Susana de Pablos. Interview to Santiago Ávila, author of ‘Aprendiendo a liderar’, partner director at Executives On Go.
Santiago Ávila’s second book is titled Aprendiendo a liderar (Learning to lead), The world is not to be understood, it is to be felt (Pearson 2015). Trained at the General Military Academy and IESE Business School, Avila has written this book especially for those managers who fail at feeling emotions in their professional performance. Moreover, its main objective is to shed light on a business reality in which decisions are debated between whata is right and what is profitable. It is not surprising that this new incursion of Ávila in the publishing world was preceded by his first title: La gestión emocional. The balance between family, individual and profession (Pearson 2014).
With more than 23 years of experience as CEO – and more than 35 in the management function – in companies in various fields, Santiago Ávila decided to “focus on talent management in its broadest sense”. That is why he decided to associate, with the help of his founder and friend Gloria Fernández, with Executives On Go, a firm of which he is managing partner and where he gives continuity to a professional career dedicated, in addition, to give seminars and presentations on leadership, negotiation, conflict resolution, teamwork and to develop mentoring and coaching processes.
To know what his vision of leadership is and some more details about his thinking about current management , diarioabierto.es interviewed him at the end of the presentation of his new book:
diarioabierto.es: Could you briefly define what leadership is for you?
Santiago Ávila: Leading your own life with solvency is a precondition to the attempt to do it with teams. It is very easy to avoid the issue, pretending that others do or do not do. It’s you first.
It is not so much about following the boss as it is about following everyone, including the boss, to the same principles. Once the ethical part is solved, the rest takes the form of an invitation to journey together. I do not appeal to goodness; sometimes the person who leads, if he/she does it well, will have to impose his criteria. It is his/her responsibility.
.- diarioabierto.es: During the presentation of your book, you have referred to situations within the work teams that you have called “behaviors on the dark side”, for example: the fact of aspiring to take the position of another, assuming as your own a brilliant idea of the other … These behaviors were framed in very vertical hierarchical structures.
S.Á.: No, they occur in all kinds of organizations. There are very vertical hierarchical structures, but there are also matrix structures where the person has two bosses, as within the family, and there are very flat structures. The problem is not associated with hierarchy.
diarioabierto.es: But don’t you think that a large part of the problems in team management would be avoided if organizations were more horizontal?
S. Á.: As I said, the issue is not so much in the types of structure as in the individual. Faced with a scarce good, as would be the case of an expectant managerial position or a desired job, the political game will appear, almost inevitably. It will be immaterial whether we are faced with a cooperative, anonymous society or a meeting of friends.
diarioabierto.es: What does the phrase “in the face of control, trust in people” suggest to you.
S. Á.: Trust must be gained. If I want you to trust me, I have to earn your trust. I have to show myself as a reliable person and, as a consequence of these facts of reliability, you will be able to believe in me.
diarioabierto.es: What if the worker is informed about his work goal and is allowed to achieve it by choosing the best way to achieve it himself?
S.Á.: That requires as a precondition that the manager has the courage to delegate, because if that worker makes a mistake, he must assume his mistake as his own. There are some steps that prudence invites to be taken calmly. But the last step is not to delegate, but to give power, so that he can show himself as the leader of his life. So that he himself does things as he thinks is best.
.- diarioabierto.es: There is a new current of ‘management’ that proposes the disappearance of hierarchies, especially middle management. What do you think about this?
S.Á.: Generally, what is pursued is a cost optimization. Without it, the durability of the company over time can be seriously compromised. It is not a fad but the permanent search for efficiency.
diarioabierto.es: Wouldn’t it be fairer if it was the team members who could choose their boss, instead of being imposed from above? So they would choose the best, right?
S.Á.: No, they would choose the most popular, not the best. An idea, organization, leadership is not good for the mere fact that many want it; Mass, quantity, crowd are not synonymous with goodness, of adequate. The partners of a partnership choose who they believe will best defend their interests, and so on. What we must ask is that these interests pursuing the common good are not bastards.
diarioabierto.es: Democracy is the dictatorship of the majority, then.
S.Á.: Let me explain myself better; when democracy is based on the popular will; a will formed by free citizens, who are formed, mature and responsible, it is when it acquires its authentic letter of nature. On the contrary, when it is formed from an uneducated and irresponsible crowd in the hands of a few manipulators it acquires the denomination of ochlocracy. In this case we are talking about the dictatorship of the majority, in which the higher good is not given over to justice or freedom but to the desires of a manipulated mass.
diarioabierto.es: What do you think of female leadership? Do you think women lead differently?
S.Á.: I don’t really think about that in such terms. A person is a person. I don’t want quotas, I want people.
diarioabierto.es: Recommend reading a book.
S.Á.: The seven habits of highly effective people, by Stephen Covey.