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The Era of the “Natural Idol”

Summer is slowly coming to an end, at least as far as the traditional holiday season is concerned, and things are definitely coming to a close. It’s a time when business decision-makers take stock, and, although we are officially in the middle of the year, somehow, the autumn market relaunch is a kind of end-of-year start for many managers. Many times we thought we were living the strangest year in this respect, and then the pandemic rewrote the rules of strangeness forever. But if anyone thought that, as a manager, there would be no greater challenge in the period ahead, 2022 was a big mistake. In the shadow of the pandemic, under the pressure of its immediate effects, and in the face of the consequences of a war that is only just beginning to take shape but will have drastic repercussions in the months and years to come, the big question on everyone’s mind is: how should a truly good leader behave and what should they do?

Natural idols

Of course, this question is always a general one, but in recent years its importance in business has multiplied. Idolism has been discussed in many different ways, mostly from the perspective of the benefits that accrue to companies where the presence of an idol is a given. And this remains true. It’s just that the situation has become more pronounced, and today we have to say that there is no chance for companies where employees and managers don’t see an idol around them. You simply cannot do without it today. What makes the situation even more difficult is that the presence of a “natural idol” is now required. What does this mean? There are serious programmes on how to get managers without basic idol skills to sweat it out somehow so that their colleagues, subordinates, and peers somehow accept them, or even look up to them. And yes, you can train managers over a period of years with certain qualities that can make them idols, but also the personality traits that can make them not idols. They could be taught to deal with those, to manage those. However, it is safe to say that time is up. We have to act as idols here, and now; otherwise, there is no way forward in this real economic environment, which is beset by unique challenges. It is best, of course, if a leader is simply a “natural idol’, meaning that their personality traits match, or at least overlap very substantially with, the idol personality traits required by the current economic environment. After all, they do not need to be taught how to “act”, or behave in a given business situation, because their inner self dictates whether they feel the situation. Is it difficult to be a “natural idol”? No, in fact, it is easy if one has the necessary conditions. But it is impossible if they don’t. And this, unfortunately, has to be acknowledged, even if the world is often about making the present, but most of all, the future, more beautiful, about always giving oneself hope. That’s all well and good, but let’s not try to fake the future of the company, because we realise that we have even believed what is not true about ourselves, but that no one “bought it” except us.

Professionalism and empathy

But how many of these “natural idols” are there? Many people ask in business development, as the very wording and definition can be misleading. Almost every manager can be a “natural idol”, but the right economic environment, location, profession, and society, to name but a few, must be found for each one. If someone can be a good leader when GDP is constantly growing, do not assume that they can be an equally good leader when it slows or shrinks! In fact, the opposite is true! These are simple things that can be understood with what one might call “common sense”, but a horde of managers refuse to accept them when they are personally affected by the subject. Although I understand that it is difficult to face when the market has some who do and some who don’t. How easy it would be to blame the economic environment for poor results, the exodus of key people, and the decline in profitability and marketability, if there were no exceptions. But when there is even one competitor in the market that is doing well – and, with very rare exceptions, there are always winners from the crisis – and not to worry, there will be winners now. It is also very interesting that, when it comes to business development, there is a clear definition of the personality type that can be the best in its market at a given time. Somehow, by the subtlety of fate, these business decision-makers always have a common personality trait, and in most cases, more than one. Moreover, if they can be defined, it is immediately apparent whether and to what end those who are not considered “natural idols” in a given era can be trained. It is therefore legitimate to ask, now that we have returned from the summer, what are the qualities that make a leader a true leader, and which will make them a true idol. In such cases, inexperienced human resources experts will, of course, come up with lists, but it has been my experience for decades that these lists don’t go very far, because it never hurts to be decisive and creative, but I could list at least a dozen more qualities that are not bad to have in stock. But real professionals are paid to point out the one or two things that can make the difference between failure and success in a given era. So, pretending that you are trying to be a good professional, I would like to highlight two things that I think are crucial for success in the 2022-2023 period, and thus for a fresh start after a lazy summer: one is, of course, a high level of professionalism. Which means that the decision-maker of the first choice must really understand the profession or the business. Although it has long been taught that a really good top manager does not need to understand the professional areas, but must be able to lead them, this is not true for this era, as we are moving towards companies that focus on a specific profession and offer a real solution for that specific profession. And in such firms, colleagues expect real questions and real answers. The other very important personality trait is even more “tricky”, because people really need to be dealt with, now, you really need to understand them, but you cannot get caught up in their world. So we have to be empathetic, but we have to do it in a realistic way, making our understood colleagues dynamic.

Written in this way, the situation is not necessarily unfeasible, but there are very few leaders who bring this naturally to their own personalities. For the rest, a very intense period awaits, where they will have to learn to apply their missing talents in everyday life, in all situations, in order to succeed.