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7 Questions with Rodrigo de Alvarenga
helps you in your leadership.
7 Questions with Rodrigo de Alvarenga
Name: Rodrigo de Alvarenga
Current title: Board Member | CEO
Current organisation: Dacar | HAG Ventures
Passionate about complex problem-solving, community building, uncovering people's potential and mentoring entrepreneurs, Rodrigo de Alvarenga has been mentoring in global entrepreneurship programs like North Forge, EIA, AIA, GSA, Copernicus Accelerator, FI, among others. He is contributing as a jury at the MIT Innovators under 35 Award EU&LATAM editions. ESIC Business & Marketing School awarded him the 10th Brazilian edition of the Aster Prize. He teaches entrepreneurship, digital transformation, venture building & impact measurement. As a venture builder, he revamped his company, invested in +25 startups from the USA, EU, LATAM & MENA. As a Board Member, he works with corporates in business & digital transformation and corporate venture.
1. What have you found most challenging as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise?
The most interesting challenge I have been facing in different roles over the last +15 years could be split into 2 major efforts:
1) How to deal with and prepare employees & team members to embrace change as a constant;
2) How to build up new strengths and dynamic capabilities that can support business & digital transformation from the old business paradigm of profits into impact & value creation to humans.
2. How did you become a CEO or executive of a large enterprise? Can you please briefly tell the story?
I became a CEO almost three and a half years after founding my own company. On the other hand, my first role as a board member of a large corporate happened in 2018. Back there, minor shareholders of a large publicly-traded company were looking for an independent board member who could bring in a combination of skills & competencies regarding business & digital transformation, as well as innovation and technology. The company was suffering from performance issues and had diluted control on the stock exchange. It was quite a challenge!
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
In general, I wake up around 7am, start working at 8:30am and, depending on the day, finish up around 9-9:30pm. Most of my days include meetings & calls, combined with hours of reading, writing and producing content as well as working on customers' demands. Besides this, on Saturdays I have a light work routine that covers my PhD as well.
4. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?
That sometimes, the best you can do to keep supporting the development of your best team's members is to let them leave so they can be tested outside of your protection to get stronger and lead others.
5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?
The Bible. It has shown me that leadership is about serving others and making room for them to shine. It is never about the leader but about supporting others to grow in the pursuit of value creation and delivery. It is amazing how deeply the biblical lessons go into discussing how a leader is forged, stressing that readiness is not about having the right diplomas but about being decisive in choosing the leap of faith to do the right thing no matter what. It is about character and ethics, something we've lacked in Today's society and, last but not least, it is about people! We are wrong if we focus on technology, efficiency and anything else as they were the end goal. In fact, the end goal is to care about our fellow men & women, be merciful, about second chances, forgiveness, and, most importantly, about being human and helping each other!
6. How do you build leadership capacity in a large enterprise?
Leadership is a muscle and, as such, must be worked out, which means it needs to be stimulated and practised. It can be based on one of 2 aspects, or both, as follows:
1) Respect; and/or
Anything different will imply the existence of either fear or disbelief, thus creating disengagement and distancing. Leaders must be in the field in order to be seen and shall not distance himself/herself from those who need to be influenced. The best way to do it is by being present, giving them your time and attention and, most importantly, applying the 3Ts approach, transparency, trust and tolerance.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise so far?
That was when I decided what sort of a leader I wanted to be. Many years ago, as a Regional Director of an international bank in Brazil, the HQ bought another large bank in Brazil and did both institutions' merger. By doing so, we basically had 2 of everything, and like any M&A transaction, there were expectations of cost reductions and efficiency increments. Thus, we were involved in deciding who should stay or leave and how the new bank would work, not good enough. I took a huge risk of finding another path, one in which we could accommodate everybody from both sides. After weeks of hard work, I was able to structure my division without laying off anybody. That was really tense and stressful, but nothing else made me feel more rewarded than this, and not even the pricing I paid for choosing the people was relevant enough in the light of saving jobs and families that were depending on such income. I learnt under fire that leadership is about who you are when you need to take ownership of the decision making; if everything goes wrong when the risks are high and failing means someone will suffer the consequences. When we face these kinds of decisions and decide that our teams are more important than ourselves and take risks and the blame to serve them, that is when you know what sort of a leader you are!