BBS Leadership Lectures | Mauricio Macri | Leading and Learning Leadership

15 March 2023

He is the former president of Argentina, two-time mayor of Buenos Aires, national deputy, president of Boca Juniors and twice listed among the 100 most influential people by TIME Magazine.

Mauricio Macri is a creative, multifaceted, charismatic character, and these qualities alone would have been enough to engage the BBS Community gathered at Villa Guastavillani for a new Leadership Lecture. But Macri is much more than that: he has an empathetic and brilliant personality who speaks of leadership as something that is learned and cultivated from one’s own desires and will to build the future.

It was perhaps his desires, particularly to become president of Boca Juniors, as well as his yearning for the future, that saved his life during the kidnapping that saw him chained in a basement for 14 days in 1991. “I discovered that life can be very fragile and things can change from one moment to the next,” he recounted, “and I discovered that I wanted to do something to improve society, to help my people, instead of continuing to work for the family business.” Once he was safe, thanks in part to the intervention of a kidnapper who promised he would not let them kill “the future president of Boca Juniors,” he realized his dream. “As president of Boca Juniors,” Macri shared, “I realized that the first challenge of a leader is to have a dream.” And no matter how close that dream may come to utopia: if the motivation is strong enough, people become strong enough, too. And here’s another valuable leadership lesson: you have to have the courage to change, to bring about innovation, even when it involves taking risks. Like demolishing the bleachers of the old stadium to rebuild them and pitching a partnership with Nike that would have convinced and engaged younger fans more.  

“To innovate you need resources, and when I found myself lacking them,” Macri explained, “I did two entirely new things to secure them: the first was to personally organize a private auction, receiving from the fans twice as many resources as I needed; the second was to launch globally the first investment fund on soccer.” It was an idea that shook up the Buenos Aires stock market and allowed the transformation of Boca Juniors to begin by offering fans the opportunity to invest in players through the fund. “I like to say that Boca Juniors was my degree in politics,” remarked Macri, who associated this experience with another leadership lesson: “communicating is as important as doing.” It is also crucial to make the institution you work for solid, financially, but also in terms of the ability to choose resources and include and involve all stakeholders. Even when this means giving up the easy way out, which for Macri would have been to go all in on Maradona as manager, a legend now at the end of his career and with so many personal problems, unable to give the team the continuity it needed, but still able to arouse the adoration of the crowds. “If you want to be a leader,” Macri said, “you will be faced with a tough decision to make: do what is comfortable or do what is right? I want to tell you this: if you do what is right, sooner or later it will also be the comfortable thing to do. If I had not stood up to Maradona, I am sure that Boca could never have been the first team in the world and could never have won 17 titles in 12 years.”

Choosing resources is a key part of a good leader’s job, and on this point Macri shared his vision, linked to skills, diversity and talent, but also to a factor that is as unexpected as it is essential: kindness. “It’s better to be on the lower side on the axis of skills, but maintain kindness,” he said, “of course, with a high level of skills, but always keeping in mind that to have good partnerships you need good colleagues, you need solidarity among the people who are part of the team, and you won’t be able to have that if you select people who have values that are distant from these.”  Building a team, however, is not just a matter of selection: a team has to be made stronger every day with relentless work of sharing and enhancing. On this theme, Macri provided a wealth of stories, anecdotes and experiences that captivated and engaged the audience and that ranged from the world of soccer, of which he is still a part as President of the FIFA Foundation, to that of politics. With a foundation that unites both worlds, which is made up of values: resilience, trust, justice. Values that must remain at the core of power management, both as the ability to withstand pressure and as a lifestyle choice. “When you have power, the tendency is to manipulate. And there is a very fine line between manipulating and lying,” he explained, “so follow the path of truth. Do not deceive those who believe in you. A leader has to be fair, that is, he or she has to know how to handle punishments and rewards in a fair way-it’s easy to say, but it’s actually very difficult to be fair because we are human beings.”

Macri’s lesson was one of life and humanity, even before leadership and politics. It was a lesson that managed to get personal – as when he told of his “antidotes to power,” which are psychoanalysis, family and friends – and then returned to the secrets of maintaining leadership and managing power, such as the desire to keep learning, the ability not to isolate oneself and to surround oneself with people who can say no, never forgetting from whom power comes and for what purposes it was given to us.


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