La fageda: A responsible, committed style of leadership.


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Spanish producer of dairy products La Fageda has for 30 years employed people with mental disabilities and has made a real difference on its local market thanks to leadership and responsibility.
Of course, this example raises concerns with respect to possible alternatives which may guarantee the continuity of the social initiative underlying this project, having in mind the structure of corporate governance and commitment of the leadership. Growth always comes with a threat for this kind of enterprises, leading to a loss of identity and the original direction.
However, at the moment, La Fageda is a special case of success based on the transcendent and social concept (the initial idea was always to build a company with a soul) of the business project from the very start.

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La fageda: A responsible, committed style of leadership.

  1. 1. Cases Strategy Documents C05 / 2012 Public Affairs La Fageda: A responsible, committed style of leadership What do leadership and personal responsibility have in common? And what do groundbreaking and positive business models have in common with a trace of madness? The case of the Spanish cooperative milk-products producer La Fageda, has a bit of all four: for nearly 30 years it has employed a group of people with learning difficulties and has opened up an important space in the local market. Is it possible to speak of corporative responsibility without mentioning personal responsibility? Of course it is. The sort of leadership, which enables a socially responsible business to exist, is based on a personal and responsible style. Responsible leaders are naturally optimistic, honest, committed, inspirational, holistic, consistent and coherent. For many people, work, developing an activity, is often something distant from their true personal interests, from their capabilities, values, passions, and dreams. In fact, according to Alberto Rivero, Senior Lecturer in People Management in Organizations at IESE Business School, there are three dimensions to the concept of work: 1. The post: in order to have enough money to support oneself, it has a purely financial dimension and is merely a way of earning a living and nothing more. 2. The university career: a way of growing, improving and developing one’s talents, as a means to achieving success. 3. The vocation: this has much higher motivation: for a greater good, a response to the needs of others, the desire to change things for the better. To a certain extent, the same thing occurs with organizations: only a few years ago, the purpose of many, in fact most, firms was relegated to second place at best: after growth and developing capacity, or just earning money and surviving. The higher purpose, the will to transform things, was forgotten. Personal rather than corporative responsibility When discussing personal and corporative responsibility, it is interesting to look at the views on the business sector, and philosophical and psychological thinking of four important figures: 1. Peter Drucker: “We need to accept that other people are also human beings and behave as such, that they have Document prepared by Corporate Excellence with reference to, among other sources, the intervention of Albert Rivera (professor of People Management in the Organizations Department at IESE) during the sessions of the Executive Education Program “Making Social Responsibility Work: The Cornerstone of Sustainable Business” organized by IESE Business School in Barcelona in July 2011.
  2. 2. La Fageda: A responsible, committed style of leadership ‘What is also changing is the thinking about this success and how deeply it is rooted in a single and unique concept of work, of business and of intelligence’ their own way of doing things, of being, behaving, deciding, and learning”. 2. Jim Collins: “Humility must be combined with intense professional will. That is what makes good organizations great”. 3. Julian Marias: “To be someone is to be able to be something more. Personal development is the dichotomy of being who you are and being who you could be”. 4. Howard Gardner: “Intra-personal intelligence (self-knowledge, self-awareness and self-motivation) is important, but so is interpersonal intelligence (empathy, social competence), extra-personal intelligence (political, cultural, social), as well as existential intelligence (reasoning and a sense of self)”. This is why, with particular reference to Gardner’s model of multiple intelligences, one must ask oneself: What does success really involve? What are its true indicators? Who chooses it and why? Because what is also changing and what is behind the CSR approach, is a person’s own idea of success and his or her attachment to a single, unique concept of work, of business and of intelligence. The selfishness associated by many with the capitalist economic model - the idea of ‘doing well’ (‘homo economicus’) is often opposed per se to an approach which also seeks ‘doing good’ (‘homo sentiens’), which goes beyond the complexity and paradox of the human being (‘homo duplex’). Leaders who continually ask themselves why they are doing what they are doing are those who succeed in developing a responsible type of leadership, based on purpose and not only on interest, and who are able to inspire in others the same sense of commitment and responsibility. This is why the personal responsibility of the leaders of an organization, and that of all the people who make up the organization, is a necessary prior Lingüistic Logical & Mathematical Bodily & Kinesthesic Musical Naturalistic La Fageda, the success of a social dream What is La Fageda? Where did it get its name? What is its social and business project? It is a social initiative in the north of the Spanish autonomous region of Catalonia, that integrates the physically disabled and people with learning difficulties through the production and marketing of yoghurt and other quality milk-based desserts, made solely with milk from its own cows, without preservatives or artificial coloring additives. The cooperative takes its name from a place known as ‘La Fageda d’en Jorda’ (the beech glade in Jorda), in a forested region of Gerona, close to the