“Leadership in the Family Environment”
Alex Havard, AESE Business School, Lisboa, October 30, 2017
Leadership is Education. I try to remind business people that leadership is not about management. Management is about moving things forward. Leadership is about moving people forward. It’s about helping people grow and achieve greatness, it’s about bringing out the greatness in them. This is what, at the end of the day, you as parents are already doing, all of you. The substance of leadership is Education. Leaders educate. This is what do, and not only in education, but also in business and politics. The difference between a leader and a simple manager is that a leader takes care of his people and understands that people are more important than things. When people ask me who is the greatest leader in my life, I always tell them it was probably my mother. People are usually surprise that it is not Churchill or General Charles de Gaulle. But after being surprised, they give me a great applause, all of them. They are happy because they understand this is the truth. We achieve our mission as leaders by helping our children become great people, becoming leaders themselves. How do we do those things? There are several things that allow us to bring out the greatness in our children. First, children are very different from one another in terms of their biological temperament. And according to the child’s temperament, the challenges while they are growing are also going to be very different. You can’t educate people as a mass, it has to be an individual training. My experience has been that, when we really want to help people move forward in life, we need to understand very well what is the biological foundation of each one of them. Among people we have people that have a choleric temperament, people that have a melancholic temperament, those that have a sanguine temperament and those that have a phlegmatic temperament. And you cannot deal the same way with all of them. We need to understand what it means to have each of these temperaments. If you have a choleric child (directed towards action, needs action all the time to achieve a certain fulfilment, always on the move, needs goals and goes for these goals), it is common for them to see things as more important than people. The child needs to be educated since the beginning in the virtue of service and challenged in the virtue of humility because he has a tendency to do a lot of things but can forget that people are more important than the things he is doing and that he needs to focus on those people in order to help them move forward in life. If you have a child that is melancholic, the challenge for this child will be audacity. Melancholic people have a tendency to be absorbed by their feelings, by their emotions, by their ideas and thoughts, and we need to help them understand that they need to be bold, to get outside of themselves, that they can’t spend 10 hours reading their books in their room alone. they need to be audacious in order to serve efficiently.
As parents we need to understand what is the biological structure of our child, as they are very different from one another. The challenges as they grow into adults will depend on their biological structure. If your child is a sanguine (he is good at communication, loves the spotlight, loves people and wants people to love them), he may have a tendency to be a little superficial. Sanguine people have a tendency to instability, they get amazed by something and the next day they get amazed by something else. They have a tendency to live in the present, every day is a new day for them. Today they can be very enthusiastic about a project and the next day they forget about it and get enthusiastic about something else. They have a tendency to superficiality and we need to help the child understand that he is going to be challenged by the virtue of endurance, the virtue of faithfulness, the virtue of patience, he has to be time tested. If you have a child that is a phlegmatic (very rational, a very scientific approach to life), you must know that he loves the status quo, routine, he does not like changes, he does not want to have big dreams or ambitions. He is actually afraid of these things because for him it means a lack of peace, it means war. Children that are phlegmatic need to be taught how to dream, you need to create an environment for them to dream and for bringing those
dreams into life. The challenge in education depends of who we are as human beings. What people have forgot is that a human person is made up of a biological structure and a spiritual character. Character is built on a very specific temperament. Parents often forget this and tend to interpret for example a phlegmatic child that is usually apathetic, as lazy, but that poor boy is not lazy (that is a vice), his apathy is biological, not moral. They can interpret a sanguine child as a superficial kid, but he is not superficial (superficiality is a vice), he is just sanguine and it’s great to be sanguine. He just needs to be trained in endurance. If you have a child that is a choleric, you could think “well, he’s proud” and you may interpret his willingness to be always on the move as pride, but it is not pride, it’s just his physiological way of being. He just needs to be trained in the virtuous of humility and think more about people and less about things. If you have a child that is melancholic, it’s easy to label him or her as selfish but it’s not that. It’s just his biological way of being and it’s the way many people are. He just needs to be trained in the virtue of audacity or boldness in order to get out of his selfabsorption and think about others.
