Returning to My alma mater
On April 10, I was swept up in the enthusiasm of more than a thousand potential young entrepreneurs. I must admit that for a few seconds it crossed my mind to skip this meeting because the day before I had been in Colombia and was still suffering from a cold. However, my commitment to young people, especially at my alma mater on same the campus where my son Benjamín studied, was more compelling than my discomfort.
I arrived at the Mexico City campus of the ITESM, commonly know as the Tec de Monterrey, at 10 a.m. sharp to find an auditorium full of energy: 1,300 students from the Tec, the IPN, La Salle, del Sagrado Corazón, and also —and I say this with pride— several students from Plantel Azteca, among other high schools and universities.
The topic was “Leaders: Born or Made?” I spoke about leadership, sprinkled with other topics like learning, entrepreneurs and a little of my own background. I’ll write about my personal experiences another time. Here are the basic points I touched on:
Leadership is like a coin that on one side says “power” and on the other, “responsibility.” If you want to be leaders, have power and direct a group of people, you will have to completely assume the responsibility this entails.
Yes, leaders can be made; there are people who naturally have more leadership skills, but even those who do not have those abilities can develop them.…
What are the skills of a good leader? We think that a leader has to deal with three things:
1) Team: the leader has to decide who gets on and who gets off the bus. The most important thing is to select a good team of people.
2) Decisions: he/she has to be clear and decisive. If circumstances change later, the decision can be changed; but you can’t sustain a company with indecisiveness. There comes a point at which you have to say “it’s a go” or “it’s a no-go.” As the saying goes, “When the course is clear, we can’t change the wind, but we can adjust the sails.”
3) Crisis management: when you a have a problem —and there will always be problems— how do you resolve it? Crises temper you like fire does steel; they make you stronger; they give you clarity. As Nietzsche said, “A war that does not kill me makes me stronger.”
Learning is basic for business, and is on-going. If I had stopped studying in 1977 when I graduated as a public accountant, what would I know today? Basically, I wouldn’t know anything important because in the last 30 years, personal computers, networks, managerial systems, cell phones and a million other things have been invented.
How do you keep up? With books and now with Internet, which brings some of the world’s best research to your desktop.
We also have to realize that knowledge is fun. I’m afraid young people think knowledge is boring. Perhaps the method used for teaching is boring; however, learning is a lot of fun. It’s just a matter of finding that fun. There are lots of ways to learn and each person can pick the one best suited to him or herself.
Next week, by the way, I’ll be in Cancún for the World Economic Forum. I hope to soon share what I learn there.