Leadership a 'cocktail of skills and passion'

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Speaking at the CIPD annual conference, Petriglieri explained businesses have increased responsibility today

True leadership means working together for the benefit of all, not just individuals, according to Gianpiero Petriglieri, associate professor of organisational behaviour at INSEAD.

Speaking at the 2016 CIPD annual conference in Manchester, Petriglieri explained that businesses have an increased responsibility in the modern era because they are the most powerful force in society.

“Whenever a group comes to power, at any point in history, the first thing they do is build tall things,” he said. “You can tell who runs the city by seeing who owns the tallest buildings. In the Middle Ages the tallest buildings were churches. In the Renaissance castles and palaces grew taller. And in the modern age it is offices. You business leaders, you’re the princes and princesses of your era – though you might not feel that way during your commute in rush hour.”

However, he added that leadership can often be nebulous and hard to define. “In the newspapers we hear all the time that leadership was good here, it was bad there,” he said. “There was not enough here, and too much there. We should understand that leadership is about addressing the demands of an organisation and society. It should be a cocktail of skills and passion, allowing you to do things to others – primarily to influence them.”

Petriglieri added that stories are often a good way for cultures to share information about the world they live in. “They are a powerful social tool as they tap into our biology,” he explained. “There comes a time when you realise we only have 70, 80 or 90 years to live, and realise how small we are. A rational brain would think ‘well everything I do doesn’t matter’. However, we think ‘how can I make it count?' We want to transcend this life and leave something good behind.”

“Think of a historical leader. You see they all have a powerful story behind them. A story of hope, trust, possibility. Leadership is that exchange of hope for trust."

"Leaders aren't just good storytellers; lots of people are good storytellers," he added. "Good leaders are story givers."

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