Pehr Gyllenhammar’s 24-year tenure was a historic and groundbreaking era in Volvo’s history. In his new book, Character is Destiny: Reflections on Innovation and Integrity from Volvo’s Longest Serving CEO (on sale Sept. 8, 2020; Morgan James), Gyllenhammar provides a rare and unique glimpse into his professional triumphs and failures; and his successful efforts to shape industry in Europe, most notably with his creation of the European Roundtable of Industrialists which revitalized Europe’s infrastructure through projects like the France-England Channel Tunnel. The book also provides a window into his friendships with some of the great luminaries of the world.
Character is Destiny is equal parts history, politics, and Gyllenhammar’s own personal philosophy―the foundational elements of his life have always been humanism, a fierce commitment to integrity and truth, and a deeply-rooted respect and admiration for the working class. When he became Volvo’s CEO in 1971, he completely redesigned the company’s plants and assembly methods to prioritize the health and wellbeing of the workers. He addressed the first global environmental convocation — the 1972 UN environmental conference — and made a public commitment to make Volvo more environmentally friendly. And to protest the regime of apartheid, he closed Volvo’s Durban plant in South Africa in 1976, one of the first CEOs to divest.
Character is Destiny offers his own wisdom as to what people must do if they hope to see a future in which global business and democracy will survive.
Swedish industrialist Pehr Gyllenhammar was born in Gothenburg in 1935, the son of insurance executive Pehr Gyllenhammar and Aina Kaplan Gyllenhammar. He graduated in 1959 from Lund University with a Bachelor of Law degree, and studied at the Centre d’Etudes Industrielles in Geneva. Mr. Gyllenhammar was Managing Director and Chief Executive of Skandia Insurance Company, then became the CEO of Volvo when just 35 years old. His 24-year tenure leading the company was an historic and groundbreaking era in Volvo’s history. Gyllenhammar directly shaped industry in Europe by founding the European Round Table of Industrialists, which conceived of and implemented major infrastructural improvements such as the France-England Channel Tunnel. Mr. Gyllenhammar is a former member of the International Advisory Committee of the Chase Manhattan Bank, and has worked with or served on the board of such institutions as United Technologies, Kissinger Associates, Rothschild Europe, Lazard, the Reuters Founders Share Company, the Aspen Institute, and the London Philharmonic Orchestra.
His numerous honorary degrees
These include Doctor of Medicine from Gothenburg University in 1981; Doctor of Engineering at the Technical University of Nova Scotia, Canada in 1988; Honorary Degree of Doctor of Law at the University of Vermont, USA, in 1993; and the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Economics at the School of Economics and Commercial Law, Gothenburg University in 2003.
Pehr Gyllenhammar was made Commander of the Ordre National du Mérite in France in 1980 and Commander of the Legion of Honour in France in 1987. His other honors include Commander of the Order of the Lion of Finland, 1977; the Golden Award of the City of Gothenburg, 1981; Commander of St. Olavs Orden, Norway, 1984; and Commander of the Order of Leopold, Belgium, 1989.
Mr. Gyllenhammar is the author of six previous books on management and industrial policy published in Sweden. He resides in Canada with his wife, doctor of industrial and organizational psychology Lee Welton Croll, and their daughter Barrett.
Pehr’s upcoming book, Character is Destiny: Reflections on Innovation and Integrity from Volvo’s Longest Serving CEO, will be released in September 2020