Five Lessons in Leadership for MBA Graduates

Schindler Chairman-elect Silvio Napoli delivers keynote at the graduation of the 50th anniversary cohort

13/05/2016 Barcelona

IESE MBA Graduation Ceremony 2016

Schindler Chairman-elect Silvio Napoli urged IESE MBA graduates to focus on the “values and the behaviors that go with them.” / Photo: Jordi Tarrés

“True leaders, the ones who leave lasting legacies to their field, concentrate their efforts on their ‘inner scorecard,’ and because of this, they deliver on the ‘outer’ one too.”

This was the message shared by Chairman-elect of Schindler, Silvio Napoli, at the MBA Class of 2016 Graduation Celebration today in Barcelona – a celebration that also marks the 50th anniversary of the IESE MBA.

Napoli, who is the key decision maker in one of the most popular MBA case studies taught at top business schools, “Silvio Napoli at Schindler India,” was keynote speaker at today’s ceremony.

Alluding to investor and philanthropist, Warren Buffet’s description of the “inner scorecard” – or internal merit benchmark – Napoli urged graduates to focus on the “values and the behaviors that go with them.”

He specifically cited five “crucial lessons” from the worlds of sport and business that he identified as the drivers of success: gratitude; mastering ego; adaptability; managing failure and courage.

Five Lessons for Tomorrow’s Leaders

“Gratitude is a good place to start. Gratitude is the realization that we are never fully independent, that we are vulnerable and that we need others to accomplish what we strive for.”

Key to understanding our vulnerability, said Napoli, is grappling with ego – “our worst and most tenacious enemy.”

“Combined with ambition and university degrees, ego can turn perspective into tunnel vision. It is the biggest challenge you will have to master.”

Napoli rose to prominence in business education as the subject of the celebrated Harvard Business School case study, when he was at the helm of Schindler's expansion into India. Citing this experience and selling to China during the real estate boom of 2010, he stressed the importance of flexibility and dealing with failure in the complex balance between “winning and losing the race.”

“A deciding factor in life is how you handle setbacks and being prepared to accept the prospect of failure is an essential element in achieving greatness.”

“For successful people, failure is information. For true leaders, the reaction is: ‘This didn’t work and I am a problem solver, so I’ll try something else.’”

Underpinning these lessons, said Napoli, is courage – the courage to “seize opportunities and the determination to bounce back from failures is what really makes the difference.”

50 Years and a Legacy for the Future

IESE Dean Jordi Canals added his congratulations to the 2016 cohort, reminding them that their experience and mission links to that of the first class of IESE MBA graduates: “A group of 27 young professionals who back in 1966 shared the same spirit and willingness to make the world a better place through excellence in management.”

He urged graduates to take away three key lessons from their time at IESE: a sense of purpose; a commitment to professional excellence and service, and a sense of magnanimity in ambition and humbleness. These, he said, are "intrinsic pillars in any serious professional endeavor.”

“The IESE MBA program is a means to provide hope in the business world that better management can have a positive impact.”

“True leaders, the ones who leave lasting legacies to their field, concentrate their efforts on their ‘inner scorecard,’ and because of this, they deliver on the ‘outer’ one too.”

Chairman-elect of Schindler, Silvio Napoli

Echoing these thoughts was Professor Alfonso Sánchez-Tabernero, president of the University of Navarra. He also took the opportunity to pay homage to Canals, who steps down as dean of IESE on August 31. Under Canals’ “undoubted spirit of service,” said Sánchez-Tabernero, IESE has “spread throughout the world, and multiplied its programs in all markets.”

“Professor Canals has been a true leader not only for the huge achievements over the years, but for the enormous affection he has employed in forging ahead (…) and his ever-friendly manner which shows us that true leadership is at odds with despotism and tyranny.”

Choosing an Attitude of Generosity

Director of the IESE MBA program, Franz Heukamp, highlighted some of the accomplishments of the Class of 2016.

“You have risen to the challenges of doing business globally, broadening your ethical perspective of management, accelerating your leadership competencies and your capacity to make decisions,” he said. He also congratulated the class on their contribution to the program – a legacy that will continue to impact the IESE MBA in years to come.

“Your exceptional contribution to activities, from the first Women in Business Conference to the TEDx Talks and more, will enrich the MBA for future generations.”

Sean Porta, MBA Class President 2016, echoed Heukamp’s words, adding that these student-led activities, from Women in Business to TedX and the Innovation Challenge were the result of “choosing an attitude of generosity.”

“As we head out to the far corners of the globe, my greatest hope is that we never lose sight of our ability to choose. That we keep choosing to be generous, selfless and altruistic; an attitude of service to others.”

A particularly excellent choice, he said, was the choice to come to IESE.

“If you had made any other choice we would not have found each other. The challenge now is to continue to make the right choices as the pressures of ‘real life’ come roaring back at us. But with the tools and lessons our time at IESE has equipped us with, I have no doubt that the Class of 2016 will continue to approach every situation – business or personal – with the mindset we have learned from each other.”