How do we help people develop their greatness? We live in a world of small mindedness and of zombification of human beings. The real challenge for us is to discover greatness and to multiply greatness in our lives. The real challenge is the virtue of magnanimity. If we acknowledge only our weaknesses and limitations, we cannot grow in magnanimity, it’s impossible. In terms of education, this means that the child needs to know, very quickly, what are his talents, what are his capacities, his strengths, the gifts he has received in order to multiply them. And the child needs to be able to speak about these great gifts he has received with naturalness, without boasting or being proud because these are gifts he has received from God. Very often we meet people that
are very good at speaking about their sins, about their limitations, they have no clue on how to speak about their talents. Very often it’s because they have no idea of what their talents are. Their parents did not encourage them, didn’t explain to them what are their strengths, their talents. When we speak about leadership we speak about greatness, and in order to speak about greatness we need to speak about talents. The child needs to be capable of speaking about his talents in the same way as he is capable of talking about his limitations (which the latter is usually the case), in a very natural way. I have seen a very small number of leaders being capable of doing this, because their parents didn’t help them very much in that sense. Parents are trying to help kids overcome their deficiencies, they help them compensate their flaws with virtues but they don’t focus on the strengths, the talents and the gifts their children have. And so children don’t speak about these and have no idea of how to tell others what their talents are. And then there is no greatness in those kids, as they are focused on their limitations and that’s a big problem. You as parents need to put as much energy in multiplying your child’s strengths as the energy you put in helping them overcome their defects. Because you don’t achieve greatness with your defects. You achieve greatness with your talents. This is something difficult but it is the condition for magnanimity. And since they are young, children need to be used to talk about their talents, “I know this is my strength. Papa and Mama told me this is who I am, these are my strengths, I don’t need to be proud of them as they were gifts received from God, I received them freely. But with them I will be capable to do great things in life”. Unfortunately, in many Christian environments, we focus on the humility thing, but if you speak two hours to your child about humility, you’d better speak two hours also about magnanimity. If not, he will not truly understand what true humility is about. True humility is the habit of living in the truth. If you see only your defects and limitations, you’re not in the truth. You’re not humble. If you lack magnanimity, you’re not humble. There was a famous American writer, Flannery O’Connor, that once replied, when asked why she was a writer, “I write, because I write well”. People were shocked and thought this was a lack of modesty. They thought like this, because they were small people. They didn’t understand she was telling them what magnanimity is all about. She was telling them “I know my talents, I want to contribute to humanity with these talents and the only reason why I write is because I have these talents”. Without boasting or vanity, with complete naturalness, she was telling them “this is what I am and because I know this, I can serve you with this talent of mine”. She was a very simple woman and very deep. People were shocked because we are not used to this. We don’t understand that life is about the multiplication of our talents. Life is about self-knowledge and the multiplication of the gifts we receive from God. Magnanimity has a lot to do with gratitude. Being thankful for the gifts we have received from parents, grandparents, from our country, from our friends. And that’s why we need to help children discover their talents and we need to focus on that, giving them the self-confidence to use the talents they have. We need to explain them that these talents were gifts and each one of them require a specific work and responsibility to multiply them and contribute to humanity.
