Do you encapsulate the knowledge and capacities needed to achieve the best outcomes for consumers, workforce performance and organizational setting as a whole?

Many existing training and professional educational frameworks on Human Resources management focus on the capabilities outlined in the principle management theories and concepts imported from the United States since the ‘50s.

The majority have been enlightening over the years could be applied in organization (or system if you wish) characterized by high complexity and repeated mutability implying a dualistic approach – the rational based on the economic outcome and the emotional based on social and psychological progress and well being.

In my viewpoint, it doesn’t seem that the general message has favoured the full humanistic growth of organizations. In fact, dangerous asymmetries and differences persist between social systems economic, productive, environmental, well being, etc. as if they have nothing to do one with the other.

The ambiguity and the relative sustainability of the current achievements imposes a supplement of investigations and invites the brave-and-conscious learner to explore places that are still in the darkness. Unmistakably, many of these are extremely relevant to professionals who exercise managing positions where, in this respect, the application of leadership skills remains presumed.

Let’s step back to the beginning.

The term leadership has been translated in many ways. The most common "direction", "command" or "guide" and, when it refers to a specific interaction within a group, it can take on the meaning of "control”.

In other words, the term implies an exercise that is not a “stand-alone” should take into account the situation and the context, and it is not reciprocal because is oriented by the leader to his/her interlocutor. This ability to influence have two origins: institutional or emerging.

In the first case the leader is the hierarchical leader, officially designated within a formal organization: Julius Caesar is the institutional leader of the group composed of the soldiers of his division. In informal groups, on the other hand, Julius Caesar can emerge spontaneously and is recognized by the group for its personal characteristics and not for an institutional appointment: the two possibilities are not alternative and often coexist in every group situation. Speaking of Julius Caesar, we see that this coexistence is not necessarily a factor of contrast.

Leaders do not exercise their influence all in the same way and it can be said that there are not two exactly the same: however it is possible to see in the infinite range of behaviours analyzed in the social sciences, some fundamental tendencies that are grouped into large and known families as leadership styles: directive (or authoritarian), participatory (or democratic) and delegating (or permissive).

What differentiates the styles is the relationship between the control that the leader exercises over the group and the discretion that this has (see figure graph participative to authoritarian): the directive style implies the maximum control of the leader over the group while the one delegating the maximum discretion of the group and that one participatory is in an intermediate position Exercising the functions of leader requires, beyond what tradition and myth teach, skills and competences that express themselves in an active process that develops daily within the organizational context.

Considering that the reality that the leader is facing is complex and cannot be analyzed unless we examine all the elements that are part of it, we can define leadership as a process that develops through the exercise of complex functions and that reflects the context in which a manager operates.

The leader can be considered an innovator and pioneer when measuring with an unknown situation: he/she must know how to take risks, make innovations and try new ways to give better solutions to yesterday's problems today. The challenge may concern an unexpected problem, a reorganization or a breakthrough in the mindset and in the organizational structure, and in most cases it implies a change in the "status quo".

Most important, the leader does not achieve success alone, but with the assistance of all the people involved in the matter he/she is dealing with; for this reason it is of fundamental importance to build a faithful work group, encouraging collaboration between members and give space to personal initiatives by enhancing the capacity of other individuals.

Although it is a common belief that the leader's requirements are innate gifts, recent studies have shown that the leader is first and foremost a learner. This means that in order to be successful and effective, the leader needs continuous confrontation and updating, not only on the specific skills that may concern his/her own role, but on his/her ability to communicate (in the full meaning of the world) with others and with the world around him/her.

The activity of communicating as leaders in an organization must be considered an art, in the sense that intuition, consensus and effectiveness, contribute in a fundamental way to overcoming difficulties in achieving trust. However, counting exclusively and regularly on personal insights does not avoid making mistakes that can seriously affect the "asset" and can produce unexpected feedbacks.

Exercising leadership among people in an organization presupposes for this reason the application of "techniques" based on common and consolidated knowledge (knowing things) and on "methods and abilities" (knowing how to do things) that constitute points of reference and rules for the rationalization and systematization of a behaviour (being) true and accepted.

This allows me to talk about professionalism that can be taught and not “just” an innate art. A leader should know and well remember that:

What we deal with are mainly behaviours and not people

What interests the organization immediately is what people do or can do that not what people are or can be: in the organization, behaviours are influenced by roles, structure and corporate culture and are almost never analogous to those who are outside the organization itself. Distinguishing behaviours is therefore essential to stimulate types of behaviour that are functional to the organization. It is important that a manager knows and maintains an empathic behaviour that allows them to assume not only their own point of view, but also to understand the motivations and influence that bring out the interests and potential of the collaborators.

A functional and non-ideological approach is essential

In organization it is neither useful nor correct to use the category of good-evil, good-bad, a priori positive-negative ("ideological" approach means starting from a value idea in itself), while it is appropriate to evaluate each behaviour as coherent-inconsistent with the objectives to be achieved. Human resources management requires an approach that is not a priori ideological, but functional: each management variable is to be evaluated as positive or negative, not in itself, but in relation to the type of behaviour expected by the organization to achieve results. A methodical behaviour is not better, nor worse than intuitive behaviour: it depends on the situation and the purpose to be achieved. Rewarding commitment rather than results is neither more nor less right, it is simply more or less functional than what you want to achieve.

Make "diagnosis" and not "make judgments"

It is an extremely important element. If, for example, someone makes a mistake, it is important to understand why what he did is wrong (diagnosis) rather than saying: "he is bad" (judgment). In fact, if we understand why something is wrong we can find "therapy" to correct the error (and this is professional), while if we say that the person is incapable we commit a generalization that leads us to confusion and we do not put ourselves in a corrective way and constructive. Therefore, a professional management of human resources always requires particular attention to the collection of facts (just as in the clinical anamnesis) before making a decision.

Don't be projective

The main difficulty to overcome in a "professional" management of human resources is obviously due to the fact that it is the only management that, unlike the others, involves us personally, because it involves our professionalism understood as a system of necessities and values. For this reason it is easy to be projective, i. e. to manage, evaluate, choose using our motivations, our characteristics, our values as a parameter. The more we manage to manage not based on opinions, but on knowledge, the more we are oriented to reduce this risk.

On the same line he needs to study and learn well the following capabilities (or skills):

  • Management capability, or the ability to use tools for evaluating and managing performance and developing potential;
  • Organizational capability, or the ability to define roles, tasks, objectives and to use information and control tools;
  • Social skills, or the ability to analyze socio-organizational realities and to plan and plan socio-organizational interventions;
  • Relational skills, or the ability to interview and collect individual information, to exert influence, to motivate, to communicate and establish relationships of trust.

The interpersonal skills, and more specifically the ability to communicate, presuppose the psychological knowledge and dynamics that regulate individual behaviour and interpersonal communication.

We must not forget that, through clear relationships and cordial attitudes, we obtain greater availability, because the other feels respected and considered and this also positively influences his sense of self-worth.


Flotter M., Hernandez R., Joiner C., Strategic Management of Human Resources in Health Services Organizations, 1987.
O'Reilly C. A., Pfeffer J.A.,Hidden Value. How Great Companies Achieve Extraordinary Results with Ordinary People, Boston, Harvard Business School Press, 2000.
Zaleznik A., Managers & Leaders: Are they different? Harvard Business Review, 1992.