The Difference Between a Leader and a Manager

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What is the difference between a leader and a manager? Neomobile’s International Executive Director, Luigi Mastromonaco, explains it all.

At Neomobile, our people count, and we strongly believe in their continuous learning and improvement. It’s no coincidence that it’s one of our seven core values: we constantly provide training sessions and courses to foster our employees’ capabilities and competencies, because it takes every single employee to win. Yes, continuous learning is important, even at a top level in a company!

This week we are face to face with our International Business Executive Director, Luigi Mastromonaco, who told us about his experience at Neomobile and gave us some insights about leadership.

Click to read this interview in Italian.

When did your experience at Neomobile begin?

I started at Neomobile’s HQ in Rome over 7 years ago as a Country Spain Project Manager. After that, I started following other countries. Among them was Mexico, which turned out to be a great business opportunity inherited from the acquisition of Arena Mobile (mobile content and service provider – editor’s note), along with its legal entity and its office already set. Together with the Intelligence team, we studied the market and then we entered it because we sensed a good opportunity. The country appeared profitable. At that point, we realized that we needed more effort, so in 2010 Neomobile’s CEO and COO (respectively Gianluca D’Agostino and Claudio Rossi, editor’s note) asked me to move to Mexico as a Country Manager to follow the activities from there, and obviously I accepted immediately.

In detail, we negotiated with the biggest Mexican Mobile Network Operators and we became among the first companies to dominate the local market. We didn’t stop there. After that, we targeted the most important countries in the area such as Colombia, Ecuador and Peru and entered them too.

We invested a lot and succeeded, and by then we had developed our business throughout LatAm. Given this, we created a region called “Hispanic LatAm,” that I became responsible for. After that, Brazil was integrated in the region, consequently called “LatAm” and now, after some recent changes, I became Executive Director of International Business and I’m in charge of closely following also the European markets, trying to develop as much synergy as possible between the countries, and between local offices and our headquarters in Rome.

As a director of a growing and international company, what’s the biggest challenge?

The biggest challenge is moving out of your comfort zone as  frequently as possible, as well as challenging your personal lifestyle and mindset in order to know yourself better and avoid remaining the same forever. This is what makes work (or rather, life) really worth living for.

…and your greatest success?

All the LatAm Countries, from Mexico, which at that time was just a small room with only 3 people that is now an office composed of over 20 fantastic colleagues, to Colombia and the Andean Markets which were totally built from scratch, and Brazil of course, gradually evolved into one of the most important countries for the company and definitely a special source of pride for myself.

What motivates you?

Think that you can always do better. In particular, think that you can really do it thanks to your team. This really boosts my motivation.

What are the main characteristics of a good executive director?

It’s easy. It means knowing your work and your team extremely well. This is the only way to make things efficient.

I believe that the majority of leaders fail because they think they can work by only managing puppets. In today’s industries, especially in the tech world, this is very utopic. It takes a strong control over activities and processes.

But it’s even more important to understand people, so you can drive them in the condition to exploit what they are best at 100% and succeed.

In your opinion, what role does the value ‘continuous learning & improvement’ play in a managerial profile?

For me, managers who don’t improve by learning every day undermine and destroy the value of the organization which they work for. This is how work becomes uninteresting and makes you gradually lose motivation. It also has a tremendous negative effect on the people you manage.

Either you expect to continuously grow and improve, or you fall asleep becoming inefficient. I think I never failed in this sense (I’m very modest! Lol): if I notice I’m less stressed than usual, I alarm myself (so silly, right?). On the contrary, there are other people who tend to relax (lucky them!). You have to ask yourself how to continuously improve in order to make a difference. You need a constant benchmark, a comparison, a constant lookout, a repeating series of objectives. It’s the same for a team: where people often fail because they do not have a mentor and no leader to guide them. As a manager, if you don’t give feedback and provide a sort of guidance, your organization will fail.

If things go well, you have to make them get better. That’s what keeps me alive. In my opinion, if a manager doesn’t act this way, he’d better find another company to work for (or maybe another job!).

Finally, in your opinion: what’s the difference between a director and a leader?

Managers manage their resources efficiently, they are emotionally strong, and are able to work well in a systematic and operational way. A leader has something more, they work on themselves, and are constantly challenging themselves (despite the fact that it may go unnoticed), which leads to building a strong emotional intelligence. With this approach, they pave the way to the future, because they know how to think in an alternative way and how to change the rules of the context in order to be number one. There is no need to study “rules” to be a good leader; it’s all about studying oneself: good leaders first lead themselves, and then others.”

And last but not least: a leader tends to be naturally followed by others, there is something magical about this that can’t be explained. On one side, this is brilliant, on the other it’s very risky since leaders tend to be followed even when they are completely wrong about canadian casinos.