The New Portrait Of Leadership: Rodolfo Parlati On Strategies to Shape Yourself Into A Modern Masterpiece
An Interview with Karen Mangia
Inspiration. When leaders manage to convey their passion to their collaborators, the first effect is to be able to involve others more. Enthusiasm and energy are very contagious factors. For example, whenever you change roles throughout your career and find yourself having to adapt to different situations, staying true to yourself requires constant work. Therefore, doing what you love allows you to recharge your energy baggage and always have it available for yourself and your collaborators.
We are living in the Renaissance of Work. Just like great artists know that an empty canvas can become anything, great leaders know that an entire organization — and the people inside it — can become anything, too. Master Artists and Mastering the Art of Leadership draw from the same source: creation. In this series, we’ll meet masters who are creating the future of work and painting a portrait of lasting leadership. As part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Rodolfo Parlati.
Rodolfo Parlati is a Professional Life & Executive Coach, and a member of the A.Co.I. (Italian Coaching Association) and Leadership Trainer. Always inspired by the desire to impact people positively, his mission is to help individuals and professionals be happy and successful by discovering their inner potential. As a Leadership Trainer, he loves sharing his knowledge and experience, particularly with young managers and leaders who may struggle with their leadership approach and experience. Rodolfo also collaborates with business and lifestyle magazines by periodically writing or reviewing articles. He was featured on the CREA Global Awards List 2021 and his contribution was also recognised and rewarded by some international associations.
Thank you for joining us. Our readers would enjoy discovering something interesting about you. What are you in the middle of right now that you’re excited about personally or professionally?
It is my pleasure. Good question! It is said that “every end is only a brand new beginning” and considering that we have just entered the New Year, I love approaching new challenges and committing to new projects. At this moment, I am working on some new leadership courses and webinars to promote to my audience. I love interacting with people, and understanding their needs and what they are struggling with the most in their activities. Improving my relationships and increasing my network also excites me a lot because listening to others with an open mind, perceiving their emotions and welcoming them helps you understand many things about others but also about yourself. So, I can surely consider this on my list of favourite activities!
We all get by with a little help from our friends. Who is the leader that has influenced you the most, and how?
I can say to have had several examples of good leadership in my experience but the one I relate to that influenced me the most was surely my uncle Carmine. He was a manager for an important company in my country and, during our long chats, he used to tell me about his experiences as a leader and how he faced some difficult situations and was able to effectively lead his team of collaborators. By actively listening to them, avoiding any form of judgement, and being empathetic he became over time a referring point for all the team members, always ready to support and guide everyone. My uncle’s experience “on the field” was a big source of inspiration for me. In the last few years, he also became my mentor. Many things I learnt from him about leadership and life. You can imagine how I felt when he suddenly passed away less than two years ago. He still lives in the baggage of lessons and experiences he shared. I will bring them with me for the rest of my life. He was a great example of effective leadership.
Sometimes our biggest mistakes lead to our biggest discoveries. What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made as a leader, and what did you discover as a result?
It’s true! I led a team of health operators for some years and I still remember that time when a problem arose with one of them who couldn’t work one day because of a sudden impediment. I was confident to solve the situation by myself but struggled to find a substitute among the team members at once. My mistake was to inform my manager late. Luckily, together we found a solution and managed to avoid more serious damage. This experience taught me that pride can guide you nowhere and that there’s nothing wrong to ask for help. Autonomy is good, but it’s important to keep your manager informed of your team’s issues. This is to help you build a solid relationship based on transparency and trust that can be used as leverage when needed.
How has your definition of leadership changed or evolved over time? What does it mean to be a leader now?
Leaders are human beings just like anyone else and are part of a society that evolves very fastly. They cannot ignore this and need to embrace change and perceive it not only by focusing on the threats but mostly the opportunities. Today, leaders are no longer analytical people focused on data or their role but become an active part of an interconnected system in which elements such as trust, diversity and dialogue are essential and creativity, thanks to an approach based on lateral thinking, is the key to finding new solutions to ancient problems.
Success is as often as much about what we stop as what we start. What is one legacy leadership behavior you stopped because you discovered it was no longer valuable or relevant?
In my experience, it was to pretend to do everything by myself and avoid delegating. This is a very common behaviour among many leaders. This attitude doesn’t work mostly in the long run. To change it, you need to accept you cannot do everything and trust others to do some tasks. Through collaborations, you can limit your stress but also learn many things and different perspectives from others’ knowledge and experience.
What is one lasting leadership behavior you started or are cultivating because you believe it is valuable or relevant?
One of the things that my experience as a Coach has taught me is the importance of soft skills, and this is exactly what I’m focusing on in particular. I think they are fundamental skills, nowadays. Emotional intelligence, creativity, resilience, adaptability and time management, to name a few, enable leaders to systematically understand their own and their collaborators’ needs, desires and fears. It is necessary to invest in soft skills also because remote working, which has become a reality, contributes to making everyone lose a piece of quality and depth in human relationships which, today, knowing how to cultivate is of fundamental importance.
