Pašović presented his musings on the relationship between art, ethics and leadership at the 28th CEEMAN Annual Conference – the first one to be held virtually due to the Covid-19 pandemic – but his findings remain relevant as ever. In a moving personal account, Pašović shared his memories of the Sarajevo siege from 1992 to 1995 during which members of society, artists included, tried their very best to keep going in spite of the death and suffering:
“People continued their lives despite the danger. They did that despite the fact that dozens of people were killed or injured every day … During the Second World War, artists continued to create art in the Warsaw ghetto and the same happened during the siege of Leningrad. They played the piano and staged plays. Artists continued to perform also during the Spanish civil war … The reason is that the people needed it very badly. They needed to do something so as to stay sane.”
During the siege, Pašović himself went so far as to organize a theater and film festival in Sarajevo that was attended by more than 20,000 people:
“Why did we organise a theatre and film festival in those circumstances? … People risked their lives to come and see our movies … The reason is that the people needed it very badly. They needed to do something so as to stay sane. And they had to remain human. Therefore, we wanted to give them food for thought. That is what they want from us, too: something different than the never-ending war.”
He concludes that art is a basic human need, and that it can help leaders reflect on their own roles in society.
The business model of management education is being "challenged", but thanks to Haris Pašović and other great minds in business education and society, we can close the conceptual and practical gaps. We invite you all to be a part of this salient experience and knowledge creation at the 30th CEEMAN Annual Conference
in Bled on 21-23 September 2022!
You can read Pašović’s entire reflection with interventions from Vanina Faber below.
What Can We Learn from the Arts?
"I wish everybody a great day. I would like to thank Professor Danica Purg and her team for organizing this conference and enabling us to come together despite the dramatic circumstances. I must however say that, after all, they are not so dramatic. Yes, it is hard to travel and meet in person. The fact that we are now doing this conference online confirms this. But we are privileged to have other opportunities in this situation. What I mean is that there are much worse situations that some people are experiencing, such as war and other serious misfortunes.
I would like to share with you some ideas, concepts, and practices that people from various arts generate and are involved in, so as to inspire your thoughts about might and leadership in these difficult times.
I am a film and theatre director. I am also a professor of directing and a professor of arts and leadership at IEDC-Bled School of Management. Today, I will talk about the arts as a source of inspiration and motivation for leaders. At our school, we believe that arts and ethics are the basic components of leaders' success.
Recently, I directed a performing arts festival in Italy, in a town called Cividale del Friuli, situated between Udine and Trieste. It is an ancient town and a UNESCO world heritage site. The festival participants came mainly from Central Europe but in previous editions they came from all over Europe as well as from countries on other continents, such as South Africa. At the latest festival we had a great scientist from Italy, Professor Giacomo Rizzolatti. He is one of the leading brain scientists in the world. He and his team made one of the most important discoveries concerning the human brain: the so-called mirror neurons. They are responsible for our feelings of empathy, our learning, and our acquisition of culture. Prof. Rizzolatti came to Cividale and we talked with him in the theater. He said that tools like Zoom are certainly useful in the current situation but they cannot be a good substitute for live face-to-face communication because they transmit only 20 percent of the information. The remaining 80 percent, including a large percentage of our feelings, is lost in the process.
We used digital devices for communication even before COVID-19. And now, they are becoming our first reality. Therefore, we have to be aware of their downsides. The performing arts remind us about this. There are various arts that can be consumed in different ways but what I have in mind is live performing arts. There is no good substitute for meeting living people. But what happens when we cannot meet?
There was a period in my life that was much worse than a COVID-19 lock-down. That was the Yugoslav war and the siege of Sarajevo from 1992 to 1995. A big European city was besieged from all sides and the inhabitants of the city were kept without food, water, electrical power, and transportation. There were no telephone connections. During that time, the city was bombarded by the Serbian forces that had surrounded it. More precisely, those were the forces of General Ratko Mladic, who is now on trial for war crimes at The Hague Tribunal, and Radovan Karadzic, who is already serving a sentence.
