Gli USA e l’Afghanistan: un cambio di leadership o un cambio di strategia?

The USA and Afghanistan: a change of leadership or a change of strategy?

The climax of the dramatic events that took place in recent weeks in Afghanistan has deeply shaken public opinion and created strong concerns within the international community.
The news and images coming from the Afghan territory and, in particular, from Kabul, the capital quickly reconquered by the Taliban, deeply saddened me, with a deja-vu of scenarios unfortunately experienced already in the past, of violence, fear and mass exodus.
The future of millions of Afghans is now uncertain, but especially for women, who in all likelihood will watch any hope for the emancipation won with so much sacrifice and determination in the last 20 years fade away.
Nothing foreshadowed such an epilogue, specifically, that just three months from the withdrawal of Western forces, in particular, as the leader, the USA, the Taliban would regain the land wrested from their control, thereby nullifying the effects of the military and humanitarian efforts in the area in a flash.
This operation is causing a change in the global geopolitical order, which could destabilize the Middle East and cause important economic-political and humanitarian repercussions in Europe and the USA also.
At this point, one wonders for what reason Biden decided to authorize the withdrawal of American troops from Afghan territory, and why right now, triggering the escalation of events which sadly we all know. Several hypotheses are possible.
Is this a sign of weakness or a US abdication from its international leadership as some are claiming? Probably not at all.
From the White House, in a speech to the nation, Biden declared that he did not want to repeat the mistakes of the past, formally attributing the reasons for his operation to a very onerous military commitment for American taxpayers, both in economic and financial terms as well as human lives lost in a civil war that was not its own, which seemed to never end.
However, it is reasonable to think that the US move is part of a broader strategy, which is worth questioning.
I have already stressed several times how the historic international leadership of the USA today is threatened by newly emerging powers, above all China, which, unlike the Americans, "at least formally" seems not to privilege military campaigns, but to favor strategic diplomacy to make the most of the economic return. One method of action that China will certainly also use with Afghanistan serves the countless interests linked to the New Silk Road, which could bring great benefits, from opening new trade borders with the countries of Central Asia to improving relations with Russia and Iran.
Additionally, China would get access to new mineral resources, such as gold, precious stones, copper, uranium, lithium etc. (with an estimated value of potentially 3 trillion dollars) essential for its own economy, and also for the Taliban, which would see huge gains stemming from mining and related commercial activities.
What is certain is that the American military occupation had represented, also for Russia, a guarantee of stability in that region of the Middle East adjacent to other small states considered potentially unstable, which line the southern border of the former Soviet empire, still considered by the Russians within its own sphere of influence.
China and Russia, at this juncture, potentially have a lot to gain but they must get it while confronting a highly unstable counterpart, whose Islamic fundamentalism worries both superpowers.
The exit from the Middle Eastern team of the USA and NATO, in this articulated geopolitical rearrangement, leaves "an open door", behind which, however, there might be many pitfalls.

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Leadership and resilience: an example from Italian SMEs

In the last few weeks, we've been experiencing a constant back and forth between concerns about a pandemic surge and expectations for recovery, supported by sufficiently positive economic data.
As I had occasion to examine some time ago, the emergency has, at a global level, brought uncertain reactions and untimely interventions, highlighting the ineffectiveness of many leadership models, which turned out to be obsolete and unable to adequately address the changes taking place. However, the excellent data on Italian exports allow me the opportunity to observe how small and medium-sized Italian companies have dealt with the situation strategically, demonstrating very forward-looking leadership. Above all, I was struck by how they managed to transform the forced production slowdown into crucial time to reflect and behave, developing actions to be promoted both immediately and in the future.

Small and medium-sized enterprises, the backbone of our economy and the banner of "Made in Italy" - always undisputed for excellence and appreciated by the international market - have taken advantage of this uncertain period with lucidity and discernment for self-improvement and development, which makes their attitudes more and more flexible, backed by experience and competence.
Italian leaders have prepared for the impending change by investing in customer loyalty, communicating their production chain and adopting ethical and transparent policies aimed at increasingly eco-sustainable growth. They are also committed to increasing the development of alternative business models that can adapt to the multiple market fluctuations, promoting technology and disseminating it internally by profitably using Smart Working. From the internationalization standpoint, the protection of "Made in Italy" has also moved in guaranteeing the product's origin and enhancing its geographical origin.

