Female leadership, Italy, diversity and the beauty of leading by example

This is about celebrating gender diversity and exceptional women in Italy sending a message in favour of exceptional female talent anywhere.

On 7 May 2012, in Brussels,Viviane Reding, Vice President of the European Commission, in charge of Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship, Lella Golfo, Member of the Italian Parliament, Alessia Mosca, Member of the Italian Parliament and Federiga Bindi, Director of the Istituto Italiano di Cultura of Brussels united to celebrate and send a message (picture below).

The case of Italy was chosen as a best practice for both a properly working law on diverse boards and the positive effects of its early implementation on overall corporate governance.

Federiga Bindi, Alessia Mosca, Viviane Reding and Lella Golfo on 7 May 2012 in Brussels

Lella Golfo and Alessia Mosca are two exceptional and exceptionally different Italian women and leaders. Both Members of Parliament elected for the first time in 2008, they are, under many points of view, different. Their stories are different, they belong to different parties, they come from different parts of the country, they differ for many aspects.

Diversity, though, is exactly why they succeeded together.

They united, they shared forces, shared thoughts and emotions. They combined different points of view. They listened to each other, they partially adapted their thoughts to each other’s. They managed to turn their (and their respective parties’) differences into a law, which perhaps neither of them would have been in a position to achieve if alone.

Italy’s law on gender diversity for Board of Directors of listed companies (Law n. 120/2011, dated 12 July 2011, the so-called “Golfo Mosca Law”), coming into force on 12 August 2012, requires, in essence, that Italian listed or State controlled companies appoint a fifth (to become a third at the following mandate) of board members as part of the “under represented gender”.

It does so in such a way that it works.

In fact, not only did Alessia Mosca and Lella Golfo lead the approval process of a visionary law. They also continued to work for its early and effective implementation.

As this law mandates for shareholders to change a number of board members, Italian companies have rightly taken it as a great opportunity to make better use of their Boards.

Hence, whilst not yet in effect, this law was actually implemented earlier by a number of Italian corporates, during the Annual General Meeting season of 2012: exceptional women were selected, overall corporate governance improved. Some leading Italian global companies, such as Fiat Chrysler for example, implemented a smaller board, with a view to fostering its effectiveness.

A great sign of good things coming and more to come.

Exceptional female talent is ever more crucial for the success of Italy and Europe, in one of those defining moments, as difficult as they are, where proper and effective use of talent and leadership can, and will make a difference for the better.

 

 

Tommaso Arenare

www.twitter.com/tommaso_arenare

My next move, through Black Swans and Obliquity


What do you think I can do next? What “career move” do you recommend? How can I land that fantastic CEO job at company (or bank) XYZ?

Again, those are some of the questions I am faced with daily.

As simple as they are, they cannot be answered seriously.

Let’s see how we can take a different angle, open up a different perspective, by combining a few separate thoughts: that of a “Black Swan“, that of “Obliquity“, and that of a “much smaller, yet more precious list” I have discussed separately.

Black Swans (…) are large-scale unpredictable and irregular events of massive consequence—unpredicted by a certain observer.

Nassim N. Taleb, “Antifragile, Things that Gain from Disorder, Prologue, 2012.

Black Swans can be negative as well as thy can be positive. Limiting the exposure to negative Black Swans and increasing our exposure to positive Black Swans is the challenge, then.

John Kay describes obliquity as follows:

If you want to go in one direction, the best route may involve going in another. This is the concept of ‘obliquity’: paradoxical as it sounds, many goals are more likely to be achieved when pursued indirectly. Whether overcoming geographical obstacles, winning decisive battles or meeting sales targets, history shows us that oblique approaches are the most successful, especially in difficult terrain.

Obliquity implies that future opportunities can best be pursued indirectly. Black Swans imply that the only safe thing we know about our next move is that we don’t know what it is going to be.

Remember, though, that people, not what we do, will make us happy. Finding people we like, people who inspire, is therefore as unpredictable and as uncertain as the combination of Black Swans and Obliquity. Yet, finding and nurturing relationships will give us pleasure, stimulate our thinking, open up endless possibilities.

