Eight Things I Learned About Leadership

When I became a boss at age 30 I was not a leader


It’s never too soon to become a leader.


Serena, 25 years old, worked as a waitress. A high school graduate with a major in science, she’d been waiting tables forever. At 13 in a café, at 17 in a restaurant and by 22 in a pub, with unsatisfied customers snapping their fingers at her, a boss whose only concern was money and indolent barmen.


A third thing about leadership I learned from the results of a study commissioned by Google, aimed at discovering the magic formula that made workgroups function.


A fourth thing about leadership I came to learn during these years of the “digital revolution.” Which essentially means: doing more things than before, at the same time, for the same salary, while maintaining high quality. A seemingly impossible equation.


My husband is 45 years old and is a manager in a large multinational. One Saturday morning he was feeling particularly down: the project he was working on, he said, was not proceeding as it should. He felt responsible for the difficulties and couldn’t manage to pull it all together.


A few days ago I went to hear one of the greatest living pianists. The technical perfection of his concerts goes without saying. The variable is how attuned he will be to his audience, how deeply he will be able to move them.

Admit your mistakes. Don’t hope that no one will notice them. Rather, explain why you made a mistake and correct yourself publicly. We live in a glass house. Honesty and transparency always triumph.

But this pianist did something more: he smiled at his mistake. He was indulgent towards himself. He publicly forgave himself. And that’s what makes a genuine leader.


As I mentioned above, when I became editor at age 30, “why me” wasn’t clear to me. As a result I took pains at first to fill the gap of experience and knowledge, so that my employers wouldn’t realize they’d made a mistake by giving me the job.

  • Not everything worked. But even the least effective choices taught me something.
  • I have learned not to get too attached to my ideas, not to dig in my heels about following them when they were a mistake.
  • And nobody, I mean nobody, has ever criticized me for my mistakes.


The final thing I learned is that a true leader surrounds himself with leaders. Better yet, he helps his team members become leaders. How?



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Annalisa Monfreda

Co-founder di Diagonal. Qui parlo di giornalismo, leadership e innovazione