Conversation about leadership and values with different reflection topics for the University Chair.

At the end of the year 2021, UManresa initiated conversations with Pep Guardiola and Manel Estiarte to create a University Chair of Values-Based Leadership, an initiative that has finally shown up during the first semester of 2023. It’s a path that it has undertaken being aware of facing a significant challenge because leadership and values are a very complex subject to define and its boundaries are difficult to set.

The inspiring capacity of the professional and sports trajectory of Guardiola and Estiarte, both in terms of leadership and values, and especially the combination of both elements, was key to asking them to lead the University Chair, an offer they gladly accepted. Albert Estiarte, one of the project’s promoters, has also closely been involved by taking on the role of vice-director.

On its part, UManresa brings to the University Chair its expertise in leadership training, especially in the business field, as well as the work it has done in recent years in the identification of values, both from its own pedagogical model and corporate culture. This is knowledge concentrated by the two academic directors of the University Chair, Valentí Martínez and Carlota Riera.

Beyond the outward-facing work for training, research, or dissemination, University Chairs are also spaces for debate. We share excerpts from a conversation between Pep Guardiola, Manel Estiarte, Albert Estiarte, and Valentí Martínez, who, reflecting on leadership and values, highlight various topics that should become subjects of reflection within the Chair.

About leadership and success

Albert Estiarte. Many people claim to be leaders, but leaders with values are not as common. Pep and Manel are among the few I know. Their leadership as directors of the University Chair of Values-Based Leadership should give us the chance to showcase examples of how to lead cleanly and nobly, just as they taught us when we were young. There are many values, but for me, the ones that matter and the ones I use in my daily life, are the ones instilled in me when I was little. What I am as an adult is what I was taught in my childhood. The example of Pep and Manel, as good people they are, is a great asset for the University Chair, and the challenge is to convey it to those who aspire to lead companies, institutions, schools, or teams.

Manel Estiarte. Talking about leadership makes me a bit uncomfortable. It can become toxic because it conditions how people should be and act. From my experience, from everything I’ve lived through, from all the mistakes I’ve made, from everything I’ve learned, I hold on to a lesson about leadership that Pep shared with me some time ago: make those around you feel comfortable; make the one who works with you, who admires you, who follows you, able to do their job well because you help them. A good leader isn’t necessarily the one who speaks the best or performs the tasks the most outstandingly. Better, better, this word makes me a bit uncomfortable.

Pep Guardiola. Leadership is often associated with success, but, on the contrary, some people lead very well and do not have success (at least in the way it is commonly understood). It should be noted that sometimes you simply win by chance. It seems that even if you do your job well if you win, you are successful, but if you lose, you are considered a failure. We should redirect this tendency to go to extremes out of responsibility towards younger generations.

You don’t have to try to imitate only the winner to copy them. There are so many circumstances linked to winning, many of which are beyond your control! Everyone is who they are, and you can’t copy the winner thinking that you’ll also win. There are many elements at play behind a victory. No one can say what good leadership is.

I believe a lot in day-to-day life. I arrive in the morning, open the door, and ask myself: what’s going on, what problems do we have, how do we approach today’s training session, how do we see ourselves… and from here, keep moving forward.

Make things easy for the one you have by your side.

Valentí Martínez. Yes, it’s important to be able to make decisions every day, based on what you have in front of you, and also based on your values. For me, for example, it’s about making sure that the people who work with us are better every day, not only in terms of skills but also in terms of identification with what they do. We have often shared with Albert that the result greatly influences the process. You have to be able to differentiate the two things. On the other hand, I believe that if someone is not a good person, he cannot be a good leader. He cannot make decisions appropriately.

Pep Guardiola. I’m often asked to give lectures on leadership. When I ask them why, given that I’ve never studied this, they respond, “because you win.” Why don’t they ask it from a bricklayer, like my father, who also had to manage teams of people helping him in his work?

Manel Estiarte. Effort, decision-making, exemplarity, humility, respect are values associated with leadership. But we have to go further. Taking the example of the bricklayer, in the end, the best bricklayer is the one who knows how to face the difficulties that arise and finds a way to make it easy, to do the job well.

We have been children, adults, and athletes, we have won and we have lost, and above all, we have learned. And now we find ourselves in a position where we can simplify some problems. What is complicated, we know how to transform it into something more understandable, and easier, that others can follow. For me, the leader, more than the one who wins, is the one who knows how to make things easy for those around him.

The relationship with people is the most important thing.

