By Mauricio C. Serafim & Paula Basso
The mission of the Havard Virtuous Leadership Institute (http://hvli.org), founded by the author of this book, is “to spark hearts for greatness, to propel a new generation of virtuous leaders empowered to transform Life – business, family and culture – and to disseminate a vision of leadership consistent with the highest requirements and the noblest aspirations of the human heart. “
The book Created for Greatness is permeated by this mission. In a rather unusual way for a book on leadership, Havard teaches us the importance of recognizing one’s own greatness and the greatness of the other, of the flowering of the human personality, of the permanent development of our character; it teaches that true influence comes from example. First of all, leadership thinks of itself as a vocation – as the principle that gives unity to our existence – and an ideal of life: a full and loving life, which includes sacrifice for the Other.
Born in France, descended from a family that had been persecuted by the Soviet communist regime and currently living in Moscow, Havard offers us a work both intimate and of great practical teachings. He enriches the book with examples of historical characters – ones known to the general public, others not so much – fruits of his prodigious life experience. At various times, Havard gives a peculiar touch by citing works of Slav culture, such as the writers Anton Chekhov, Alexander Soljenítsin, Ivan Turgenev, the philosophers Vladimir Soloviev and Sergei Bulgakov, and the contemporary poetess Olga Sedakova. With the typical courage of thinkers forged in virtue, it does not hide its Christian worldliness – integrating it with the classical philosophers, world literature and its experience in the business world – just as it does not hide its position against the great totalitarian ideological projects of the twentieth century .
As the author himself clarifies, Created for Greatness was written to develop, in more detail and in depth, some points of his first book. Virtues & Leadership, also published by Scepter. Therefore, we must bear in mind that these two books constitute two volumes of a single work.
In the present work, Havard highlights two distinctive virtues of leadership: magnanimity – the virtue of action – and humility, the virtue of living in truth about your own self and others. In fact, it is common in executive development to work to expand performance by strengthening skills and competencies. What the author proposes here is that this happens from the strengthening of these virtues.
It teaches that we are not born leaders, we become leaders through a conscious and purposeful effort to establish ourselves as better people (the being) and professionals (the doing) in that order. In this way, constant learning and openness to the other are inherent competencies in the role of leader and thus it is important for leaders to be convinced that they will never be fully ready: professional practice requires the virtue of humility for continuous improvement and magnanimity as the driving force of action and service. It is in this sense that the conquest of the professional world is, above all, the conquest of its own inner world.
The highest way to serve, says Havard, is to awaken greatness in those around us. It is the high goals that move the leader in the search for continuous improvement and self-improvement, while motivating others in this direction. In his own words, “doing things is management; to make others grow is leadership.”
His approach is not influenced by a romanticism about human nature. Its foundation in values of always and in a universal anthropology – that integrates the heart, the intelligence and the will – allows practical results in the work environment. Sincere interest in knowing the other and helping you grow facilitates efficiency. Maybe more than that. It has been realized that teams that perform well and improve performance depend on how the leader and his team feel about the work dynamics, influenced by such things as the clarity of what is expected of them, the transparency and frequency of the use of feedback as an instrument of continuous improvement and change, and the comfort in sharing difficulties and asking for help. This creates psychological security and a climate of mutual trust, essential to the sense of belonging to the organization. The coherence of a virtuous leader, who influences from his example and character, is the cornerstone, the foundation of an ethically healthy company.
At the end of the book, Havard offers us a practical road map for the daily development of the leader’s virtues: spiritual direction, or counseling, through a trustworthy and experienced person who will help us set short- and long-term goals for a virtuous life; a life plan, which with of spiritual exercises that we should do throughout the day and week; and the examination of conscience, moment of recollection to reflect on what we hit and miss during the day, and set concrete goals for the next day.
It is a book that affirms the dignity and greatness of people, that makes the great bet that we can be better in all areas of our lives, that we can be wholehearted even in our professional life. A book of unparalleled beauty and generosity. Essential for each of us; indispensable for a leader.
Mauricio C. Serafim – Professor of the State
University of Santa Catarina.
Paula Basso – CEO da Caminhare