“A good leader has to be a collector of dreams, hopes and wishes. The bosses that I have had always have been like that, starting with my father. With the ability to have a dream, follow it and get all of us to follow and work to achieve it,” said Susana Monje, president and CEO of Grupo Essentium and the first female treasurer of F.C. Barcelona, in remarks about what makes a good executive.
Monje leads the family business Grupo Essentium, which was founded by her father Valentín Monje Tuñón and is a conglomerate that once led Spain’s construction sector. Three decades after it was established, the group has an annual turnover of 500 million euros. “The company is nothing like it was 10 years ago,” she said.
Following its global strategy, the group sold in 2006 its companies most closely related to the construction sector and diversified into various industries such as infrastructure, health, education, technology, energy and transportation. Now, amid the recession, the internationalized group carries out activities on five continents.
The business leader participated in the fourth edition of the IESE Alumnae Breakfast, organized by the International Center on Work and Family (ICWF)
on IESE’s Barcelona campus. The session was moderated by IESE professors Nuria Chinchilla
and Mireia las Heras
, who questioned Monje about her leadership style.
“It’s a communicative, participative style. I’m interested in the opinions of the people on my team. I believe you need to know how to listen and that by discussing an issue you make better decisions,” said Monje, who said she faces challenges when it comes to managing her agenda. “When you are an executive, work tends to occupy all your available time and that increases with the more responsibilities you have. Work/family balance is a constant goal and also managing the guilt you feel when something doesn’t get done.”
She regrets that government cutbacks are affecting work/family balance policies today, but she is positive about the future: “I am a natural optimist and I believe that Spain will exit the crisis because there is a desire for this. It is true that in a globalized world this is more complicated because other countries now have cheaper labor, high-level technologies and raw materials. But we have other assets in Spain: human capital, entrepreneurial initiative and within Europe we are among the countries with the most tightly-adjusted wages. Today, no matter where companies are, their activities are diversified.”
She also stressed that one of the most important assets of her company is the people she manages: “the responsibility of a company is to provide working conditions that allow people to have as enjoyable a life as possible, with internal and external equity: internal, by offering a career within the company that allows the opportunity to progress; and external, with salaries that are adjusted to the markets where we have businesses and without gender differences,” said Monje, whose organization leads activities in countries such as India, Peru and Brazil.