Magnanimity is a virtue of self-confidence, because we all have received a lot of things through nature. God gives a lot of talents through nature: biology, genetics, education. Magnanimity is the virtue of human hope because it is the hope in those human gifts that we have. Many people focus on the gifts received through grace but they never remember the ones received through nature. I think God must be going crazy about it, because He has given His people a lot of stuff through nature and people don’t want to investigate this stuff. God’s gifts and talents are not only supernatural, the majority of
them are natural and we need to know them well. I know for example what each one of my grandparents has given to me, they were incredible people and they suffered a lot. I spent time with my grandparents when I was young and I know exactly what each one of them taught me and gave me. I am aware that each one of them still lives in me. My parents also. It’s important for your child to be aware of the incredible stuff he has received from everyone around him, the incredible gifts they have given him. Because his story will be his grandparents story, his parents story, etc. These stories are part of who he is. Members of the family are living in him. He needs to be aware of that in order to live the virtue of gratitude. Gratitude is the beginning of magnanimity. Magnanimity is more than ever fundamental in children’s education. We usually focus on problems and not on opportunities. We get upset by our faults and lack time to focus on our capacities. The story of Édouard Michelin, the founder of Group Michelin, the tire company, is a a great story in that respect. Michelin began to produce tires for the industry and one day a young man, Marius Mignol, knocked on his door and said “I would like to work for you because I love tires”. The Chief of Staff asked him if he had a degree but he said “I don’t, I left school when I was 15 years old, but I know about printing because I’ve been working in a company where I was printing stuff” and then the Chief of Staff sent him to the printing department. But when Édouard Michelin, who was a magnanimous person, heard about it, he was very angry and told the Chief of Staff he was an idiot. He told him “always remember one thing: you need to break the stone in order to discover the diamond that is hidden inside”. Then he added “you don’t know who is Marius Mignol, we don’t know Marius Mignol. We need to know him. Send him to the international commercial department. Oblige him to buy stuff in the international markets, stuff for the tires. Then you and me, we’ll understand who is Marius Mignol”. Then one day Édouard Michelin, who was a mathematician, found a ruler on top of Marius desk, developed by Marius, a ruler that allowed to convert different currencies to help buying in the international market. Michelin looked at the ruler and said “this guy is a genious!”. And then he sent him to the research department. A guy without mathematics nor physics, working in the research department of a tire company… After a few years, this man was the one who invented the very famous radial tire that changed the tire industry all over the world. Cars were going faster and faster at that time and people didn’t know how to stop tires from heating more and more. They could explode at any moment and people could die. Nobody knew how to stop that process of heating, all those guys with high degrees, could not come up with a solution. And Marius, after years of investigation and observation, understood what is a tire, what happens at high speeds. And by creating the radial tire, Marius led the company to being number one in the industry. The stone was broken and the diamond was discovered inside. Marius had parents, he lived 15 years with them but they were not leaders for him, they didn’t know a thing about their son. They thought he was an idiot. And after one month, Édouard Michelin knew who was Marius. Michelin was an educator and a great leader, who became a fantastic manager because he was a great leader. He knew his people very well as he was looking for the diamond in them. Marius Mignol considered Michelin his father, his mentor, his coatch. Because of him, Marius discovered his talent and put it at the service of the company, the country, the whole
world. This is the story of bringing out the greatness in people and the hero of the story is not Marius, but Édouard. Education is an attitude we need to have always, with ourselves, with our kids and with everyone (employees, friends), helping people move forward in life. Focus on talents and not limitations and help people find their hidden talents and gifts. Each of your children has a diamond you need to help discover. Very often people ask me “how can we develop magnanimity in our children?” and I tell them magnanimity is not like other virtues, like courage or prudence or justice. It’s more
complicated than that because it’s a vision you have about yourself, a vision about life, a vision of greatness. And how do we acquire that vision? We don’t acquire it directly, we acquire it when we live surrounded by a magnanimous environment. An environment that makes you grow, where you get used to the world of greatness although you still don’t know what it is. A magnanimous environment is the books you read, the movies you watch, the music you listen to, the people you listen to. Your friends, your parents… do they dream? do they try to transform their dream into a mission, into action? If you spend your life reading books of entertainment, you cannot develop magnanimity. If you spend several hours behind a computer seeing stuff for small minded people, this is the world that surrounds you and makes you a small person. If you spend your life looking at your phone, sending pictures to your friends, the new pair of shoes you bought, “I like”, “I don’t like”, the problem is not only that you make a bad use of your time, the problem is that this is the world you create for yourself. There is no place for magnanimity here.