The result of so much effort and forward-looking strategies can be seen in the Italian export statistics for last April, which recorded important figures. According to ISTAT , on an annual basis, exports to the United States grew by 112.5%, to France by +116.6% and to Spain by 120.8%. It's true that after the shock of 2020 an economic rebound was foreseeable, but achieving certain results still necessitates working well, without improvisation and with great determination.
The captains of Italian enterprise have always done this, constantly seeking to create and promote their products and services with originality, creativity and innovation. A legacy that we have from a strong identity 2,500 years old in history and culture. It is not by chance that a product "Made in Italy" is synonymous with "beautiful and well made."

Italian companies and the "Italian System" therefore are confirmed as an example to be emulated: they have always been appreciated in the world for their ability to maintain good commercial relations also, thanks to a refined and effective quality of dialog with foreign counterparts.
Europe also believes in the efforts made by Italian SMEs to safeguard their brands in this period of crisis. In fact, Ecofin has recently given its final approval to Italy's "National Recovery and Resilience Plan" submitted by the Draghi government, which will soon produce an initial "injection" of 25 billion euros into our economy.
I trust that the leadership of Italian entrepreneurs will continue to be an example of credibility and reliability. Certainly, the intelligent use of its creative and original talents can direct our SMEs towards a more and more eco-sustainable future, one more technologically innovative and in continuous relationship with the world.

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Il tempo della leadership in tempo di pandemia: fermarsi o correre?

Leadership in time of pandemic: fight or flight?

The quote "life is a great teacher" is so true. Always ready to teach us that unexpected events can happen at any time, in any place and in unpredictable ways.

Contemporary society proposes us a constant becoming of multiple scenarios in continuous metamorphosis, an accomplice also the incessant technological progress.

While mankind of the past was often unable to face changes - as demonstrated by the collapse, over the centuries, of governments, empires and entire civilizations - mankind of the present faces it by trying to predict future events through the study of complex analytical systems, based on probability and statistics. Is this a sufficient approach?

The answer is not so obvious, as we see how the results of actions based on predictions are not always as we hoped they would be. Instead, while everything is "fleeing," sometimes, it might make sense to stop, instead of trying to outrun events in an endless chase of predictions.

At first glance, it may seem like a counterproductive point, but stopping doesn't necessarily mean a lack of productivity. On the contrary, it can be a useful opportunity to better understand what is going on around us and to better understand which direction to move in.

The life experience of St. Ignatius of Loyola is one of the most fitting examples of how an unexpected dramatic event and a period of enforced inactivity generated extraordinarily beneficial effects. It was during his convalescence that St. Ignatius, immobilized by a battle wound, was able to devote himself to reading sacred texts. These readings made him reflect on the meaning of his existence, bringing about a profound inner change that led him to abandon his military career and take care of those most in need.

He did not object to the change, but rather reacted to the occurrence of an unexpected event by changing his predisposition towards life.  The time of forced inactivity was useful for him to reflect and develop a true spiritual renewal: his conversion. The productive use of this time activated a virtuous mechanism, later transferred to his life discipline: to use his time available, be it planned or imposed upon him by chance, to obtain an objective judgment detached from human weaknesses. This, he called discernment.

Similarly to what happened at St. Ignatius, the pandemic period caught us unprepared, forcing us into a period of prolonged inactivity full of concern.

At a juncture such as the present, the true leader is required to "make a virtue of necessity." Not so much in taking refuge in the semblance of activity provided by mathematical models, but by using the time available to understand the change, to confront it in a discerning way, to ensure that the actions resulting from its operation are the most appropriate possible to solve the needs of the case.

Often, the time dilation caused by a long period of crisis offers unexpected insights. Only leaders who, however, practice detached and lucid reflection are able to seize these opportunities, transforming a period of adversity into an opportunity for the future.