Hence, that “much smaller and more precious list“, our path to connecting wisely, is our way forward. The wiser we are in connecting with people we like, the more will we be exposed to positive (and oblique) Black Swans. That person we like, whom we regularly talk to, seek advice and inspiration from, at a given, unexpected moment will come out with that fantastic thought, with that inspiring question, which will lead to our next opportunity, perhaps to our next job.

There’s no predictable limit to the power of relationship, the power of connecting wisely.

Tommaso Arenare

www.twitter.com/tommaso_arenare

For a different look at leadership

What competencies make up leadership? How much of leadership is technical as opposed to social or interpersonal?

Competencies are behaviours: for professionals, executives, consultants, leaders, all competencies can be grouped into two sets:

  • non-people-related (or “hard”)  competencies include such behaviours as orientation to results (how determined we are towards achieving our goals), but also all sorts of technical skills required for our job, plus a number of additional competencies such as market knowledge and even strategic orientation.
  • soft competencies, instead, have to do with relating to other people, either to collaborate with colleagues or to influence them (what we call collaboration & influencing) or to lead a team (team leadership), or to change the way a group of people works (change leadership).

In the early stages of someone’s professional development, people-related skills appear relatively less developed, hence we tend to assess and select people on the basis of  hard competencies.  The early stages of one’s professional life are full of episodes where we realise that orientation to results and determination, or technical skills, were the basis of our progress.

After a certain point in life, though, those skills start to decline in absolute terms. At the same time, “social”, interpersonal skills, by then, take off. For best-in-class talent, they continue to grow over time. From that point onwards, growth in soft skills more than offsets the decline in hard skills

The sum of hard and soft competencies can then be measured, over the course of one’s life. The profile of this sum is a very interesting element to consider.

Effective leaders evidence, over time, a profile in line with the example in the following chart:

.

Over time, then, the “sum” of hard and soft skills is a proxy for leadership, as well as for one’s satisfaction. Both grow, from a certain point in time on, if we are able to more than compensate a decline in hard skills.

In other words, all of our incremental satisfaction, from a certain point on, depends entirely on our ability to grow interpersonally.

It’s people, again.

Tommaso Arenare

www.twitter.com/tommaso_arenare

A much smaller, yet more precious list

In his thought-provoking HBR post, “Turn Your Career into a Work of Art“, Gianpiero Petriglieri sets the tone for real progress in how we all look at a radical re-thinking of what we would call “career”:

Whose life am I living? I’m sure you ask yourself that kind of question from time to time. What am I really good at? What is the purpose of my work? These are not new questions. Sooner or later, we all seek answers to them… Not only when we are struggling, but, paradoxically, when we are succeeding.

The challenge, then, is to find an “identity workspace“, where what you do “resonates with an audience”.

Audience is people. Again, what we do is important, that’s clear. More important, though, is for and with whom we do what we do, whose needs we address through what we do. This opens up an entirely new element, which we’ve kept unconscious for so long.

People, not what we do, will make us happy.

Finding people we like, finding our “audience”, people who inspire. Nurturing relationships which give us pleasure, stimulate our thinking…

All of this requires the ability to connect, and to do so in a wise manner, through careful selection. Selection is choice. Choosing who we like requires thinking, open thinking.

When I face people who come to discuss similar matters with me, I often ask a simple question: “How many people have you known, in your life?”. Answers to that vary from “A few dozen” to the bravest, who dare say “Maybe a thousand?”

Reality, though, is a lot more. Most of us highly underestimate the value of relationship and connection.

Someone living their life in professional services, since their mid thirties, is more likely to have known, in the broadest sense of the meaning, between four and in some cases as many as ten thousand people (think about all the people you’ve known during your school life, then the university, then your colleagues at work…).

We live a life of overexposure to connecting, not the opposite.

Hence, an important next steps towards a world of connecting wisely is that of sharpening the focus: “How many, of those thousand people, are those I like, those who can inspire me, those I find satisfaction in connecting with?” 

Let’s write those few names (10 to 20) down, in a moment of rest.

That much smaller and more precious list is a starting point for connecting wisely, a good base for building our audience, these are people I want to connect with regularly, people whose advice I want and need to seek regularly.

I want these people to know they are on my list.

Tommaso Arenare

www.twitter.com/tommaso_arenare