7 CEOs showed us how fatherhood can trigger new leadership models

Mar 26, 2020 | Events & Meetings

We brought 7 key opinion leaders together: men, fathers and managers at large corporations. We invited them to talk in a live stream that lasted over an hour, talking directly from the comfort of their own homes. With great transparency and humility, they shared with us how fatherhood has influenced their concept of leadership. We discovered that their children, 19 collectively in total, proved to be the best training ground for soft skills that they had ever experienced. Here’s what they had to say


Video of the entire live streaming session, in Italian

Giuseppe Cerbone, CEO Il Sole 24 Ore

There’s an osmosis of values that happens between life and work

“The way that I work changed when I became a father. When you become a parent, you rediscover some of your values, such as social responsibility, or rather the sustainability towards new generations. The coronavirus pandemic has caused us to go through a sort of transition together. It’s made us understand that it’s important to carry these same values through to the company. We can create a long-term osmosis of material values, those typically found on end of year reports, making them into strategic elements for those same companies.

The corporate climate is key. You need to make sure your colleagues are happy and engaged, you need to find harmony with patience and conviction. Just like you do with children. We are all fathers and mothers, but we seem to forget that when we walk through the office doors. But if we started to act in the same way, with the same virtuous behaviours, the other colleagues would do the same”.

Riccardo Barberis, CEO Manpower

Roles accumulate and change every day, the thing that really matters is trust

“Fatherhood has taught me at least 3 important things.

The first: I have 3 children and they have taught me that at work, just like at home, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. You need to change your approach depending on the person and their age. The same goes for employees – we often use standard approaches for everyone within a business.

The second (that my wife suggested!): fatherhood does a CEO good because it keeps their ego at bay. It keeps their feet flat on the ground and keeps them rooted in everyday normality. For example, I’ve learned that with my children I’ve only got 5 seconds to get their attention before they go back to looking at their phone screen. Within the family context, roles accumulate and change on a daily basis as we all grow and evolve together.

Finally: the current situation has made me realise that we need to trust each other, children want to be reassured to know they are doing the right thing, just like employees do”.

Carlo Carollo, Vicepresident Samsung

Give direction, channel energy, celebrate success and failure

“I want to set something straight: children are forever, jobs come and go. Once I’d changed my first 1,000 nappies, I understood that work should no longer be an excuse for not spending more time on my new family role. So I decided to change my schedlue, recalibrating strengths and energies. For example, I stopped working the weekends, I learnt how to prioritise better. And this awareness was a great trigger for personal growth.

Another reflection that links parenthood and my professional life is the quest for leadership guidelines. In my team, this means: giving direction to create a unified purpose, knowing how to channel energy to be more efficient and celebrating success and failure. These three elements can also be seen in parenthood.

There are so many parallels. But there is one difference: the leader is by himself, the classic business model works with one lone leader. But in a family context there are two of you: this partnership is extremely profound and effective, and should really be translated into the business context”.

Marco Piuri, CEO Trenord

You can’t keep everything under control, but stimulating freedom brings you better results

“I’ve been a father for a long time, I had my first child when I was just 26 years old. Becoming a father much earlier than taking on my first managerial roles at work has had a strong impact on the way that I work. With my first daughter, we had a few issues that meant she was hospitalised, and after we had had her we struggled to have any more. This situation taught me that you can’t keep everything under control, not even at work. There will always be an element of the unexpected. They taught me that in life you have to work as though it all depended on you, but knowing that you don’t determine the outcome.

Fatherhood also calls to the topic of freedom, I call it “freedom management”. By that I mean stimulating freedom to bring about better results. That might be obvious with children, but it works in business too: as a CEO I think we’ll be remembered for the big things and ideas that we left within a company, not for the higher or lower margins”.

Armando Ponzini, CEO Cargeas

Optimism, faith in the future and a new culture of trial and error

“Becoming a father is a choice, and it’s not always an easy one. Becoming a father has opened me up to experiences that have changed my way of being. I’m a manager with a technical background with little human elements, so launching into life with an emotionally-charged child had a great impact on me. For example, he’s brought me optimism and faith in the future – that you need a lot of when there’s uncertainty in business.

When children come along, they throw their emotions straight at you. They are innocent and this changes everything: they give you straight-talking feedback, which doesn’t work with them or with your colleagues, but I can see the same look in their eyes. So if I make a mistake, I say sorry more than I used to.

Constantly raising the bar doesn’t work either. When you teach your child to dive into the pool, it’s almost automatic to want to correct them to perfect their moves. But this will probably make him lose his enthusiasm. It’s the same within a company, we all need achievable and realistic targets, but also a culture where it’s ok to make mistakes”.

Emiliano Rantucci, CEO Avanade

The best training ground for emotional intelligence

“There is so much overlap between being a parent and a leader. I continue to learn each day from these two roles: I’ve learnt to make the best of my time, which is often little for my family, or keeping a better distance from problems and developing empathy, putting yourself in somebody else’s shoes. There isn’t a better training ground than fatherhood to hone emotional intelligence!

Over the past few years I’ve also developed the ability to think laterally: so avoiding just looking at cause and effect, but focusing on the solution rather than the problem, just like my son does when he’s doing his homework.

Finally, there’s the idea of continuous learning , that works in both your personal and professional lives”.

Matteo Sarzana, General Manager Deliveroo

You can learn negotiation from a 5 year old

“I became a father after I became a General Manager, but I’ve learnt so much from it. First of all, I’ve learnt that the best negotiator in the world is my 5 year old son: he will continue to ask for something and wear you down until he gets what he wants. He taught me that you often need to move from ordering to negotiating.

I’ve learnt to say ‘yes’ a lot more than I say ‘no’. Even when I’m tired and I don’t want to play that game for the millionth time, I realise that it’s a moment that I’m never getting back.

I’ve learnt that I need to move from setting rules to setting an example, which is the thing that makes us most credible at home and at work. Last but not least, delegation. If we keep doing things for our children instead of teaching them, just like with our employees, they will never learn how to do those things for themselves”.

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