The siege lasted four years. How did people react to it? It is not possible to hide for four years. You have to do something. People continued their lives despite the danger. They did that despite the fact that dozens of people were killed or injured every day. Altogether over 11,541 people were killed. I was there, directing a theatre and film festival. Why did we organise a theatre and film festival in those circumstances? The doctors were doing their job. So were the bakers, although there was hardly any flour. They tried to come up with substitutes. Teachers taught classes in basements and bomb shelters. As for artists, they spontaneously started producing arts. That was not the first time in human history. During the Second World War, artists continued to create art in the Warsaw ghetto and the same happened during the siege of Leningrad. They played the piano and staged plays. Artists continued to perform also during the Spanish civil war. It is important that artists do that but it is even more important that the audience wants it.
One of the ideas that I had during our war was to organise a film festival. This seems almost impossible. There were no movies. There was no electrical power. How do you make a festival in a city when you do not have any means to do it, and the city is under constant bombardment? But another, even more important question is why you would do it. The reason is that the people needed it very badly. They needed to do something so as to stay sane. And they had to remain human. Therefore, we wanted to give them food for thought. That is what they want from us, too: something different than the never-ending war.
I managed to obtain some electrical generators. I also got fuel for them. I had some friends in humanitarian organisations who could leave the city and return, usually in UN airplanes. They helped me get in touch with some colleagues and friends in Europe. I asked them to send us some movies in VHS format. My idea was to get some tapes and show them at the Sarajevo Film Festival. We ended up with 140 movies that we showed at three movie theatres. I would have been happy with 10 films showed in an office and 30 spectators a day. That would have been a success. Instead, we had more than 20,000 spectators during the whole festival. People risked their lives to come and see our movies.
From that example, and from other examples involving theatre, concerts, and exhibition, we realised that art is a basic human need. If a person is willing to walk 10 kilometres to attend a theater show, you have the proof. People risked their lives to be able to consume art.
In her introduction, Danica stressed the importance of ethics for leaders. As I teach the Arts and Leadership module at IEDC-Bled School of Management, I underline another important component: aesthetics. Ethics and aesthetics are building blocks of a leader's path. I teach people in the prime of their lives. They are in their thirties or forties. They are young and experienced at the same time. They are ambitious and have a very positive drive. I try to help them connect to the arts as some sort of self-reflection. The idea is for them to realise that art does not exist just for entertainment. It can help leaders reflect on their own roles in society. It can also help them see what they have in their own minds. It shows them how they can develop their emotions, souls, and spirits.
We talk a lot about stakeholder capitalism these days. The idea is that companies do not exist just to make money. They need to deal with the problems of society. However, can art also help us communicate better? How can we express our ideas and purposes better through the arts?
Art is a very rich concept. It includes lighting and object positioning on a stage, as well as profound metaphysical issues. In a conversation like this one, it is good to start from simple issues. We all use tools like Zoom to communicate with large numbers of people. But we do not pay attention to small things, like the need to clean our camera. That is important because if you do not do it everything will be blurred and you do not appear clearly to those who are watching you. Also, you should try to position your lights in such a way that they enhance your presence. You should not be too far in the background. Do not come too close and do not be too far away from the camera. These are basic elements and although they are not art, art can be built from them.
Even more important, art keeps us humane. We cannot remind ourselves often enough that we are just simple people communicating with other simple people. Each person is a novel, a film, and a story. What we see on the screen is just one small bit of the whole universe that a person consists of.
I see things from a financial perspective and that may be quite different. But I see that human issues are becoming increasingly important. Getting in touch with humaneness helps us perform better. One of our participants is asking why we discuss arts and ethics so little at business schools. What is your opinion?
I must say that at IEDC-Bled School of Management we have been developing this for a very long time. Danica Purg has always had a very sensible approach to this issue. She pioneered the idea of the arts and leadership module. She considers this discussion fundamental. I do not know all business schools well but I have the feeling that sometimes they rely too much on routine for their curricula. We should stop for a moment and ask ourselves what we are doing about our souls and about metaphysics. What are we doing about ethics? These things are a normal part of everybody's life and especially of the life of a leader or manager. If we did think about these issues, I think that most schools would naturally understand that arts and ethics should be part of their curricula and play a significant role, just like at the IEDC-Bled School of Management. Although we devote a lot of time to these topics, our students always ask for more. Every year we see such requests in the evaluation forms that we collect from them. People say that this module should last longer.
It is interesting to think why we have created schools and programs that are disconnected from the arts and humanities in our lives. We now realize that we need to break down the walls that exist between many fields. We need to do that not only in our virtual communication but also in our curricula.
Thank you very much for this inspiring session."