A Conversation with Panagiotis Tsourapas, Group President, Colgate-Palmolive Latin America, Asia Pacific and Africa-Eurasia

GBI ColgatePalmolive
GBI ColgatePalmolive

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Panagiotis Tsourapas, group president, Colgate-Palmolive for Latin America, Asia Pacific and Africa-Eurasia, discussed his experience as one of the leading executives of a global household and consumer products company at an event hosted by the Graduate Marketing Association (GMA) and the Global Business Initiative (GBI) on October 30.

“In many emerging markets, Colgate-Palmolive is considered a local brand,” said Tsourapas.  “The main reason is that we have been present for a while. Three to four generations of consumers have grown up with our products.”

Tsourapas joined the company in 2002. Prior to his current role, he worked in various divisions including Europe and Latin America. He discussed the challenges of leading teams in different regions and how COVID-19 has impacted their business.

“Due to COVID-19, there has been a trend in increased consumption for in-home products as people spend more time at home,” said Tsourapas. “We have strong brands and I’m also very grateful for our very capable teams around the world that keep the production running.”

He also explained the intricacies of working in a global company and managing multicultural teams.

“Understanding culture specificity and the idiosyncrasies of each region is essential to succeed in a global company,” said Tsourapas. “There are cultures that require a more direct posture, whereas in others you need to be more passive. Mastering all these nuances and specificities relies on your ability to be intellectually curious when you arrive in a new country.”

He continued to speak on his biggest realization in the current pandemic, stressing that crises are an opportunity.

“The biggest lessons from this year for me is to have agility and flexibility,” said Tsourapas. “The reality is not your plan, but your environment is. You need to be smart and flexible enough to know when to shift gears.”

When asked about the most valuable career advice for our students, Tsourapas stressed the need to be proactive.

“Ask for feedback, about what you do well and what you don’t,” said Tsourapas. “Mentorship is important but don’t wait for it to come to you. Instead, take a more proactive approach.”

Jiani Zong (MBA’21), co-president, GMA, reflected on Tsourapas’ advice. 

“Due to our busy schedules in the workplace, it is very easy to forget to pause for a moment and request valuable feedback from our supervisors,” said Zong.

Tsourapas also reminded students to embrace change.

“Be curious and open to new ideas and opportunities,” said Tsourapas. “Your career and life will evolve in a different way that you plan for today.”

Finally, he shared his most valuable leadership lesson, adding that a true leader needs to be humble and accept that they don’t have all the answers.

 “Your role as a leader is to encourage dialogue and foster new ideas, to identify the talented people and empower them to take action,” said Tsourapas.