Pep Guardiola. I’m clear that, in this life, you have to have a good time. I seek to surround myself with good people, who make me laugh; that when things go wrong, they come and tell me, you’ll see that in the end, everything will be fine. It’s as if the one in charge should make others happy, but I also deserve to be happy. And to be happy, I need to surround myself with people who make it enjoyable. I need great professionals, obviously, but with whom I can have a good time. In the end, there comes a moment when you want to live and work with people you like, basically people you have a good time with, with whom when we are feeling down, the pain becomes smaller, and with whom we can hug each other to celebrate the good moments.

Does being a leader with values guarantee that you will win? No. Nor does it work the other way around. You can be a bad person, create conflicts, and win everything. When you win and win a lot, an Olympic Games, a title, you realize that it’s good, yes. You have worked hard to achieve success, but beyond that moment, if you haven’t enjoyed it, if it hasn’t been a shared victory, what’s the point?

Manel Estiarte. The relationship with people is the most important thing. Sometimes I wonder, if I could go back, in terms of sports, what would I live again? The answer is never to score the important goal again or to climb back onto the podium but to meet again with the teammates in the locker room and recover the relationship we had.

At eighteen, I was the top scorer in the Olympic Games, and upon returning home, the newspapers said I was the “leader of the Spanish national team.” And I believed it. I thought everyone played for me. It’s not that I was unhappy, but I didn’t enjoy a good relationship with my teammates. They didn’t like me. Over time, I grew and learned. I didn’t become the top scorer again, but my relationship with my teammates improved, and I won much more. I’m not talking from a sports perspective, but emotionally, as an athlete and as a person.

Albert Estiarte. In the end, this learning process that Manel went through allowed the Spanish water polo team to win many titles, not just him, who had already won many before, but the whole team.

A team is very healthy, very good when it has good substitutes.

Valentí Martínez. In our society, in general, we suffer from “resultism,” an obsession with results. We value people for their results and forget their dedication, their commitment, and the responsibility they take on. The University Chair should help to break this pattern.

Pep Guardiola. The one who doesn’t win shouldn’t feel like a failure. How can you tell a child who has tried but hasn’t gotten a good grade that he is a failure? I have the feeling that when I was little, this wasn’t so exaggerated. What is success? ¿To win? Winning the award? The next morning, you wake up and realize it’s not. You are happy. After all, we have achieved it, because we have had a good time, but they are already asking you to repeat it.

Today, if you’re second, you’re already a failure. This is wrong. That’s why it’s very important to surround yourself with people you enjoy, who, when things don’t go well, help you turn the page and try again.

Valentí Martínez. How do you manage people who can be very powerful from a sports perspective but are not good people? How do you face it?

Pep Guardiola. If the environment is healthy, either they integrate into the group dynamics, or they naturally distance themselves. If the environment is toxic, things get complicated. They are often people with a lack of empathy, who are unable to put themselves in others’ shoes. I think a team is very healthy, very good when it has good substitutes. They might be upset because they want to play, but they understand that someone else can do it just as well as them. They accept when the coach decides that someone else plays today instead of them, and they acknowledge when they’ve had a poor performance and when someone else has been better.

Football is a media environment that is highly exposed. How many leaderships go unnoticed in other fields? How many painters, and writers would want the attention for their works that those of us dedicated to football have? Does having more attention make us better leaders? Better people? No. Many circumstances have led us to where we are, and that does not depend on us, about which we cannot claim any merit.

In the end, we all want goodness: to be loved, to love.

Valentí Martínez. It’s tough to pick just one person, but my parents played a significant role in shaping my values during my childhood.

Pep Guardiola. My first two coaches at Gimnastic de Manresa would pick me up, then take me back home, go to Súria to drop off another kid, and yet another one in Puig-Reig…

Manel Estiarte. I had it easier. He slept in the bed next to mine. He was my brother Albert. I didn’t like water, and I didn’t want to be a swimmer or water polo player, but I did want to be like him.

Albert Estiarte. My mother. Whether I did well or not so well, I always had her by my side to say: “Very good, my son, you did everything you could. You fought hard. You did very well.”

Pep Guardiola. In the long run, this gives you much more return. In the end, we all want goodness: to be loved and to love.

Valentí Martínez. Actually, this type of messages is not as frequent nowadays. There is a lot of concern in grassroots football about the poor example set by parents, both arguing among themselves on the field and questioning the coach’s decisions…

Manel Estiarte. Parents want their children to be like the players who constantly fill the screens…

Pep Guardiola. …instead of letting them be what they want to be.

This conversation took place in Manchester on July 18, 2023, with the presence of Albert Estiarte joining via video conference from Japan.