Friday, February 22, 2013

Thoughts on Business Leadership in Emerging Markets: A Side Effect of Economic Colonialism or Simply Poor Management?

The strategic function of a top business leader, with its vision-forming, persuading, and control abilities, spans much of what has been traditionally viewed as the fi eld of leadership research. While some leaders speak or write about leadership without having led many businesses, others who have led lack the capacity for refl ection which is necessary to explain what it is that they do. Yet, most leaders seem to have something to say, and they fi nd eager listeners. Are MBA candidates being misled by the business press and thus are unable to tell a real leader from a fraud? Or is it that those we call business leaders today are only fi gureheads propelled by those toiling beneath them? This commentary focuses on thoughts centered on the rim of contention: business leadership in Brazil. 


The strategic function of a top business leader, with its vision-forming, persuading, and control abilities, spans much of what has been traditionally viewed as the field of leadership research. While far from exhausted, the drift toward studying the rest of the organization and its environment has been both substantial and refreshing. Nonetheless, there is a strategy-forming process that remains mostly in the realm of top corporate leadership, which has been the focus of some attention within the last decade.1 Interestingly enough, the role of succession remains largely within top management, which brings up the question of an organization’s capacity to learn from its environment. There seems to be no barriers to entry into the business leadership literature arena. While some leaders speak or write about leadership without having led many businesses, others who have led lack the capacity for reflection which is necessary to explain what it is that they do. Yet, most leaders seem to have something to say, and they find eager listeners. Because publishers know there is a seller’s market in leadership books, they go so far as to resurrect authors long dead for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. In fact, business leadership is one of the most prolific areas within management literature. What follows are my thoughts focused on the rim of the contention: business leadership in Brazil. I chose to explore this topic because many of my graduate MBA students barely have any notion of what a true business leader is. When asked to name a few leaders I expected to hear the names of Juan Domingo Perón, for Argentina, and Getúlio Vargas, for Brazil, founders of some of the region’s largest and most prominent businesses. Alternatively, I would have expected my students to mention Casimiro Montenegro, who founded the Brazilian Aeronautical Technology Institute to lay the foundations of a healthy Brazilian aeronautical industry and helped to midwife Embraer, a world leader in midsized jet planes. 

Featured article by Alfredo Behrens in Thunderbird International Business Review 
Vol. 55, No. 2 March/April 2013, pp 228-234.  DOI: 10.1002/tie.21537 

Friday, February 1, 2013

Medical Diagnostic Laboratories Might Provide Executive Search Services

As there are many ways to skin a cat there are many ways to classify personalities. By now it is hard to find an executive who has not heard of MBTI, or DISC or so many others.  But the fact is that despite the differences pointed out by all those tests, it does not seem to be enough to understand what makes us click with one another. Sad, because clicking is work-effective and we should know more about it.

This is why research into what makes people fall in love with each other may provide leads, if not answers. Helen Fischer has been an expert on the subject for over three decades, just the type the CEOs of, the dating site, would put the questions to:  “Why do you fall in love with one person and not the other?”
The question is particularly important at the Brazilian executive-level  workplace, for if socioeconomic background were determining, one would not find in Brazil as much diversity as in America, and still, people fall in love with some rather than any other. Of course the kind of empathy one needs to work effectively together is not the same as required in a fulfilling love relationship, but still, think more freely and figure out what is out there.

As it turns out, Prof. Helen Fisher, at Rutgers,  is what is called a biological anthropologist (new to me too) and she figures out that in biological terms there are only four systems linked with personality traits: dopamine, serotonin, testosterone and estrogen. Hired by she had access to its affiliate: and worked on a sample of almost 180 thousand people form about 30 countries  and she found correlation between the chemicals above and personality traits which she named: Explorers, Directors, Negotiators, Builders.

Those higher on the expression of the dopamine system tend to be curious and spontaneous, creative and open-minded, and inclined to abstract thought and big ideas. These were named the Explorer types.
Those whose system is more testosterone driven tend to be focused, analytical, action oriented, rather impervious. These were named the Directors’ group.
Those higher in the oestrogen system tend to be more intuitive, more perceptive of underlying connections, and nurturing. These she called the Negotiators.
Those high on serotonin tend to be more conventional, rule-abiding, and specific. These are the Builders.

You wouldn’t be very wrong if you found all of this is not much off MBTI or even Patricia Pitcher’s classification into Artists, Craftsmen and Technocrats, which I happen to find good enough. In any case, if Fisher’s (not Pitcher’s) classification were to stick, it might not be long until we find headhunters superseded by blood laboratories who would receive CEO staffing  requests like: give me one with a 50% dopamine + 30% Testosterone + 15% oestrogen +5% serotonin. If the request were for a compliance officer you would do well in spiking the serotonin share.

Find more at:

Alfredo Behrens
Professor, Cross-cultural Leadership
FIA Business School
February, 2013