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Una leadership per il futuro: discernimento e valori Ignaziani

Leadership for the Future: Ignatian Discernment and Values

On several occasions, I have emphasized how the current state of global emergency has challenged traditional leadership models, which have often fallen short of expectations in dealing with the prolonged state of uncertainty we are experiencing. In conjunction with the beginning of the Ignatian year, I would therefore like to inspire reflection on what leadership capable of responding to the needs of our time might look like, starting with the teachings of St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus.

By now, I think the only thing that is certain is that there is no certainty and humanity will have to learn to live with this situation permanently. The absence of certain references and the absence of timely solutions can provoke in the community a reaction of generalized immobilism, where fear, anxiety, and indecision suppress the will to act, characteristic of the human soul.

However, maintaining this will, even in a condition of uncertainty, is essential. According to the teachings of St. Ignatius, only discernment, that is, the ability to consciously choose and take effective and responsible action, can offer a concrete response to contingent and future problems.

In this sense, a leader must always know how to act thoughtfully in the face of volatile events. This is not an innate aptitude, but rather a skill that can be learned through training designed to fortify the mind, temper the character, and overcome uncertainties and fears. Thus, the determination to pursue a goal becomes unwavering, even in the face of adversity.

This is known as "Discerning Leadership." Leadership that can be summarized well by the Ignatian quote that reads: "Act as if everything depends on you, knowing then that in reality everything depends on God."

In other words: act in a measured way, with detachment from negative feelings - even under the most difficult circumstances - and do everything humanly possible, without ever sparing yourself.

Such leadership, I believe, has the energy to offer the world a new way of looking at things, where the unexpected becomes an opportunity for personal and professional growth, where difference becomes opportunity and not division, where collaboration becomes strength and not weakness, and where reflection becomes not inertia but a call to action.

To what extent are these values present in traditional leadership models? Possibly, still too little. But I have faith in the future, because I see many leaders with these characteristics dedicating themselves to imparting their experience to the younger generation. In so doing, they stimulate and encourage them by promoting their creativity, originality, and willingness to innovate and experiment.

The hope is that today's youth, in turn, will pass on these values to their fellow human, and to the generations that follow, teaching them to invest in the most precious resource that man has at his disposal: himself.

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Geopolitica all’International Business Week del 2021 di Gabelli School of Business

Global geopolitics at Gabelli School of Business 2021 International Business Week

With great pleasure, again this year, I attended the International Business Week organized by Gabelli School of Business.

It is always a precious opportunity to broaden students' perspective on international current topics and give them a concrete vision of what it means to "be in the world" today. A global world, let’s remember,  of greater complexity. According to the educational values ​​transmitted by St. Ignatius, founder of the Society of Jesus, it is important that young business leaders have a constant dialogue with experienced business executives in their learning journey.

Below there is a brief account of what emerged from the International Business Week of 2021.

Il modello pedagogico ignaziano: l’azione responsabile come scopo dell’educazione dei giovani

The Ignatian pedagogical model: responsible action as the purpose of educating young people

To educate or just pass on culture? A question that, I think, is asked by any good teacher or anyone, like me, who aspires to make a valid contribution to the education of young people. Personally, I have the privilege of providing my business experience to the growth of business students at Fordham University Gabelli School of Business, a prestigious American university within the Jesuit tradition.

In the year that celebrates the canonization of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuit order, I see the educational values that he left us as a beacon that is coming back into the limelight in this hectic and uncertain reality.

The purpose of the Jesuit methodology, in fact, is to foster the integral education of the person, that is, to form men and women capable of living their existence, both personal and professional, not in a passive way, but by contributing to the welfare of the future society with their actions.

The fundamental stages of this educational approach start from the direct encounter with experience, where theoretical arguments are mixed with practical arguments; ending in critical reflection and discernment, that is, the ability to make well-considered choices with responsibility and awareness; to arrive at specific action, made up of decisions. This is the main purpose of the educational model proposed by St. Ignatius.

An education of this kind is essential, especially today, amidst the experience of the new generation of business leaders, whose preparation cannot be separated from a continuous confrontation with realities, as diversified as possible. For a business student, it therefore becomes extremely educational to attend events and conferences with influential internationally accredited business managers, whose contribution of life experience and professional activity is of great teaching and inspiration. These are educational activities, typical of schools in the Jesuit tradition, that allow young people to gain independence, self-confidence and become proactive.

