Leadership: Community, Relationship and Future

Paolo Vittozzi

Paolo Vittozzi

Paolo Vittozzi

Kung-fu lives in everything we do” says the Master to the pupil, who wants to know why he should put the jacket on and take it off… likewise with me, since I think that: ”leadership lives in everything we do”.

The kind of life I’ve lived so far has been permeated by leadership. After senior high school I joined a Military Academy, and I studied the following subjects: Art of Command, Law, Geopolitics, Organization Technique and Methodology. During the 3rd year of my Academy studies (1975) I well remember a conference on the difference between Officer and Manager, and that generated a nice debate.

I have spent 22 years in the Air Force, and in the course of time I’ve been given many assignments. The one I remember with great pleasure is when I was Chief of Operations with the 2nd Flight Squadron in Geilenkirchen (190 people from 12 different nations: with different culture, training, experience, but with same relational capabilities).

In 1995 I decided to join the Commercial Aviation. First I was Captain on Canadair fire-fighting aircrafts and then I passed to Alitalia Express. Of those years the thing I remember the most is the period when I directed the Human Factors Team, studying, preparing and giving training courses to avoid human error. It was all about understanding and explaining physiological and psychological processes that entail human error… we felt that it was necessary to understand those mechanisms, learn them and deliver them in one’s daily routine.. and that adding emotional competence would have led to excellent results. Once again, what really made the difference was the team relationship, a sort of magic that allowed everyone to find and recognize his/her true self and perform well beyond his/her own expectations, sometimes to his/her own surprise.

During my entire leadership experience I’ve been very aware of one thing: social aspects are of central importance. Whatever their nationality all individuals (whether Norwegians, Greeks, Canadians or Italians) are the very core of all kinds of activities, and when you work with people and for people, you realize that results are not based on how you assign the job, or on how you breakdown the problem: the experience of a relationship within a group is what delivers results. The group (or team) can prove having an extraordinary intelligence, surely exceeding the one of the boss alone. Recently I have been at the Innovation Festival in Bolzano (Bozen), where I heard an interesting presentation on the Wisdom of the Crowd ([1]). The speaker showed us how a group can be much wiser than a single person, and obtain better results.

My experience tells me that a well-established, sincere and stable community, is much more “intelligent” than a single person, even if, or when that person is the “boss”. To me this is the demonstration that the leadership comes alive in the team context and feeds on relationships. Hence it is important to be able to relate oneself in a group or team and to facilitate relationships in it.

But what is a relationship? The expression “relationship” (whether interpersonal or social) refers to the connection existing between two or more individuals. A relationship may be based on feelings (love, sympathy, friendship), but also on shared passions, or on social or professional engagements. Social relations exist in every human context: ranging from the family up to the multinational sphere.

A relationship is not based on a hierarchy, on a job description or on a corporate vision, it results from interactions, or (if you pass me a term borrowed from transactional analysis) we could say that it is the fruit of interpersonal transactions. That’s when the human being steps in with all his humanity… Stephen Covey reminds us ([2]) that every “human being” is made of body, mind, heart and spirit. The heart represents our emotional memory: heart and emotions have always been matched together (and not just when falling in love or in a love relationship).

When human relations are not working properly we feel uneasy and strongly uncomfortable, our feelings can turn into sheer hostility, if not true anger against others, or we may feel lost, confused, bewildered, frustrated, and human teams/groups are a hotchpotch of emotions. These feelings –and emotions – can interfere with and truly prevent serenity (peace of mind) or –to the contrary of this — they may become an extraordinary bonding factor leading to excellent results in all fields: within the family, in a Company or at school.

In my opinion, every human being is the result of his/her own emotional past: I’d like to go as far as saying that without an adequate training “ we are our emotions”, that is what we are even after training, but at least we are aware of that. Simon was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1973 ([3]) because he demonstrated the inability of the human being (man) to make up his mind only on the basis of pure rationality, and Damasio ([4]) explained how, from the neurological point of view, the logic assumptions of René Descartes were wrong, because without emotions we lose our relational and decision-making capabilities. Thus relations, emotions and results are correlated one with another and the leader, besides being aware of it, should be able to handle and manage this dimension.

