Kathryn Shaw (Stanford) at ESADE: "If you are not a problem solver, your job can be automated"

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Kathryn Shaw (Stanford) at ESADE: "If you are not a problem solver, your job can be automated"

"Innovations in human resources are closely linked to technological innovations. If you use a very complex machine, you need a highly trained person to run it" declared professor Shaw at the ESADE Research Day


•    Michael Beer (Harvard): "The key is to get employees to love the organisation they work for. If the workers don’t love the company, customers won’t, either"

•    Laura Empson (Cass Business School): "Good leadership means knowing how to interpret the environment, surrounding yourself with the right people and building a common project"

 

"Innovations in human resources are closely linked to technological innovations. Today’s companies cannot prioritise technology over human resources or vice versa, because the two disciplines are complementary. If you use a very powerful and complex machine, you need a highly trained person to optimise its use," declared Kathryn Shaw, Professor of Economics at Stanford University at ESADE Research Day, an annual event highlighting research in the field of business. The focus of this year’s event was talent management and research on high-performance, high-impact organisations.

Prof. Shaw noted that, in recent years, computerisation has brought about "a change in the type of employees companies look for". She added: "They want people who are able to solve problems by themselves; if they don’t need to do that, their job can be automated." She noted, however, that in order for a person to have problem-solving autonomy, "the employee needs to be in an appropriate business environment, and the key to this is implementing best practices in human resources".

The importance of inclusive leadership and values

Michael Beer, Professor Emeritus at Harvard Business School, discussed the operation of organisations that create high economic and social value. He highlighted the importance of "getting employees to love the organisation they work for" and "having common values that go beyond short-term interests". He added: "If the workers don’t love the company, customers won’t, either." Prof. Beer stressed the importance of promoting inclusive and transparent leadership and avoiding "closed vertical communication, which reduces trust and makes it difficult to learn".

"We need honest leaders who possess the values they represent, because economic incentives often go in another direction in such institutions," Prof. Beer commented. "Leaders of this sort are still a minority, but their numbers are growing."

Legitimisation, negotiation and manoeuvring: three variables for building leadership

Laura Empson, Professor in the Management of Professional Service Firms at Cass Business School, discussed her study of leadership dynamics in elite consulting firms. She defined three micro-dynamics that are necessary for co-workers to build leadership collectively: “First of all, legitimisation: you need to have triumphed in the market in order to be respected as a leader. Second, negotiation: it’s important to negotiate with other leaders and to know how to build consensus. And third, manoeuvring: you have to be able to use political skills such as social astuteness, make use of interpersonal influence, and know how to foster contact networks and appear sincere.” Prof. Empson observed: “Although the people involved often deny it, leadership environments operate in a very similar way to politics.”

“Good leadership means knowing how to interpret the environment,” commented Prof. Empson. “The key is to understand the dynamics of what we call leadership constellations.” She added: “Surrounding yourself with the right people and building a common project are also necessary.”

Jonathan Wareham, Dean of Faculty and Research at ESADE, commented on the quality of the event and highlighted the school’s commitment to research. “Without good research, innovation is impossible.”