The inspiring speech by Marco Pesaresi, General Manager of Ferrarelle at the 2022 Graduation Ceremony

Become the hunter of new ideas

In the speech by Marco Pesaresi, the Graduation Patron of the Rome Business School Graduation Ceremony held on 18 September 2022 at the Auditorium Parco della Musica, Rome, many interesting insights were provided for reflection. Here are some parts of his speech that we would like to share.

This is an important day for you, students, you are now starting, or making a significant step ahead in your career, you have enriched your set of skills and completed a holistic cultural experience, creating connections, friendships, exchanging cultures with your mates: above all, you are now becoming MASTERS.

Being a Master requires the attitude to excel

This attitude in not only related to business achievements, being a Master implies a huge responsibility towards the people you will meet in your career. A Master is the one who cares about the people, who works to let them grow as individuals, as managers, as leaders.The path to excellence is endless, that’s why it is so exciting; you will keep learning every day, and please protect this attitude all across your career, especially when you will become senior, when your wide experience will be giving you all the answers: that is the moment when you will absolutely need to challenge yourself and look for new answers to old questions.

30 years working in three Food & Beverage Multinational

Dr. Marco Pesaresi, after working for 14 years in different roles in Marketing, Trade Marketing, Sales at Birra Peroni, became the Sales Director. He spent 7 exciting years in this Company, the second player in the Italian Beer market. And during those years he has learnt to behave as the follower: to be faster than the leader, to explore new territories, to focus on few, bold initiatives counting on a smaller source of budget.

I also realized how important is to have a deep knowledge of your product: howis it produced, how to be able to taste and feel the differences in comparison with competition, hoe to be able to communicate the value of the product to consumers and customers, becoming a true ambassador.

After 30 years of work, 11 different roles, 4 Companies, and hundreds of beautiful people met along his journey, He has realized that one of his strongest drivers of energy and motivation is how much we can evolve and improve as a leader and as a person.

So please consider this suggestion as my first tip for you today: nurture your curiosity, explore, listen, surprise yourself with different views, listen carefully and actively to the others, great ideas can come from anywhere in the organization.

Become the hunter of new ideas and new solutions, you will grow as leader as much as the business you will be managing

Now we live in the most difficult period in the recent history: we have passed through the longest pandemic ever, we are now witnessing a war few thousands km from here, we are passing through the worst economic crisis since decades.

And all of this is happening while technology is revolutionizing our lives, digital connections are speeding up information and forming opinions, trends, powerful and fast as hurricanes.

All our well-known frameworks and processes are challenged. Multi-year strategic plans are today simply useless, too many variables at high speed of variance are messing-up every forecast exercises.In such context, business agility becomes a new key capability, crucial for you as leaders.Agility in nature, and in business, is basically enabled by four drivers:

  1. Sharp reflexes: taking fast decisions often with uncomplete set of data. It requires a risk-taking mentality but also a deep understanding of the business dynamics
  2. Balance: you can’t be agile if you are not well balanced, business-wise it means having well clear the guardrails you would never overcome when asked for a prompt decision. You should build clear rules within the organization and play a solid consequence management to protect your balance.
  3. Coordination: a leader can rapidly decide to change direction if he can leverage on a well-integrated organization, following solid processes with a strong team-working attitude.
  4. Strength: you cannot be agile if you are not strong enough to overcome the obstacles. If you build and protect your competitive advantage, this will allow you to act with agility, faster than competitors
  5. Creativity: encourage new ideas to come up at all levels of the organization, create a psychological safety for your people to let them express their ideas, tolerate mistakes, they are an essential part of your growth.

Actions speak louder than words

Building up an agile organization requires leaders who not only promote the change, they also must be the change, leading by example, creating the momentum with strong drive and personal commitment. Such critical period in time is not only impacting the business management: as an effect of the pandemic there is now a dramatic acceleration to rethink the work life balance, a drift which is irreversible: the YOLO approach (You Only Live Once) is nothing new for us, it is our “Carpe Diem”, but now it is heavily impacting the way we are expected to manage our people: recruiting, training, engaging, retaining, growing our people will require new solutions and new approaches.

And here it comes the leadership. Leadership to me means “driving people through the change”, Simple like that.There is no leadership in a static environment, the essence of leadership is intimately connected to the change.

We dive into the change, the way we can pull our people through it, convincing them to overcome their resistances, giving them the energy to challenge themselves, motivating them, creating a sense of urgency…. This is leadership.

In this era of uncertainty all of us, and all of you Masters, are called to rethink our leadership approach. The more we deal with uncertainty the more we need to focus our effort on creating amazing teams ready to face every challenge, energetic, passionate, solid.

Never than today, in my opinion, all is about people.

What is Empathetic Leadership?

Let me start from the word Empathy: it comes from the Ancient Greek, and it is composed by two words. The suffix “en”, which means “within” and the word “pathos” which means “emotion”.

So, if you are in empathy, you let enter the others’ emotions into your soul. But you know what? If you open your soul, also your emotions will flow outside, touching the others’ soul.

Empathy means exchanging emotions. An empathetic leader, in my opinion has got several connected characteristics: The first one is humility. Let me give you again the etymology of this word which comes from Latin. It comes from the word “humus” which means “soil”. A humble person stays stuck to the ground but looks towards the stars. A humble person loves simplicity, is concrete and practical but with a great soul and what is more important, he recognizes that he needs the support of the others to realize his dreams. A humble manager has great aspirations but realizes to need the support of others.

The image of the lonely commander, infallible, unbeatable, leaves the stage to a leader with doubts, committed to find solutions together with the persons around him.

So, consequently, it comes the second element: the empathetic leader is an active listener. If you recognize to need the support of others, you are setup to listen, by default.Active listening is patient, open minded, curious, candidly interested. You need to train your active listening, it is a disciplined methodology, not just an attitude, it requires application and trust…. Easy to say, hard to do in such frenetic environment, when we are becoming slaves of our multitasking framework, when we attend meetings remotely while texting on our mobile, replying to emails and at the same time trying to capture most of the things are being told by the other attendees.

To re-discover the power of focusing on the others’ ideas, stopping all the other activities, just listening, and respecting the person in front of you, is a challenge and is a big achievement.

Once you will have established such mutual exchange of opinions and ideas with your team the further two elements of empathetic leadership will come naturally: you will get and exchange energy and courage. An empathetic leader is brave not only because of his own specific attitude, he will be strengthened by the support of his own team, because they will be facing together every challenge and they will find together all the solutions to overcome any obstacle.There is a famous sentence by Hannibal, the Carthaginian general when together with his army he was projecting to enter in Italy through the Alpes, an unconceivable venture at those times.He said to his troops:

“we will either find a way or make one”

This is the courage of a leader who counts on the commitment and loyalty of his team, who feels the power of this legacy and who exchanges positive energy with them. The energy is the final ingredient, as I said: a leader fuels energy through the organization and receives back energy in mutual exchange. Humility, active listening, courage and energy are to me the key traits of an empathetic leader, the profile of a leader able to drive the change or to walk across uncertainty together with his people, as one.

As leaders of change, please act as bearers of Hope

In such difficult times organizations need Hope.

Hope is much different than optimism: optimism is a static and instinctive state of mind, Hope is forward-looking, and it is always linked with a project, a dream or a person.

Creating Hope within the organization is the ultimate ambition for a leader: your people will multiply their passion and their commitment inspired by a hope lightening their hearts and souls.

My wish for you is to become great leaders remaining good persons, humble, passionate, empathetic.

Enjoy your journey

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