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Santiago Álvarez de Mon, Professor, IESE, University of Navarra

Qualities for the crisis

Wed, 17 Feb 2010 09:42:22 +0000 Published in Expansion (Madrid)

By the time these lines see the light of day, the Government's parliamentary control session will be about to take place. With that excuse, with the crisis as a backdrop and thinking of any of the many managers who have to deal with their own challenges, I review some leadership qualities that in adversity reach the Degree of criticism:

Integrity and intellectual honesty. It is required to abandon ideologies and partisan interests overtaken by an overflowing and constantly evolving reality. The facts are the only reliable starting point, and if we do not have them, it is only a matter of time before we crash.

Analytical intelligence. The difficulty is time for lucid minds that do not remain in the symptoms of the disease, they study the causes of the same one. An accurate diagnosis represents a sensitive percentage of the final solution. With it, one is already in the recovery phase.

3. work as a team. Four eyes see more than two. Close to the leader there must be professionals who are not only loyal and committed, but also brilliant and independent. Only these will say what others silence. Synergy nestles in the creative space between legitimate differences and singularities.

4. Historical sense of time. Nothing is for nothing. The present status is the consequence of a past whose excesses must be overcome and corrected. Extending the hangover after a major binge does not seem prudent.

5. Humility to recognize mistakes, apply for financial aid and get up after the fall. This sporting interpretation of life gives the leader agility of reflexes and mental flexibility.

6. The art of communication. To lead is to engage in a high-level conversation with the society one wishes to serve. The patient must be told what he/she has, a shock plan must be drawn up and he/she must be accompanied in his/her treatment. The patient's state of mind depends to a large extent on the sincerity and solvency of the physician. Persuasive skills are needed to explain the change, overcome resistance and involve the players core topic.

7. Courage to make unpopular decisions. Tightening the belt, liquidation of expenditures that are expendable, elimination of superfluous organizational Structures , freezing of salaries, are austerity measures and rigor in the management that an elementary instinct of survival advises the good ruler. The character and determination of the latter to row against the current is a distinctive and crucial trait.

8. Moral authority to ask for the sacrifices that every crisis demands. It is not possible to apply for renunciations to others if some, the closest ones, remain in a status of privilege.

9. A philosophical commitment to inalienable values such as justice and solidarity. The righteous cannot pay for the sinners. Those responsible for the crisis cannot get away with it while the poorest suffer its worst effects.

10. Marathon and stoic spirit. The crisis is lived with intensity, as well as with serenity and patience. It takes endurance and willpower to withstand the initial pull and not get trapped in discouragement.

11. Spirit of greatness to appeal to the best of every human being. In times of anxiety, the crisis is a propitious crossroads for dreaming and imagining a better future. The leader must know that good people only vibrate and have faith in tomorrow if he radiates confidence and security. Lacking these, his promises sound like excuses and science fiction.

In case you are one of those leaders forced to manage a crisis, I bid you farewell with these prescient words of Vaclav Havel: "I do not know whether these thoughts will meet with the applause of politicians, but I cannot help them: nothing has persuaded me more than the conviction that doing what our heart tells us to do is the best policy of all. But I cannot help them: nothing has persuaded me more than the conviction that doing what our heart tells us to do is the best policy of all", reminds me of the wisdom of the Little Prince: "The essential is invisible to the eye. It can only be seen with the heart. Great intuition, has the heart made a place for itself in the parliamentary hemicycle? And in our daily work? It is time for generous hearts, not selfish mentalities. To lead is to engage in a high-level conversation with the society we want to serve.