James Gagne, CEO for Greater China at global integrated logistics firm Agility, has spent most of his career in Asia, mainly in China, working first as managing director for Central China at Schenker and, before that, as managing director for China at BAX Global.
A fluent Putonghua speaker and a strong believer in conciseness, Gagne is one of the youngest recipients of the prestigious Magnolia Silver Award, presented to him in 2007 by the municipal government of Shanghai in recognition of his contribution to the city’s social and economic development.
As a graduate from the United States Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA) at King’s Point, New York, with a bachelor of science degree in marine transportation and engineering, Gagne spent time at sea on various merchant vessels.
Away from work, his main interests include spending time with his wife, Nicole, and daughter, Anna, as well as walking, swimming, reading and singing. He also enjoys public-speaking opportunities.
What issues command your time at the moment?
Going into the early part of the year, the biggest thing I see for certain is uncertainty and volatility. An important part of my responsibilities as an executive involves articulating to colleagues and clients what is happening in the world and what this means to our business and the challenges this represents. This means not just identifying challenges, but more importantly, what we can do about them. How can we learn from these challenges? Where are the opportunities and where should our focus be?
What have you learned from being a CEO?
When you get to the “C” level, it becomes more about other people and not yourself. If you talk about people development but don’t act or do anything about it, you can loose a lot of credibility. To me, integrity, credibility and being responsive and respectful are extremely important.
It can also be a little bit lonely being a CEO, so having family, friends and mentors outside the business is invaluable.
How do you organise your time and responsibilities?
I am a great believer in the old saying “the early bird catches the fattest worms,” so I start early. Like most CEOs, a lot of my time is taken up with meetings, both internally and externally – with clients, government departments and authorities.
We are part of a large global operation, so I spend a lot of time travelling, both regionally and internationally. With operations in 24 countries across Asia, including 50 offices in China in 30 locations employing more than 16,000 staff, I spend a lot of time on the mainland. I also need to balance my time to craft future strategies for the company.
As a leader, how are you helping to position Agility for the future?