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Summary Article: Dominique Strauss-Kahn
from 1000 CEOs

Global economic turmoil has served Strauss-Kahn well. After being pushed forward for the top job at the International Monetary Fund (IMF), partly, some believed, to prevent him from taking an opposition role in French politics, Strauss-Kahn has managed to cast himself as a white knight to the world’s poor, while placing the IMF centre stage in the fight to rescue the world economy. It’s a fitting role for a heavyweight policy maker whose reformist career in French politics culminated in the successful launch of the euro in 1999.

“More than ever, we need the IMF to help us face the challenges of our times.”

Dominique Strauss-Kahn
Political mover

Education and politics have been the twin drivers of Strauss-Kahn’s life, his academic career acting as a springboard for his political ambitions. He met future French prime minister Lionel Jospin at a socialist education organization in the 1970s and entered parliament while an economics professor. After gaining government experience in the early 1990s in an industry post, he came into his own as finance minister in 1997. He pushed through deregulation and privatization policies popular with business, and successfully cut the French budget deficit to pave the way for the single European currency.

An ill wind

Political scandal interrupted his career in 1999 – though he was exonerated – while his bid for the socialist presidential nomination was thwarted by Ségolène Royal in 2006. However, his popularity in Europe, enhanced by his performance during the euro negotiations, made him a front-runner for the top IMF job in 2007. It turned out to be a lucky appointment for both the man and the organization. Prior to the global economic downturn, the IMF had been written off as irrelevant; its resources were dwarfed by easily available private capital and it was shunned because of its stringent lending requirements. The situation was reversed as the crisis worsened, and the G20 nations soon rallied behind the IMF. Strauss-Kahn seized the opportunity to push his reforming agenda, giving developing nations greater influence, easing restrictions on loans, protecting the poor, and bolstering the organization’s reserves with new donations. Under his leadership, the IMF is sure to regain something of its former global prestige.


Born in 1949 in the suburbs of Paris to Jewish parents, Strauss-Kahn spent his childhood in Morocco and Monaco. He gained a degree in public law and a doctorate in economics.

Leadership style

Suave and charismatic, Strauss-Kahn’s reputation as “un grand séducteur” has allowed him to steer a tricky course between ideology and pragmatism.

Key strength

His art of persuasion has allowed him to sell a pro-business, reforming agenda in the teeth of French opposition to change, promising to revamp the IMF.

Best decision

Campaigning for the IMF’s top job on a platform of wholesale change, a pledge that has proven to be very timely.

Lessons in business: Seizing the day

Strauss-Kahn has the presence and clout to have an impact on the international stage. But luck has played its part in his rise and part of his skill lies in knowing what to do with opportunities as they arise.

  • Consider the suddenness of economic decline, such as the global financial downturn, as a fantastic opportunity. Remember that chutzpah – gutsy audacity – can pay off in hard times.

  • Choose your own terms and negotiate hard when others are reeling.

  • Setbacks are certain, whether organizational or personal. Maintain a high level of stamina and resilience.

© 2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

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