Diana Şerban about the connection between moral economy and female leadership 

 In a technical presentation, Diana Șerban is the CEO of Carbogaz, a company that promotes and supports sustainable development, that “everyday future” that we must internalize in everyday life, not just in companies’ programs, missions, and visions. Diana Şerban’s vision, “Live the future in every moment” goes beyond the power of a slogan and becomes a way of life centered on responsibility.

 In a human presentation, Diana Şerban is the prototype of a professional passionate about systems and structures, she likes words and people and doesn’t think she could live alone on a desert island (“without a job” – would add her daughter). She is concerned about change and all that it brings to a person’s life. She admits that at the beginning, she was afraid of it, refused it, rejected it, resisted it, only to finally accept it, look forward to it, welcome it with open arms, and fully appreciate it. She is a visionary and courageous leader who understood and supported from the beginning the international media platform Feminism For Real to educate the audience in the spirit of the values ​​of female leadership and women empowerment.

Diana Șerban, Mihaela Tudor, Yulia Stark, Ramona Chiriac, Elena Unciuleanu – Feminism For Real launching event

Women started to step out of their comfort zone and assume being a leader

In this interview, we talk about the values ​​of female leadership, how we can build sustainably, humility, and kindness in business, and about female solidarity and the power of “together” in an ecosystem like the EWA European Women’s Association.

You have been the CEO of a company that promotes sustainable development for almost 20 years. How have sustainability values ​​evolved in these two decades?

 Sustainability is quality and its evolution is not of the concept itself, but of us in the direction of understanding and approaching it at the deepest possible level. I have been active for more than 20 years in a mature field that has tested a lot over time and you need a lot of creativity to innovate something really valuable. What I think is important is to be human and have good relationships. From a good and fair relationship, we have the chance to understand how to live sustainably, in such a way that we leave something to future generations, to transfer knowledge at a qualitative level. The development of technologies has exempted us from repetitive tasks and given us the opportunity and time to get to know each other better; now it is up to us what, how, when, and why we choose to be.

You often talk about the “moral economy”. It seems a paradox, but the economy involves deep moral dimensions. What are the values that govern the moral economy?

 The economy is based on the structure and set of principles specific to the living world, which has effective intervention mechanisms for everything that is not useful or harmful. Ethical and moral codes are written by humans and are a guide and benchmark for good and truth as they are seen in one epoch or another. They have changed over time, but not significantly.

 May we also include here values ​​that come from the values set of female leadership?

Referring to universal ethical and moral laws, I don’t think that values ​​are different in women, I just think that women use some tools that suit them structurally better, and men use others.

The revelation of a business trip

When did you choose to invest in education by founding the Quantum Foundation? Tell us about this new professional side.

I have been passionate about children’s education for many years and had an educational project in the concept stage. The turning point was this year at the end of January, on a business trip of the European Women’s Association (EWA) in Dubai. I was in the desert at sunset with my colleagues from EWA, when I was asked again about my dream and everyone encouraged me and offered to support me. It was something beyond explanation, I have never felt the same. I returned home and began the process of launching a primary school. If I look back a little, I think I was unstoppable, although for about 2-3 months I heard a lot of explanations and warnings about how I would not succeed. Perhaps this motivated me even more, knowing well the local culture with pessimistic tendencies.

In September I launched the primary school, and I plan to also launch the gymnasium in two years. What I can say is that I love everything I do there, and I welcome all the challenges.

Education and lifelong learning are crucial

When you talk about education, which is the voice you feel most strongly in your mind and soul – that of a parent, a mentor, a manager, or an entrepreneur perhaps?

The beauty of education lies precisely in its complexity, it comes from a qualitative, deeply human area, it is the basis of relationships, and positioning myself from one perspective or another is purely limiting. Of course, there are voices that count, but I think they overlap on top of many others. I have acquired tools and knowledge from all the roles listed above, but without clearly differentiating them.

Is Romanian education prepared to train children for the jobs of the future?

Romanian education is somehow understood only on a formal level (school) and non-formal level (courses, workshops, camps) because we have tools that measure results (preferably fast). Informal education, which learns us more, is vaguely talked about – about early education (those seven years from home), the “School of Life” trivialized as a concept. This happens because it is a complex and complicated area, chaotic lately.

We are often used to talking of lifelong learning, and if we accept that this is essential to access the jobs of the future, we will be fine.

How can the family support a decent school route when the formal education system is increasingly outdated and overwhelmed by the need for exponential education?

A national education system represents the vision and values ​​of that country. Parents can support the pluses and minuses of the system, through their values, and choose to intervene for compensating what they consider is wrong or missing. The family can support a lot, in fact, here are the foundations to be laid; the children’s first role models are family. Family can also intervene in the formal area, but what I noticed is a negative intervention – blaming the system, which creates a lot of confusion in the children’s mind – “school is useless, but every morning you have to go there”. This type of message is contradictory and toxic for the kids.

How do we train teachers, and educators, for exponential education? This is a new concept of pedagogy that stimulates pupils’ interest, curiosity, accelerated learning, and creativity, with the help of technology.

I don’t think teachers need to be trained for exponential education. Children’s education lays the foundation for their future, and overstimulation in one direction creates imbalances in other areas. As an adult concerned with sustainable development, you can choose to go through accelerated learning programs in an area of ​​interest and/or passion that you have discovered; but, in my opinion, this approach is dangerous for the kids.

Change is the only thing that never changes

What is the most interesting aspect you have had to adapt to in your entire professional activity so far?