Goleman writes: ([5]): Truly effective leaders are also distinguished by a high degree of emotional intelligence, which includes self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skill.

The concept of emotional intelligence is well known and the above mentioned skills are the pillars of team/community stability. We may say that it is much easier to entertain a positive relationship if there is self-consciousness, or if there is awareness of one’s own emotions, reactions, fears and expectations. In other words it is easier to have and to manage a constructive relationship if we are the leaders of ourselves. Thus, the quotation “know thyself” written in the temple of the Delphic oracle becomes the keystone to establish effective relations and facilitate them. Consequently the leader can act in such a way as to allow the team to become collaboration-oriented and to reach a shared goal: what clearly emerges is the need to understand ourselves before understanding others in order to carry out positive “transactions”.

We often read and hear that mankind humanity is hard hit by a humanity crisis. The society in which we live is governed by economy and led by consumerism, even at emotional level. We are surrounded by relentless advertising campaigns urging us to experience emotions, but this is emotional consumerism, and it does not equate with awareness, nor with emotional consciousness. This crisis is there to show that consumerism hasn’t brought about happiness, which — I believe — is the ultimate goal of every human being.

Human relations are the answer to this crisis, they play a leading role, and more and more we see forms of social collaboration (that are also being catalogued) coming alive worldwide. Murray ([6]) tells us how, thanks to new social innovation technologies, it is possible to obtain extraordinary shared results, whenever collective intelligence and participation at community level emerge. The human being, though not having complete mastership of himself, finds new ways to extend his communication modalities and make them more effective, and leaders become relationship facilitators.

The horizontal dimension, introduced by the Web 2.0 social media, is carving out its own niche, subtracting it from the vertical dimension ( i.e. the top-down dimension). J. Rifkin ([7]) speaks of the lateral dimension and of the “Net” as structures supporting and sustaining Change (“How Lateral Power Is Transforming Energy, the Economy, and the World”). Through social innovation technologies the horizontal structures, that feed and nourish dialogue ([8]), become study tools, thus allowing in-depth analysis, and personal involvement. Open spaces and world cafés, are meeting points where communities come together and recognize themselves, where they plan and set the foundations of what is to be built. That is where and when the facilitator becomes the leader of innovation.

Connection modalities are changing within groups. The higher level of culture that has been gained, the desire to participate, the awareness that money cannot buy happiness are the very elements that bring back to the relational dimension the ability/possibility to obtaining concrete results. To be part of the stream the leader must have a vast emotional intelligence, which cannot be self-declared, but must be implicitly acknowledged by the team. Only within the framework of this modality the role of leader will allow him/her to empower people, making them wanting to work together, and will bring about that unconditional and unreserved, active collaboration which makes it possible to obtain extraordinary results.

Notes


[1] James Surowiecki The Wisdom of Crowds: Why the Many Are Smarter Than the Few and How Collective Wisdom Shapes Business, EconHuman being, omies, Societies and Nations – 2005,

[2] S.R. Covey – The 8th Habit – 2005

[3] H.A. Simon – Prize Lecture: Rational Decision-Making in Business Organizations“. Nobelprize.org

[4] A. Damasio – Descartes’ Error- 1994

[5] D. Goleman  – Emotional Intelligence- 1995

[6] R. Murray, Caulier-Grice, Mulgan The open book of social innovation – 2010

[7] J. Rifkin -The third industrial revolution – 2011

[8] D. Bohm –  On dialogue – 1996



About the Author

Paolo Vittozzi is formerly a Colonel in the Air Force,  Captain in Commercial Aviation, soft skills facilitator, counselor and educator; in the course of years  the author has added to his technical and  social competences/skills (gained in the fields of Aeronautical Sciences and Political Sciences) a Master in training  and counseling, that led him along a pathway of  personal growth. The Author is the Executive Director of the Club of Budapest Italy, and is one of the funding members of SOL Italy.