EAE Career Talks: What should leadership be like in agile environments?
03 de July de 2020
03 de July de 2020
There have been few times as complex as the one we currently face to be a business leader because, despite all the new tools and advances in terms of leadership, the world is in the throes of great uncertainty. Within this context, the School has presented the first of its Career Talks, entitled “Leadership in Agile Environments”, in which, based on their own experience, three experts in professional management discussed the best approach to leadership to ensure that it continues to generate results in the current climate.
Moderated by the EAE researcher and author, Pilar Llácer, the event was held on the Blackboard Collaborate platform with the participation of Marielisa Vélez, the Strategic Business Lines Leader at Philip Morris Ecuador; Alí Gallegos, the Director of Human Resources and Daniel Arévalo, the General Manager of Glovo Ecuador. They each answered the moderator’s questions to give a joint overview of the current panorama in terms of leadership and devise a route for achieving efficacy.
The questions addressed at the event focused on key aspects of leadership in agile environments, such as:
In response, the guest speakers discussed these topics, emphasizing different skills and strategies that they consider essential for productive leadership in times of uncertainty, including the following:
So, how can we apply these skills and strategies on an occasional basis? To find out, here are some of the questions raised in the sessions, along with the speakers’ responses.
In your experience, what are the basic skills that have led you to the leadership positions that you currently hold?
Daniel Arévalo: 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration. Firstly, getting to a leadership position doesn’t happen overnight. It takes hard work and dedication. Secondly, it is important to have a good foundation of studies. No matter how far you think you can get, you can always get further with studies and knowledge.
Marielisa Vélez: People often ask me for the magic formula for achieving it, to get that position that you want so much. I have learned that, to a great extent, it comes from empathy, learning to listen actively and learning to give, because leaders often focus in studying and learning and forget the other side of the equation, giving to others and teaching the team. This enables us to inspire and guide others.
Alí Gallegos: One part of it is hard work and the other is listening. But we have to define what we want to be. Many people don’t know and that is the first thing we have to ascertain. Next, we have to decide how we are going to get there and then make it happen. Evaluating the actions that we are taking every day, seeing the people that we share with. We always have to keep the goal in sight!
In terms of your leadership style, do you think it has been successful over the course of the last 3 months in which uncertainty has prevailed in the markets and in which we have had to completely reinvent our way of working and consuming?
Daniel Arévalo: One of the principles that I learned most from Juan Antonio, the Founder of Cabify in Spain was “Embrace the chaos”. In general, I would say that letting the team make mistakes is a positive thing because, often, the fear of getting it wrong stops us from doing things. Allowing them to make their own errors is good, particularly in times of uncertainty.
Marielisa Vélez: Taking a step back to look at the context. There is such a lot of pressure in many cases. In addition, it is essential to place the consumer at the centre so that you can focus all your efforts on continuing to satisfy their needs.
Alí Gallegos: In turbulent times, you always have to fall back on strategy, on the goal. In life, everything has one of two purposes, to entertain you or to learn from. In this respect, 2020 is turning out to be a very rich experience for learning a great deal, particularly about adaptation.
Could you tell as a significant anecdote that has happened on your journey to the positions that you hold today?
Daniel Arévalo: At one stage, I was a partner in a business that was really tiring. It was a nightclub and I had to work late. At the weekends, I was studying for my Master and I missed a number of courses because of my work. However, I learned to save and value resources, because I was able to save the money that I made at the nightclub to fund an MBA in Spain.
Marielisa Vélez: As a woman in the world of business, we still face a lot of barriers that we have to break down. I once had to lead a team of 10 men who had been doing the same thing for 25 years. Then, one day, I turned up: a pregnant women, younger than them. It was a big challenge to prove that I had something to offer them.
One of the big decisions I made was to keep authentic, apply a slightly more female leadership style, not always focusing on the individual, but rather on the group, and making decisions with a far more global approach. On one point along the way, I had a conversation in the corridor with the General Director of Phillip Morris in Ecuador, who said “Marielisa, this is an assignment that is sure to enable you to develop, but the challenge is not just for you to develop, but rather to leave your mark on this team”.
Alí Gallegos: I always used to read a lot and was really interested in theories. I was watching the world of business from the outside until, one day, I had to fire my boss. The company was being restructured and it fell to me to fire her and then take over her job. That was when I realised that I wasn’t watching it all from the outside, but rather I was living it. It taught me that leadership has a real impact on people’s lives. You have to take charge of the company not just because you hold the title of manager, but rather because you are responsible for the people who work there and their families.
In terms of people management, what impact has digital transformation had?
Daniel Arévalo: We were born in a digital environment and thought we were ready to lead digitally, but that wasn’t the case. It has certainly been a huge challenge, but it has also given us some great lessons, including placing greater trust in our teams, turning 100% of our work into goals and optimizing communication.
Marielisa Vélez: I agree with Daniel. At the start, we had to be on top of every task, of executing plans, but then we shifted the focus more on to our people. In the first few days, we forgot about everybody else. We lost sight of our empathy. However, now, despite the distance between us, we have developed a new kind of leadership, that is far more personal.
Alí Gallegos: Many companies nowadays are capitalizing on this situation to generate value from it, so they are evaluating the option of continuing to work from home. It is important to identify the positives of the transformation and try to reinforce them.
How should new leads use social media to connect with talent?
Daniel Arévalo: Personally, I think this is something to which we have to attribute the importance it deserves. However, transmitting our messages through social media has a starting point and an end point, so we should avoid getting obsessed. In my opinion, as Marielisa said, our main role is to leave our mark, so we first have to work in our home territory before moving further afield.
Marielisa Vélez: I think a bit differently from Daniel because, in my case, I have been very active on social media and it has given me a way to communicate with the new generation of leaders about aspects that were really hard for me to learn. These platforms enable you to address a diverse range of leadership issues in a cross-cutting way, and teach younger professionals certain skills that they can gradually acquire before joining a company to work.
Alí Gallegos: I agree with both points of view. One the one hand, I believe that it is important to keep things on a face-to-face basis, person-to-person, but I also understand the impact of social media. We have to remember that social media form part of life, but they are not life. As long as you see them as tools, they are a powerful vehicle for sharing information and knowledge that was previously hard to find.
What about you? What do you do you think of leadership in the current climate. If you are interested in this topic and everything related to employability, you can watch the whole session here. Keep your eye out for the upcoming sessions of the Career Talks!