Each student will always be required to strive to excel as much as possible, but to never stop at the mere expressions of notions or theory, but rather setting goals to achieve them.

It is action, accompanied by solidarity, gratitude and courage, that is the true strength of Ignatian pedagogy that accompanies young and immature students on their life journeys, delivering them as mature men and women and leaders of tomorrow's society.

"Whoever was given much, will be asked for much." I always carry this passage from Luke's Gospel with me. To educate, in my opinion, is also to give something to others, helping them to become what they "could be".

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Anno ignaziano

2021, the Ignatian Year begins: its meaning and relevance

A few months ago, as chairman of the Fordham London Advisory Board at Fordham University, I made the opening speech at the conference "The Future of Business Education". I remember I started by saying that:"2020 will be remembered as a horrible year". A concise sentence, and one difficult for me to utter, but, unfortunately, dramatically appropriate. Today, with 2020 finally behind us, I look forward to 2021, wondering howI would like it to be remembered.

I think I would like it to be remembered as a year of renewal. This is what I wish for. In a few months, the Ignatian Year will begin, proclaimed by the general curia of the Society of Jesus to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the canonization of its founder, St. Ignatius of Loyola. The year dedicated to him will begin on 20 May 2021 and will end on 31 July 2022. This will be an important opportunity to promote, at a universal level, the recovery of the fundamental values ​​of man, starting from the Ignatian Conversion. An example from the past that is still extraordinarily relevant today.

A renewal that Europe first experienced in 1400, when it was shaken by humanism, a philosophical current that unequivocally decreed the end of the medieval era, considered barbaric and dark. Christian faith, a re-evaluation of classical culture, moral sense and ethics were the cardinal principles of this cultural phenomenon, which affected religious and political life and every level of social life. It had an essential prerogative: to place man at the center of everything. The Renaissance had begun. In this period of ferment and constant change, on May 20, 1521, the Lord granted spiritual renewal to Ignatius of Loyola, a noble Spanish knight.

The change occurred during his convalescence, when, immobilized due to a wound in battle, he had the opportunity to approach the sacred texts and to discover the lives of the saints. These readings made him reflect on what the meaning of his existence really was, bringing about a deep spiritual conversion in him. So, he decided to give up his military career and shed his possessions to devote the rest of his life to preaching the word of God and caring for those most in need.

Today, 500 years later, we are again experiencing a period of strong contrasts, which affect our everyday life. The "plague" of 2020 is called Covid19 and, despite our technological tools and our advanced scientific skills, it has put us in check, with enormous impacts on the health, economic, social and political levels of the world.

St. Ignatius of Loyola proposed an innovative vision of mankind who, through a process of inner maturation, becomes capable of understanding the difference between good and evil, between right and wrong, and therefore of orienting his choices. Being inspired by the tradition of St. Ignatius means to embody values ​​such as freedom, justice and truth. An approach of particular value especially if applied to the education of the young. Education is one of the fundamental development processes a person goes through. An educational model that embodies and transmits Ignatian values ​​to new generations will only facilitate the renewal we are seeking. A renewal which, let’s remember, starts from the recovery of the teachings coming from the past and which also depends on how we will be able to transmit them to tomorrow’s leaders. Being able to take even one step towards this awareness will definitely make 2021 better than 2020.


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Discorso introduttivo di Andrea Mennillo presso Gabelli School of Business di Fordham University London

Business Perspectives from Europe - Andrea Mennillo welcome speech at Fordham University London’s Gabelli School of Business

As chairman of the Fordham London Center Advisory Board, it was for me a great pleasure to open the conference “Business Perspectives from Europe” last 11th February. This was the inaugural conference related to the online events cycle “Gabelli School London Speaker Series”, which will see the participation of relevant experts from various industries and roles in business. Great opportunities to talk about important business topics such as global strategies and risks associated with climate change. And much more. 

Read my welcome speech

For more information click here.

