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7 Questions with Tristan Olivier Serretta

helps you in your leadership.



Jonno White

7 Questions with Tristan Olivier Serretta

Name: Tristan Olivier Serretta

Current title: CEO

Current organisation: SAF Helicopters

18 years in the French Air Force and veteran background (navigator, captain on tactical transport and air to air refuelers then chief of air operations). Worked 6 years in parallel to found a freight airline company, switched to MBA. Spent 9 years with AIRBUS in the field of BD to multinational organizations then CEO of subsidiaries (Kazakhstan JV, Training, Drones). CEO of Groupe SAF since 2018 under LBO.

7 Questions with Tristan Olivier Serretta


1. What have you found most challenging as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise?

Keeping the teams upright and focused on the future after the tragedy that struck us on December 8, 2020 (helicopter crash during a mountain rescue mission) was certainly the most difficult challenge.

2. How did you become a CEO or executive of a large enterprise? Can you please briefly tell the story?

My "specific period of entrepreneurship" (I was still an officer in the air force and was working during the weekend and vacations) led me to look at the future differently.

I had so much invested (time, positive attitude and fighting spirit in particular) that I couldn't accept wasting this time and energy, I simply couldn't accept to give-up a part of who I am.

I had to look at this from a different angle and decided to join a big company letting me improve my skills while developing for the group. I've been able to perform to be given a P&L as CEO (subsidiaries), I was eventually hired and joined a LBO project to get at full speed.

3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?

I always try to inject a bit of sport (and I often miss the target despite my focus on this point), early morning preferably.

My planning is constantly changing as "the first casualty in a war is the plan (Von Moltke)" it is made of both personal work and collaborative sessions (at distance or in person).

I have a solid breakfast, quick lunch and a dinner at home (when not travelling which is quite often the case), even late.

4. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?

Well, I'm constantly learning; the world is so fast changing , cultures being so different, that the key learnings of today might not be helpful tomorrow.

One recent lesson is: Always try to look at difficult situations using different filters; if you screen these challenges using personal values or looking at inspiring paralympics athletes, or just looking at your own past successes in difficult circumstances, then things will improve not only for you as a leader, but also for the team around and what was nearly lost becomes very accessible, what was a pain is transformed into a lesson.

5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?

It's not very original but Peter Principle is always in the back of my head. Not as a way to look at people but also a way to look at myself.

Ambition is a good thing, but I'm focusing 100% on what I'm good at and what I love to do instead of just looking for the just above next level, this is probably one of the reasons making me join a MidCap.

I'm looking at helping my team to do the same, avoiding the Peter principle.

6. How do you build leadership capacity in a large enterprise?

Autonomy is the key aspect. Giving your collaborators the power to do (and to fail sometimes) with a minimum "convincing journey" and a quick access to the decision level will help building the capacity.

You'll quickly see the ones ready to take the challenge and lead the team vs. the ones giving-up or unable to mobilize resources and good willingness.

7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise so far?

It's not related to my leadership experience as CEO but to an old reply to a 360 anonymous questionnaire.

One of my customers replied "Tristan has such an indestructible optimism that even the customer follows" :).

This optimism is still present, I give it to my team and they share theirs in turn in the company, positive attitude is the best way to collective success.

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