The change. Change is the only thing that never changes. I can’t remember who said that, but I agree. Depending on the context, throughout my career, I have feared it, refused it, rejected it, resisted it, accepted it, looked forward to it, welcomed it with open arms, and fully appreciated it. Some changes happened without my direct intervention, such as legislative ones, others were my own choices, but from a certain point on, I considered them opportunities, whether they were pleasant or painful.

If there were times when it was difficult for you, how did you overcome them? What motivates you, how do you keep going, how do you keep your confidence?

I think some of the hard times have overcome themselves 😉. I am constantly learning to be patient and stay consistent and coherent. You never solve a situation from what generated it, so I get out of there as quickly as I can, so that I can have a wider perspective on the situation, and find possible solutions. Depending on the context, I choose the one I think is the best. I think I’m an optimistic dreamer, I always see the full side of the glass and choose my relationships carefully. I avoid people who constantly victimize themselves and cry out for pity and follow my dream, convinced that there is always a win-win solution, you just have to look for it.

Being firm on your core values is a matter of choice

What do you like most about your job? How has the work you do transform you?

I enjoy what I do, I do it with delight and I enjoy the complexity of everyday choices. I love perfectly built structures and enjoy every time the “feedback loops” close, meaning we’ve been able to communicate and work effectively. And I love people and relationships that are patiently built, adding value to each of us.

What are the core values ​​that you would never get compromised?

I have adhered to universal ethical and moral values, a qualitative area in which no compromises are made. At one point, someone told me that I allow myself not to compromise, and I admit that I didn’t understand how that comes, it’s a matter of choice.

What is the secret of value-based management? What are the values on which you built the business?

I don’t believe in secrets and recipes, what works for one person doesn’t work for another. There is a set of common principles, a lot of different tools, some broad-spectrum, some more niche, and then, in all complexity, everyone builds their system according to the level of consciousness and knowledge they have.

And if I were to explain, some systems are closed, others partially open, or open, adaptive or not, in a continuous dynamic and transformation, at different speeds appropriate to the moment.

What does success look like for the modern leader?

Hmmm, success is somehow based on achieved goals and I think it looks different for everyone. The common element is given by the validation by a larger or smaller group of people and it is important that you think the same. I don’t use the word success, it seems to me that it comes from a quantitative, somehow measurable area.

What does leadership gain through humility?

Any concept that comes from a qualitative area brings added value, including leadership. I notice that trending concepts appear at a certain age; I think that humility is brought into the discussion at a time when the need to rewrite ethical and moral codes is felt more and more acutely.

What did the pandemic years bring to your professional and personal life?

From my point of view, as someone who is always at the center of change, the pandemic years represented something new and different. They were very interesting as a phenomenon, they tested my resilience to extreme rules as I traveled to all kinds of places, and I noticed different perspectives on approaching similar situations. Professionally, they brought me the peace of mind that allowed me to go into a deeper level of detail that is difficult to achieve under normal conditions when there are many meetings, events, and trips to do.

What impact do you think kindness has today as we stand on the brink of a new economic, military, financial and spiritual crisis? How does kindness change things? Is kindness good in business?

Kindness is another fundamental quality. I believe that people are good and bad based on the suffering they cause others. I strongly believe in win-win solutions, especially since they come against a background of crisis. The advantage of crises is that the rules are rewritten, entire systems are repositioned and opportunities appear where we thought there was no hope. We just have to be aware of our opposition/resistance to change, knowing that change is selfish, and wants you all, and somehow be aware that you have to give up on the old stuff to make space for the new. In business, when we position ourselves like this, we are in a quantitative area, and the results tend to be judged win-lose, although most of the time it is not quite like that.

How do you keep your calm, elegance, resilience, and kindness under stressful situations?

I want to believe that I manage to keep it, although I’m perfectly aware that sometimes I don’t succeed, it’s a permanent exercise of patience, resilience, and refinement of knowledge so that you see different situations from several perspectives. I try to be ready to accept any possible outcome, even the ones with a low probability of happening.

What is the secret of building strong, long-term partnerships and alliances in such disruptive times?

Relating on qualitative principles, flexibility and openness, shared principles and values, understanding that change is hard and we cannot ask others to change just for our own sake; we need persuasive arguments and the acceptance of any possible answer.

Global trends in female leadership

What are the challenges in Romanian and international female entrepreneurship and management; global trends in female leadership as you have noticed in the European Women’s Association ecosystem?

Women began to step out of their comfort zone and assume leadership roles, becoming entrepreneurs and managers in increasingly complex structures. I am happy to notice the solidarity they show. Discussions have gone beyond parenting and home care and have expanded into all areas. Women quickly understood the mechanisms that rule different structures, systems, and ecosystems. I just hope that this will not affect the family, the core of society and the main source of stability, so men must also make an effort to create and maintain a balance.

How do we identify and support female leadership talent? What are the indicators?

You have talent only as potential, first of all, you have to discover it, then refine it permanently. I don’t know if there is any set of indicators for identifying and supporting female leadership talent, but if someone wants to know and learn more and you see the spark of passion in their eyes, it’s worth giving a chance.

How do women in decision-making positions manage to reshape the community and organizations they belong to?

Daily, each of us is in a decision-making position, but if we are referring to decisions that impact large groups of people or communities, it is good to know that communities gather around common ideas to which they join by faith; in this case, ideas that reach a critical mass of followers drive change.

What would you do differently from what you have done so far?

Everything I’ve done so far has been believing that it was the best I could do at the time. I made decisions within the ever-changing context in mind and using the tools and knowledge I had at the time. The important thing is that I took responsibility to decide and learn from every lesson I received.

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