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Notes by EMA: More on Leadership…

Enrique Aboitiz Mendieta

04 2018 

I have received requests to share with you my thoughts and experience on leadership with more articles for Aboitiz Eyes. I am happy to do so yet must clarify again that these are my thoughts and those that I have learned from others. None of us get all of this right and that is what makes life so wonderful — the joy of improvement and of achieving better ways.

First, we must look at the world to come. I think we all agree that the world to come will be more complex, more complicated and more competitive. Change will come from more directions and will come faster. This has to be an opportunity for the fortified and flexible and of great worry for the weak and autumn leafed. We have to be that former as an institution, Aboitiz family and firm, and as individuals with individuals as a priority as the pieces make up the whole. The goal for the whole cannot be achieved without strengthening the pieces and making sure the weakest link does not break.

We most probably do not have an argument against the need to adapt to change as the original source of longevity and survival. That which does not adapt to change perishes — so we do not have to dwell on this.

I believe that we need leaders that are in the upper quartile of intelligence and self-confidence, leaders that celebrate diversity and not just tolerate it, leaders that think deeply and communicate well so that informed opinions can be absorbed and used by many and all; leaders that do not get offended in open and robust conversations so that they can be open and robust.

When one brings his position and name through the meeting room door, one kills openness, innovation, and creativity. How then can the best way forward be built?

When one brings bias into any form of communication, one deforms the possibility of finding the best way to win.

A business is about results. Nothing else matters except the ‘how’. The how is not there for moral reasons. They are there to temper actions and lean them towards the best way forward long term. There is the what, the how and the why?

What do we have to do? What results must we achieve?

How do we get it done? What are the parameters to make sure that short-term thinking and bias do not trump long-term success? In the ‘how’, there is no room for the pusillanimous and the faint-hearted. It is a highly competitive world out there. The fiercest competition is not what we see and are up against every day, but what we do not know is coming and that which is very difficult to mold like the left moving into government to use regulation to slow down and deter market forces. The left has failed and the new left is regulation. It is tedious and it wears you down. It is not there to win but it is there to prevent you from winning. Life is full of adversaries of some form or another. The Zoroastrians called it asseta, which became assetan, and later Satan – the adversary of God that Judaism adopted to become the scapegoat to excuse Yahweh for not delivering on his promises to the Chosen People. I guess its nature’s way of stimulating many through competition. We must have parameters for long-term success — fairness, not sacrificing customer service, et. al.

And then comes the why — the most powerful of motivators and what really drives engagement. Everyone wants to belong to something greater than ourselves. That why has to be powerful, exciting and it must feed adrenalin. The concept of universal faith for all mankind was first developed by the Jews and then adopted by Christianity and Islam. What can be more powerful than to save souls and save the world? We cannot compete with this but we can attempt to come as close as we can. You see the level of engagement in Apple because of its powerful why?

What to singe — bias. Its base is invariably false, its manifestation invariably deforms, and its purpose is not to create. It hoods judgment and it deforms decisions.

What to develop — deep thinking and complete yet concise communication, both verbal and written. One can argue that the quality of thinking overall needs improvement everywhere and in everyone. Myths deform our thinking. Relationships make thinking difficult especially on sensitive issues like race, religion, politics, and sex. Race is about identity, religion is about fear of the unknown, ignorance and myth, politics is about deception and we have turned sex into a moral issue when it is not. How can sex, which is as normal as eating, be a sin? The inability to discuss these issues opening is the first sign of the inability to find the best way forward. Ignorance drives emotion and emotion drives bias, which clouds solutions.

Energy is precious, so it has to be conserved to enable an organization composed of people that need to be motivated continually and that are not, generally, self-driven. A team with crybabies that get offended must burn energy that can be used to find better ways forward. Prune them — let them know they are not welcome. Feeding their tears has to be paid for dearly.

Time is more precious than energy because it is fixed, but time without energy is useless. Life without health is of little value. The ruthless management of time’s waste has to be a key component of leadership to win. Unfortunately, this is normally appreciated more over the decades. Life does not go in years — it disappears in decades!

Edge – no one can win without an edge. An edge is a multiplier in the formula of success. There are plus signs of each ingredient and a cross before edge. I find the greatest edge of all is in attitude, how one looks at life. In my search for the driver of attitude, I have found it to be in the word “miracle”.

I was on a plane decades ago and sat beside me was a Jewish woman from New York who was on her way to Israel to witness what she called a miracle. It was the landing of Ethiopian Semites in Israel coming down from the ramps of C-130s. She told me that he who did not believe in miracles was not a realist, because they happen. I have lived with that wisdom from my 30s.

One can live life thinking that everything is a miracle or that nothing is a miracle. There is a 50-50 chance that one or the other is what will be. We do not know. So you need to choose what you will believe in. Life, like everything, is a miracle or that nothing is a miracle – that is the deepest root of attitude. Winners believe in the former and live life in full color, with glasses that are half full and not half empty, preserving energy, maximizing time, and soaking themselves in pools of love, enjoyment, and laughter.

Attitude — the multiplier has to be the source of great leadership.

Our goal has to be to win; to achieve and make our mark.