What advice would you offer to other leaders who are stuck in past playbooks and patterns and may be having a hard time letting go of what made them successful in the past?
The recent pandemic and global energy crisis have taught us that nothing is certain and the “old ways” may not work as well as they were in the past. The most important thing is to have an open mindset and become resilient. Opportunities can hide even in the hardest situations. What counts is to have the right “eyes” to see and seize them! Remember to always feed your curiosity and be an avid learner. This will help you forge new perspectives and different ways to act.
Many of our readers can relate to the challenge of leading people for the first time. What advice would you offer to new and emerging leaders?
My suggestion is this: do not let any form of judgement limit and prevent you from taking action! You will probably make some mistakes at the beginning and this is normal. When leading people for the first time is essential to focus on the quality of the relationship between the leader and the team members. Elements like active listening, empathy and an open mindset are key factors on which to build a solid basis for a valuable and long-lasting relationship.
Based on your experience or research, what are the top five traits effective leaders exemplify now?
There are several, but if I need to extrapolate only the top ones, I would choose:
1. Inspiration. When leaders manage to convey their passion to their collaborators, the first effect is to be able to involve others more. Enthusiasm and energy are very contagious factors. For example, whenever you change roles throughout your career and find yourself having to adapt to different situations, staying true to yourself requires constant work. Therefore, doing what you love allows you to recharge your energy baggage and always have it available for yourself and your collaborators.
2. Emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence includes self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills. These elements are rare to find in many people with managerial and administrative qualifications who are often arrogant, self-centred, poorly communicative and have difficulty controlling their emotions. Therefore, learning to recognize your emotions and those of others allows you to interact more productively, obtaining concrete effects on the way you manage your daily life. A more serene work environment, better collaboration between people and more effective enhancement of individual skills inevitably means producing better and more.
3. Inclusion. Effective leaders have the well-being and development of others as top priorities. Research has shown that companies and management teams with diversity perform better. Inclusive companies are more innovative and creative. Teams with diversity have broader and more varied knowledge and experience, so an issue or challenge is approached from many different viewpoints. This is a great wealth and opportunity that a leader must know how to seize and manage with a view to constant promotion, development and open and constructive dialogue.
4. Active listening. This is a critical tool for today’s leaders. It helps to increase the quality of communication, the physiological safety of others and the ability to work together, helping team members to feel understood and accepted. Through the use of silence, paraphrasing, summarizing and avoiding interrupting the other, for example, you can improve your active listening skills. This will allow you to effectively lead, direct, support and empower others, dramatically contributing to the improvement of your leadership.
5. Lateral thinking. This is the ability to think creatively and come up with out-of-the-ordinary solutions. Leaders who can think laterally demonstrate exceptional creativity and problem-solving skills. It is of fundamental importance, for example, when one wants to question existing systems to improve them and to design new ways, to generate new ideas or, again, to face difficult situations from a different point of view. Lateral thinking also helps leaders to take a more constructive attitude towards the opinions of others, stimulating everyone to think and express their ideas freely.
American Basketball Coach John Wooden said, “Make each day your masterpiece.” How do you embody that quote? We welcome a story or example.
I love quotes! I often use them for my online content, and this is one of my favourites! To me, it means to fully live in the present and focus on things you’re doing right now. This doesn’t mean not having goals or plans but rather setting small tasks to do every day and focusing on your performance goal, not the final one. Every day is a brand new occasion to improve, grow and discover something different about yourself and what surrounds you. Only you have the brush and the canvas to create your masterpiece. Never give up on this opportunity!
What is the legacy you aspire to leave as a leader?
I strongly believe that everyone has the chance to leave a positive imprint in life with the actions, attitudes and words we spread over time. I aim to give a positive impact on others as a coach and leader by helping people discover their inner potential and become creators of the positive change they want to see in the world.
How can our readers connect with you to continue the conversation?
They can find me on my website (rodolfoparlati.com), where they can learn more about my activities and read my blog and articles. Furthermore, I’m active on LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram, posting, commenting, and sharing. I would be glad to connect with them there as well.
Thank you for giving us the opportunity to experience a leadership master at work. We wish you continued success and good health!
About The Interviewer: Karen Mangia is one of the most sought-after keynote speakers in the world, sharing her thought leadership with over 10,000 organizations during the course of her career. As Vice President of Customer and Market Insights at Salesforce, she helps individuals and organizations define, design and deliver the future. Discover her proven strategies to access your own success in her fourth book Success from Anywhere and by connecting with her on LinkedIn and Twitter.
The New Portrait Of Leadership: Rodolfo Parlati On Strategies to Shape Yourself Into A Modern… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.