IESE Insight
Executives Are People, Not Superheroes
Álvarez de Mon, Santiago
Editor: Prentice Hall
Artículo basado en: No soy Supermán
Año: 2007
Idioma: Spanish

Watching Superman at the movies encourages us to take a load off, to relax, to enjoy leisurely entertainment and to show the little ones a good time. Yet, we tend to forget that in real life, Superman is a concoction, a fictional character and an impostor who pretends to be a management phenomenon that everyone wants to emulate. This is the premise of IESE Professor Santiago Álvarez de Mon's book "I'm No Superman." Over the course of seven chapters covering the topics of skepticism, conflict, on the defensive, crisis, fears, silence-peace and decision, the author simulates a conversation between an executive and a coach that becomes the executive's enlightening internal dialogue.
After the executive overcomes the temptation of wanting to be that which he is not (Superman), what remains is simply reality, with its lights and shadows. And it is best that way, since lights and shadows are complementary and meaningful only in comparison with one another.
We all have fears: fear of losing our jobs, fear of mass delocalization, fear of change ... We feel vulnerable, but if we are conscious of our fears, it speaks to our personal strength. According to Álvarez de Mon, humility is the fundamental quality of an executive. Humility allows one to manage success, to rebound after failure, to ask questions and to discover talent. Also important is optimism in order to manage with positive energy, consistency, integrity, curiosity, and to have an inquisitive view of reality.

Moving beyond personal qualities, the book points out the priorities that should govern an executive's activities. Executives must build a team in which everyone - a diverse staff - believes in a shared project and paddles in the same direction. An executive must know the company's history in order to envision business strategies and must manage employees' time well. In other words, executives must be good orchestra conductors who can take a group of talented musicians and make the overall sound harmonious. It's about interdependent talent. After all, what is leadership talent but releasing or generating more talent? Just as a coach does not compete with the players, a manager should not compete with employees. As Spanish philosopher José Ortega y Gasset used to say, "Management is about putting people in the right place."

Other keys to managing without needing to be Superman are having patience and a long-term mindset. It's important to know when to go full speed ahead and when to recoup. Executives must also find time for personal investment; the manager should look after his or her philosophical foundation. Investing in a healthy culture makes it possible to put things in perspective by fomenting a good set of solid ideas. It is impossible to run a company without first ruling over oneself, explains Álvarez de Mon.

Going back to the idea from his previous book "La lógica del corazón" ("The Logic of the Heart"), "I'm No Superman" champions the idea of making decisions without regard for what in theory we call rationality. Sometimes, if we think too much, the moment can pass us by and be lost forever. Logic and emotion are not adversaries; they should go hand in hand. Life - of which the the duty of management forms a part - is not a continuous line; it is made of moments. Living is an art.

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