed to be self-propelled, without anyone instructing me on every detail.

What challenges do you spend the most energy on as a leader?
- Motivating the organization and employees from “talk to action” and get them to take ownership of operations and business. There is a lot of learning in it for my part as well because I see how different people are motivated in different ways. It is exhilarating.

What makes your industry and your company rewarding to work in?
- I identify so much with the values of Continental: trust, room for maneuver, community, and will to win - it is the essence of Hege. The company gives me many opportunities, and I feel safe here, we have products I am proud of and best of all: people are down to earth - colleagues as customers.

Then the car industry is complex, something I love. That we are in the middle of difficult times is a motivation in itself, because difficult is fun.

What has been the heaviest downturn in your professional life?
- When I returned from parental leave and was demoted. It was tough, and I let it get to me. But I learned a lot from it: that the job means exceptionally much to me. That I should have asked for help earlier. That one should not act on the assumptions of others. I'm proud that I stood in it, and dared to take on the tough discussions with people I was going to continue working with.

It is in tough times that you get to show who you are and how robust the organization is. And I'm still in the same company.

What are you most proud of having contributed to?
- That we have become more forward-looking and willing to change. It is easy for a successful company to sit still in the boat, but then you also become afraid of making mistakes. I have helped to turn this around, and now we are more ahead - and at the same time, less afraid of making mistakes.

Which of your personal qualities have you benefited most from in your work?
- The fact that I genuinely love people and care about them. I also think I'm good at motivating others to make things happen.

If you were to take a part-time study for managers next to the job, which subject areas would you like to go into?
- Strategy, without a doubt. I have seen far too many strategies that are just a collection of goals. What about the road from A to B, where do we find it? I would like to learn more about how we can implement the plans and have good, challenging discussions internally.

Do you have a leadership role model - in that case, who?
- I have two. Jens Stoltenberg for the way he handled July 22. It is in a crisis that a leader shows what he or she stands for. He impressed me.

Then there is Marit Breivik, former national team coach for the handball girls. The way she involved the players, it almost seemed like they decided for themselves. She gave them co-determination, and then they got ownership. And then she let them shine. It shows great leadership.