Pyrenees. It was created by an entrepreneur whose name is the same as that of Christopher Columbus in Spanish: Cristobal Colon, who was closely associated with the psychiatric world both in a professional capacity and as a voluntary worker. The key figure in the management of this project is Cristobal Colon himself. Besides being the founder, he is also the managing director. His mission is to give work in market conditions and in the local community, to people with learning difficulties and with severe mental problems who are able to perform in the workplace, and to provide them with occupational therapy, lodging and leisure activities. What began, as a working cooperative is today a more complex and wideranging structure, consisting of: • 1 worker and consumer cooperative. • 2 foundations: one for private capital and one for welfare assistance. Multiple intelligence Visual condition if one is to speak of a truly responsible company, whose responsibility is based on the freely taken decision and will to implement it (the leader), to do it in conjunction with others (team) and to give it a higher and far-reaching sense which goes beyond all of them together (society). Because the values that they assume are in essence those that will define who each person is and what each company is like. Intrapersonal Interpersonal La Fageda cooperative is a non-profit organization, and so any financial surplus from its business activities is reinvested to create new jobs in the firm and to provide more therapeutic services and assistance for those in its workforce with special needs. It holds the ISO 14001 certificate of environmental management; it is signed up to the Sustainable Business Management Code and has received awards from the Spanish National Organization for the Blind (ONCE), the Spanish Business and Society Foundation (Fundacion Empresa y Sociedad) and internationally from the Schwab Foundation. Source: New Oceans Multiple Intelligences, 2011. Cases 2
  3. 3. La Fageda: A responsible, committed style of leadership ‘Customers and consumers buy the products not from a feeling of compassion and solidarity, but because of the excellent quality that they recognize in these products.’ Its success with customers and consumers (it only sells its products in the Catalan region) is due to the quality of these products. This is precisely the key to the continued existence of the firm in the world of business cooperatives, because its customers (hypermarkets) and consumers buy these products in the first place, not from a feeling of compassion, but for the excellent quality and careful manufacturing process they recognize in them. Recently the cooperative has widened its range to take in other sectors, such as activities relating to gardening, horticultural nurseries, and ice-cream production. Hence, what drives business growth in La Fageda is the stress on quality, its links to the area where it is located, and the community in which it carries out its work, together with the culture of sustainability and flexibility, which runs through the whole organization. All the people working in the cooperative are able to switch their job regularly between gardening, the care of animals and the production line, either by asking to do so or at the request of a member of staff who looks after them. Positive leadership for social entrepreneurship As was said at the start, working in La Fageda consists in more than holding down a job or making a career. It gives a sense of dignity, a sense of living and of healing. To lead the project, assist at its birth and watch it grow is a sort of vocation exercised by a leader who is known for his ability to bring confidence and a positive outlook to others. Because positive leadership sees an opportunity where the majority sees none, sees something is possible where others only see the impossible. It is a characteristic feature of this type of leadership that in social entrepreneurial projects such as La Fageda turn out to be basic, which without it, would never have been created. The characteristics of leadership in true Corporate Social Responsibility, which forms the foundations of this firm and was its model from the very beginning, is based on courage but also on selfconfidence, as we said above: Company virtuous circle Local and regional calling • Self-confidence, which must be closely linked to responsibility for cost-benefit analysis, so essential for the viability and sustainability of the business. • Confidence, which implies accepting and assuming risk, beyond what is reasonable or which may be expected. • Confidence bordering on madness in one’s belief in others and in continuing to search for ability where the evidence only shows disability. Positive thinking, as explained by Professor K. S. Cameron at the University of Michigan, can be applied successfully as the case of La Fageda shows. And knowing how to create a positive climate is also a socially responsible attitude, because through communication and positive relationships it also promotes positive feelings, which increase values of compassion, forgiveness and gratitude. La Fageda is building social value in three essential different ways: 1. Relationships: it supports diversity, unites efforts, gets results and creates a sense of community. 2. Communication: it generates a constructive relationship, encourages transparency and uses communication as an aid (medium). 3. Sense: it affects human well being in a positive way, it connects with personal values and enhances their extended impact. Conclusions: difficulties of a very personalized leadership However, this raises some doubts about possible alternatives in order to ensure the continuity of the project’s social initiative, bearing in mind its structure of governance and leadership. Growth always supposes a certain risk for this type of business because it can imply the loss of the underlying essence and meaning. But doubtlessly, so far La Fageda represents a particular success story based on a very important concept for a social and business venture: from the very beginning the idea was always to create a business with a soul. Production of quality Customers Consumer satisfaction People with intellectual disabilities and mental Source: EOI, 2010. Cases 3
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