Five questions for Andrea Mennillo: “Applying a sound set of values for the next generation of business leaders”

This year the Gabelli School of Business – the undergraduate and graduate business schools of Fordham University in New York, which is proud to cultivate the next generation of business leaders – held its 2018 Awards Ceremony to honor the best students of the inaugural 2014 class.

The ceremony also recognized those people who have made a significant contribution to the ability of the Gabelli School of Business to deliver on the global aspects of its mission.

In particular, the 2018 International Awareness Award was given to Dr. Andrea Mennillo in recognition of his significant contribution to the Gabelli School of Business’s educational mission, particularly its global perspective.

During the celebration at the Lincoln Center to mark the graduation of the first undergraduate class of the Global Business program, Dr. Mennillo was interviewed about the renewed role of education, how it applies to a new generation of business leaders, and how this can prepare them to face a continuously evolving scenario. Below is an excerpt of the interview.

1. Mennillo, in this digital age where innovation and transformation permeate nearly every aspect of society, how are the ways of doing business changing?

Today more than ever it is necessary to be aware that development must do two things: it must be profitable and it must respect a sound set of cardinal values. In this digital age we cannot let discussion about progress ignore human behaviors and limits. This is what I said when I spoke to the Introduction to Business class headed by Donna Rapaccioli, Dean of the Gabelli School of Business. It is fundamental to prepare sophomores to become businesspeople knowing that in just a few years they could face a critical life dilemma: the dilemma between greed or applying ethics-based values. They are in the right season of their lives to think deeply about this issue, and this school provides them with the opportunity to study and build their character before they are confronted with ethical dilemmas in their workplace.

2. In your opinion, which managerial competences are most important in order to deal with this evolving context?

In our digital society, where digitization and automatization are shaping the way we do business, we need to re-think education. To my mind, this provides an opportunity to push us towards a real skills revolution. To that end I want to mention the World Economic Forum, which concluded that empathy and collaboration are among the key competences of this new age.

Of course, when we talk about empathy we are talking about something bigger – a meta-competence that relates both to ethics and to society. And this is something that can ebb and flow like the tide when it comes to our relations in management and other business topics, such as leadership, change management and global business. With this in mind, it is most important to work on our own character, because that is the key to building a more humane society based on mutual cooperation.

In the path of each person’s life, there are two variables to consider: the first is our destiny, which we cannot influence; the second is our character, which we can.

But working on character requires commitment and responsibility. I believe the four cardinal virtues are our best guide: prudence, courage, temperance and justice. To practice these virtues in our everyday interactions require that we make conscious choices, and it is these choices that help to steer our decisions and that also show our limitations.

3. How in step with the needs of the current times is the teaching of management at universities – and in particular at the Gabelli School of Business?

The teaching of management has a fundamental role in the current education system – and the institutions teaching this have a profound impact on the whole of society, because it is they that give new generations of business leaders the tools with which to shape our global society.

When it comes to the Gabelli School of Business, I know its School of Management very well – not only because my son Francesco studied here, but also because, based on my professional experience, I have contributed my thoughts about the global business environment to this influential institution.

The School’s core values are its strengths: knowledge, ethics and positive global change. Those keywords have made the Gabelli School of Business a leader in socially-conscious business education, and this is vital in bringing responsible and informed decision-makers and leaders to the world. I like to mention the inspired motto of St. Ignatius, the founder of the Jesuit order, and a man who played a crucial role in promoting an ethical education based on values: “Be Better, Do More, Help Others.” To which I want to add: “Go Global!”

4. You are an active member of the Fordham community. What do you think about different styles of management in Europe and in the United States?

The style of management plays a decisive role in the competitiveness of a company, and it even influences the economic growth of a territory and a country: it expresses and builds a culture, it exercises leadership, and it faces down challenges. In complex scenarios companies that react better are characterized by dynamic and sound managerial behaviors.

When I say ‘sound’, I mean that they are oriented toward building a better relationship that is able to produce results, that generates quality, that is efficient, and that builds an ethically oriented corporate identity.

If we compare American and European management styles, of course we will see different organizational behaviors due to the obvious cultural diversities of such different continents. However, in a globalized society such as ours that is in the midst of a transformation that disrupts strategies and markets, the key capacities needed are judgment, foresight and balance. In one phrase, then, this is the so-called ‘human factor’.

 5. Mennillo, what challenges lie ahead?

There is no doubt that globalization is a constant presence in our life. We can see it in different ways: as a union of diversities that evolves continuously, or as part of our human nature to meet with others, or as a need or a desire to search for complementarity. However you see it, what must not change is how we approach this diversity. In this interdependence of cultures, ethics must be the common base on which to build mutual knowledge and cooperation. Dialogue is the most important tool we have for doing this.

This is the only way we can build a prosperous global community. Ethics and business are not in competition with each other – they are complementary. With this in mind, our new generation of business leaders can be inspired to go out in the world and find success. Business has a vital responsibility to make a better society, and it can contribute to achieving this in far greater ways than merely making a profit.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *