Talent identification and development; the role of effective leadership.

On January 23rd 2012 at the Palazzo dei Congressi in Pisa the 2012 Edition of the International Master in Business Administration of the Pisa University has begun with an open to the public Round Table on the following topic:

“Talent identification & development; the role of effective leadership”

This statement was further defined as follows. Within ever complex and changing organizational contexts, finding and developing talents has become much more than an empty buzzword; it has become a strategic and operational tool to achieving results.

Organizational leadership plays a relevant role within these dynamics. How are talents identified and developed? Why have they become so relevant? What is the role of effective leadership in all of this?

The fast paced world of motor sports offers, by its very own nature, powerful insights on these topics. 

Through stimulating interaction among the round table participants, students and public audience, we relate and confront these insights to actual organizational dynamics; this in order to improve the utilization of these tools from a strategic and operational point of view.

Round table participants:

Francesco Seveso on behalf of Dr. Riccardo Ceccarelli - Team Doctor at Formula 1 Lotus Renault GP / Founder of Formula Medicine Professional Driver Training

Davide Fore' - CRG Team Official Driver, 5 times Karting World Champion

Mirko Torsellini - CRG Team Official Driver

Filippo Monastra - Senior Program Manager at Nokia Italia

Round table moderator:

Riccardo Paterni - Founder of Professione Lavoro ® by Knowledge for Action & Action for Knowledge

The substance of the meeting, within an informal setting, has been characterized right away by the video on the large screen featuring Davide Foré’s on board camera on a karting track with the sound of the engine's revs blasting through the speakers system. Quite an unusual way to start an MBA; yet a way to recall the dynamic, harsh and at the same time hugely trilling context of our economic and social times.

After the introduction made by Professor Allegrini (International MBA Director), Professor Pacini, Vice Principal to the Economic Faculty of the University, has introduced the session with Steve Jobs’ “stay hungry, stay foolish” quote, directly related to the topic of Talent identification and development, further linking the topic to the setting by recalling the worldwide historically celebrated talent of Galileo Galilei from Pisa.


At first the debate has been flowing through the round table participants and the moderator in the effort to characterize what talent means today in the organizational world on one side and in the motorsport one on the other. Right away, to the surprise of the round table participants, the similarities between the two contexts in seeking and developing talents have surfaced. In motorsport talent is a must and it is more easily spotted because performance gives an immediate feedback; in organizational settings at times you can get by without talent but organizations can no longer afford to have people in places where they cannot express (or do not express) their very best.

After clarifying that, the debate has pointed out that the dynamics of utilizing and nurturing at the best the own potential are very much linked to leadership factors (beginning with self leadership and through the leadership of people we truly feel close and we look up to) that stimulate us to: 1) greater self awareness; 2) the need to begin with an end in mind; 3) the need to have a strong sense of passion guided by consistent discipline; 4) the relevance that plays humbleness, almost counterintuitive, but in actuality essential to truly learn from experience and work at best in teams - even the apparently solo role of a kart driver relies on his team to win; 5) a sheer and consistent attention to details; 6) a mindset geared towards a marked sense of sincerity and transparency that begins with oneself and it is manifested openly and constructively to others in order to be consistently improving and leveraging the own strengths.


The thirty students from 18 different countries attending the 2012 edition of the program have interacted in a very active way with debate and all of them have experienced a concrete chance to get meaningful insights on the round table topic from varied multicultural and cross professional perspectives (the students are attending a full time one year program and have several types of professional backgrounds with actual professional experiences up to ten years).

Representatives from international corporations and international entrepreneurs have also kept the debate quite lively and active from their concrete on the field perspectives from both large and small organizations.

It has been debated that talents get identified and developed not thorough chance but through actual tools that must be in place, tools that are linked up directly with the organizational strategy or the aim of the motorsport team and that need to fuel objectivity and clear standards in the system. Tools fueled by two key factors: human know-how and (often but not always) technological tools to channel it.


It has been discussed that the right match between the person’s skills and his/her role is essential in order to develop talents and unfortunately in too many organizations (all over the globe) the mismatch persists and get even stronger by the competitive complexities developing in organizations. Quite often people experience the so called ‘forced positions’ into a role and this ends up draining the passion that the person may have for that job or field.

There has been an involved debate regarding the importance of learning from losing. While in the so called ‘western world’ it is possible to make mistakes and learn from them (at times making mistakes is even perceived as a positive sign, it demonstrate that people are trying to actually change things), in the so called ‘eastern world’ it is not allowed to make mistakes, mistakes are not socially acceptable and competition for the role that you have is remarkably fierce.

Furthermore there had been a discussion regarding whether talents can be better developed in small to mid size companies (that typically favor the acknowledgement and development of the human factor) or in large corporations (that typically have more organized tools, systems and strategies to develop talents).


In the end all of these topics have been summed up to the common agreement that nowadays we experience from a multicultural global perspective a paradigm shift in the way we perceive, identify and develop talent. More than ever the human factor plays a key role within the complex and ever changing dynamics of business that feature stronger and stronger similarities with the fast paced, rough and dynamic world of motorsport.

Talent no longer can be seen as an empty buzzword: if we want a global economic system more sustainable we need to fuel it from an humanistic perspective in which leadership stimulates and inspires the actual manifestation of values such us: self-awareness of the own strengths and weaknesses, goals and behaviors focused on continuos improvement, sincerity towards oneself and the other, transparency, honesty towards oneself and others and a positive embracing approach to the complexities of life.

To deal with the rough complexities of today and tomorrow we need to fuel the same kind of passion that pushes race drivers to give their best in extreme physical, athletic and psychological conditions. It is a paradigm shift we all need to welcome and contribute to develop in relative terms to the socio cultural perspective we are in and experience.