Covid-19 and the post-pandemic economy as a bet for Europe to win in a sign of a global cooperation

The Covid-19 emergency has revealed, as never before, the vulnerability of all health, economic, political and social systems, which found themselves unable to produce an effective global response, in order to limit as much as possible the damage caused by the pandemic.
I was reflecting recently on a statement by Ambassador Giampiero Massolo, President of Fincantieri and President of the Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI), on how power today is no longer just military; there’s also power which involves health care, logistics, food and technology.
The lack of true global leadership, capable of commanding the world in a common direction is perhaps what we suffer from the most in a multidimensional and worldwide crisis like the one we’re experiencing.
I think it’s quite natural that, in the context of such an emergency, each national government has taken decisions guided by its own culture, its own traditions and its own capacity for resilience.
But it is not to be ignored how, on the whole, the responses to the health, economic and social emergency have been fragmented, sometimes even chaotic, and often characterized by opposition rather than cooperation. Global competition has intensified, as well as the intransigence of public opinion, troubled and stressed by the persistent uncertainty.
The prospect of a vaccine obviously reveals the light at the end of the tunnel, but once the emergency ends, what innovations and skills will be put in place? What will the world’s new balances be? Will the competition for global leadership intensify the contrasts between the West and the East?
We know that China and the United States have been in opposition for a long time. Today the game is being played on the technology frontier, where 5G and Artificial Intelligence could guarantee a dominant position in the global economy. A match in which the United States are still ahead.
Russia, on the other hand, is always ready to quickly fill the gaps that other world powers leave uncovered. Unfortunately, the role of Europe remains marginal, penalized by an identity and political path that is still in progress.

In such an unstable situation, I see as a unique possible solution, the promotion of renewed global cooperation, which would strengthen the ability to find shared answers to great economic and social
issues, allowing a start to great projects of change, which are so important today for the progress of the world. The implementation of such a scenario, based on cooperation, will mostly depend on the
willingness of the main actors of global power to engage in dialogue.
New international balances will not be long in being created. For Europe, however, it will be essential to strengthen its own role within the Western world – to which it naturally belongs- in order then to
be able to propose itself as a bridge to build new alliances and cooperation with the Eastern world, and China in particular.


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The future of economic education: leadership and innovation beyond the pandemic

Gabelli School of Business digital event

As chairman of the Fordham London Center Advisory Board, it was an honor for me to introduce the conference called “The Future of Business Education”, the first digital event hosted virtually by the Fordham London Center.
The initiative, part of the celebrations for the centenary of the Gabelli School of Business, wanted to offer students and alumni an experiential vision - as broad as possible- of the challenges regarding the future of economic education. This is in line with Gabelli's mission, which is to ensure students have the best possible training in terms of effectiveness, topicality and flexibility.

The centenary of the Gabelli School falls in a year that will surely remain etched in our memories. Global health is at risk, the economic and financial world is in great distress and our social behaviors are undergoing a drastic transformation.

"The future of Business Education" hosted by Fordham University London Centre

Education is one of the most important and enlightening human processes of change, development and progress: this fundamental phase of the educational life of young people has been profoundly affected by the pandemic.
Ninty-four percent of students worldwide have experienced interruptions and discomfort. That is almost 1.6 billion students in over 190 countries.
Education has been hurt, but there's no reason to stop it.
Gabelli has at least another hundred years ahead in which to continue writing a story of extraordinary educational commitment in forging women and men with distinctive leadership
skills, on the model of our most prestigious alumnus and benefactor: Mario Gabelli.
I am certain that Gabelli's model is unique, because it is inspired by the long Jesuit tradition, started over 470 years ago by St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus. Its particular values are ethical living, service to others, the search for truth, and a passion for justice. Values that we find in the teaching models we offer our students.
Move forward and “do more” is an Ignatian maxim that today encourages us to overcome the obstacles to the educational system that are posed by the pandemic.
I am proud to be committed to taking Fordham London Center towards even more ambitious goals and to become a global strategic education hub. Investments in innovative centers and accreditations on international programs will broaden our students'; perspectives and help them build solid professional and academic relationships inside and outside Europe.
Finally, I would like to thank all the esteemed speakers who took part in this stimulating conference. I would like to especially thank Donna M. Rapaccioli, Dean of the Gabelli School of Business, for making this precious event - entirely dedicated to the future of education – possible, and for her usual commitment to explore the new skills required by actual and future workplaces.
These are ideas and contributions that Fordham London Center will not fail, once again, to grasp and develop.