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The need for a compass

That we live in VUCA times is commonplace. Many live in confusion trying to surf these volatile and vulnerable times, that are uncertain, complex, and ambiguous. Among other reasons due to the speed at which events unfold and also to the environmental noise that too often prevents people from stopping to think.

Under these circumstances, it is important – and urgent – to engage in studies that provide, perhaps momentarily, a break from the immediate to come back to daily responsibilities with greater insight. That’s what Enrique Sueiro, consultant and professor of management communication, has achieved in his latest publication. His previous books were “Saber comunicar saber” which translated into English is “Know how to communicate knowledge”, “Comunicar o no ser” or “Communicate or don’t exist”, and “Comunicación y ciencia médica” or “Communications and medical science”.

Brújula directiva: 25 horizontes” (2020), or “Managerial Compass: 25 Horizons” in English, is his new book targeted at anyone who aspires to manage with personal authority and whoever, through their management position, can improve the lives of others. Sueiro has been inspired by key figures in various fields: from classic Greek and Roman writers (Aristotle, Cicero, Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius) to key authors in contemporary management (Drucker, Porter, Kaplan and Norton), as well as Nobel Prize winners in economics (Kahneman) and peace (Teresa of Calcutta, Nelson Mandela, the Dalai Lama), and influential figures in the world of politics (Churchill and Arendt). The book distils his thirty-year-long professional experience. As a finishing touch to each chapter, he adds experiences, such as two terrorist attacks that touched his life, the inspiring people he met in various places worldwide, and any reading that transformed his opinion on some issues... As he rightly points out, "Today we need more compass and less stopwatch".

Extracting with skilful clarity from Carl Honoré's thinking in “In Praise of Slow”, the journalist and historian says that what’s important is that

  1. Evolution works on the fittest, not on the fastest.
  2. A hasty existence usually turns into a skin-deep, superficial life. 
  3. If everyone chooses to run, accelerating is no longer a competitive advantage.

Both Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius remind us in several ways that objectivity isn’t in the hands of third parties and that we shouldn’t depend on the opinions of others. Kempis put it differently: don't rely on others for your happiness. We must choose people whose truths we find worthy. Or to paraphrase José Antonio Marina, votes and opinions shouldn’t be counted, but rather weighed up. In other words, even if a crystalline source is sullied, healthy water will still flow. Even if it is muddied, you will end up cleaning it without becoming soiled.

While echoing Goleman, but levering the much more solid Xavier Zubiri, we are reminded that it is fundamental to analyse one's emotions. The inability to perceive one's own feelings leaves us at their mercy. Feelings are like cats: if they are not controlled, they end up scratching you.

Existence is about wisely managing feelings, will and reason. Left to their own free will without fitting final cause, it is easy to go nowhere. And whoever advances too quickly without a goal in sight will end up lost or will only find their destiny by chance.

Enrique Sueiro correctly points out that today these are times for compasses rather than for chronometers. I’d like to say again that no epitaph would look good with an expression like, “He answered 125,000 emails”, nor with “It could have been...” To be what we should be, what we are called to become, it is fundamental to figure out where we are going and to walk a little bit every day in the right direction and sense. Books like “Brújula directiva” on the managerial compass are a good crutch for walking.

Javier Fernández Aguado

Javier Fernández Aguado es pensador y speaker; considerado uno de los mayores expertos contemporáneos en Gobierno de personas y organizaciones, además de ser uno de los conferenciantes más solicitados a nivel internacional. Es es Director de MindValue, firma especializada en servicios profesionales para la Alta Dirección, miembro del Top Ten Management Spain y Premio Peter Druker.

Javier Fernández Aguado is a thinker and speaker, considered one of the leading contemporary experts in managing people and organizations, as well as being one of the most sought after speakers internationally. He is a Director of MindValue—a company specialized in professional services for C-level management, a member of Top Ten Management Spain and the Peter Drucker Award.

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