The child must learn to say no to certain things that will not help him grow as a human being, that will not help him discover greatness. And he needs to understand this is not because it is evil, but because it is small. “This is not who I am, this is not the girl or the boy I want to become. I need to decide by myself what is the environment I want for myself. I want to decide about the influences I want for me. I want to create around me a magnanimous environment. Because magnanimity comes from that”. If the child reads classical literature, he will discover many things about greatness there. These books can have a strong positive influence in his life. The same thing with good movies. If he only reads crappy books, he will be a small-minded person. He will get impregnated by that world, and there will be no place for magnanimity in his life. I am not talking about porno movies, but small-minded movies, where everything is low level. Lots of boys and girls that know nothing about magnanimity are not responsible for that, nobody helped them
create this environment of greatness. To develop the virtue of magnanimity, it is important to have the virtue of self-mastery, self-control, to be able to say no to many things that aren’t good, because they make you small instead of making you a great person. If you say yes to the small and ugly things, it becomes difficult to get out of that world, because it becomes your world. You will be truly emerged in that world and have true problems to get out of it. So the idea of parents creating an environment of greatness for their children is very important, an environment that has a strong impact on them and keep in them a desire for greatness. Magnanimity has a lot to do with aesthetics because it is the most aesthetic of all the virtues. Greatness is something
beautiful and attractive by itself. Children need to be educated in the aesthetics of greatness. You as parents need to help them discover what are good aesthetics: good readings, good movies, good music, good environment. They will love it! They’ll get used to it and it will become their world, their way of thinking, their way of dreaming, their way of transforming their dreams into actions, into missions. It’s not like courage, which is an easy virtue: you just have to wake up at five o’clock and make pushups every morning. Courage is not easy to practice but it’s easy to understand how to practice it. Self-mastery is the same: 5 bottles of vodka and… don’t touch them! It’s not easy to do, but it’s easy to understand how to develop this virtue. But magnanimity is not this, it’s not about the muscles. Magnanimity has to do with the heart, education of the heart. It’s not about the strengthening of the will like the virtue of courage or selfmastery, it is not about enlightening the intellect like the virtue of prudence, it’s about enlarging the heart. It’s much more complicated and takes more time, but it has a lot to do with the environment in which you were raised, the environment I’ve mentioned before. Think about it: what are the movies we watch at home, what are the music we listen to, the books we read? Do we speak about those books or not? I’m not saying kids must not have entertainment, of course they do, otherwise they can’t evolve. But it can’t be 100% their education. The environment has to be really thought through to be sure that the boy or the girl has the chance to become a magnanimous person. Magnanimity has a lot to do with our own dignity. Aristoteles tells us that a magnanimous person is a person that considers himself worthy of great things. It has to do with worthiness and greatness and so it has a lot to do with dignity. That’s why when you are educating a child, and something is wrong, you don’t just tell the child “don’t do that because that is wrong”, as this is not a way to educate the child. You tell them “we don’t do this as a family because we are different, because we have another dignity, because this is not you and it is not me!”. The child understands this language. I’m not saying you shouldn’t say “this is wrong” or “this is right” but as soon as the child is mature enough you must tell him very clearly “don’t do those things because that’s not you, you’re different, you’re a great person, this is for the small ones. Small people do this, but you’re a great guy, you’re my son. That’s why you don’t do those things. It’s not just because it’s wrong, it’s not just because it’s a sin. It’s because you are a great person”. The child has a sense of personal dignity, he knows that that is not his world, he knows
he is different. He knows he has more identity, more culture, he belongs to another tribe, to another people, people of a culture of greatness. This is the way to develop the child’s sense of dignity, and dignity is the foundation of magnanimity. It’s not a question of rules. It’s about knowing they belong to another group of people and children understand this quite well. He knows he belongs to a specific world and he wants to feel part of it.