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7 Questions on Leadership with Chiarella Bencan

Name: Chiarella Bencan

Title: Chief Digital Officer (CDO)

Organisation: WOBI

Chiarella has developed her career as being a link between the business and IT, both in the client and vendor position. She have worked in designing, developing, implementing and also selling technology projects for a variety industries including retail, finance, mining, distribution, e-commerce, pharmacy, telecommunications, healthcare, manufacturing, construction, services, among others. She managed the Sales and Presales team in Oracle and formerly led the IT and Digital Transformation divisions as a CIO at SIDERPERU. Currently, she is leading the Digital Products Portfolio Business Unit at WOBI as CDO, where she is responsible for sales, marketing, product development, operations, and deployment. She has also gained experience in other companies such as Alicorp, LogFire and Avon.


CAMBRIDGE JUDGE BUSINESS SCHOOL - UNIVERSITY OF CAMBRIDGE: Business Analytics: Decision making from data

HAAS SCHOOL OF BUSINESS, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA BERKELEY: Digital Transformation: Leading People, Technology and Data

UNIVERSIDAD DE LIMA: Licensed Industrial Engineering (top percentile)

Thank you to the 2,000 leaders who’ve generously done the 7 Questions on Leadership!

I hope Chiarella's answers will encourage you in your leadership journey. Enjoy!


Jonno White

1. What have you found most challenging as a leader?

Responding to the question about the challenges faced as a leader, there are two key aspects that stand out:

1. Balancing Care with Autonomy for My Team: One of the most nuanced challenges has been to strike the right balance between being caring and protective of my team, while also ensuring not to be overprotective. It's vital to create a supportive environment where team members feel valued and safe. This involves actively listening to their concerns, being empathetic to their needs, and providing them with the necessary resources and guidance to succeed. However, there's a fine line between support and micromanagement. Being overprotective can inadvertently stifle their growth and innovation. The goal is to trust in their abilities, allowing them the space to take risks, make mistakes, and learn from them. This not only fosters their professional development but also builds a more resilient and self-sufficient team.

2. Recognizing and Celebrating Achievements: Another challenge has been consistently taking the time to stop and reflect on our accomplishments. In the fast-paced, goal-oriented world of leadership, there's often a relentless focus on the next objective, the next challenge. This can sometimes lead to a lack of acknowledgement for the hard work and successes achieved along the way. It's important to frequently pause, look back, and feel proud of what we, as a team, have accomplished. Celebrating these milestones is crucial for maintaining team morale and motivation. It serves as a reminder of the team's capabilities and achievements, reinforcing a sense of shared purpose and accomplishment. This practice not only boosts team spirit but also provides valuable moments of learning and reflection, enabling us to appreciate our journey and understand how far we've come.

2. How did you become a leader? Can you please briefly tell the story?

My journey to leadership began in a role that may seem unassuming at first glance — as a consultant implementing logistics software for large enterprises. It was a role that demanded both a service-oriented mindset and the ability to guide teams toward a unified aim: the successful execution of a project. This dual focus on service and team coordination laid the groundwork for my ascent into leadership.

The real turning point came when LogFire, the company I worked for, was acquired by Oracle. Suddenly, I found myself a small part in an enormous organization of 140,000 employees. It would have been easy to feel lost in such a vast sea of talent, to assume that opportunities for leadership would be few and far between. However, just 7 to 8 months later, I was presented with an unexpected opportunity: to lead the presales team.

I embraced this honor with enthusiasm, aware of the responsibilities and challenges it entailed. This role was a catalyst, marking the beginning of a series of leadership positions. Over time, I have had the privilege of leading teams of various sizes and scopes — from local to global. Each team, regardless of size, has offered unique experiences and the chance to make a meaningful impact. The path has been rewarding, filled with learning and growth, and it's a testament to the idea that opportunities for leadership can arise in unexpected places and at unexpected times.

3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?

My days are structured around a morning ritual that begins while the city is still cloaked in the silence of the early hours. This peaceful time before dawn is when I start my day with a practice that is as consistent as it is sacred to me.

Upon waking, the first thing I do is meditate. This helps me center my thoughts and set a calm, purposeful tone for the day. Following my meditation, I dedicate 10 minutes to learning Italian, which not only sharpens my mind but also indulges my passion for language and culture.

Physical activity is next on my agenda, with a 20-30 minute session of either Pilates or a brisk run. This burst of exercise invigorates my body and truly wakes me up. After my workout, I allow myself the singular pleasure of a coffee, which I enjoy while catching up on the latest happenings through news podcasts.

As I prepare for the day ahead, I immerse myself in a variety of podcasts and audiobooks. The topics span personal growth, psychology, business, philosophy, and innovation. This eclectic mix not only enriches my knowledge but also sparks ideas and inspiration for the day ahead.

My workweek is a blend of in-office and remote work. I spend three days at the office, which are typically more collaborative and meeting-driven. The remaining two days are reserved for deep concentration tasks. On these days, I minimize meetings to focus on projects that require my undivided attention.

Adhering to an early bedtime is crucial for me; it ensures that I can maintain this routine with consistency, aiming to follow it 4-5 days a week. This disciplined approach to my day supports a balance of productivity, personal development, and well-being.

4. What's a recent leadership lesson you've learned for the first time or been reminded of?

A recent leadership lesson that has resonated with me anew is the importance of bravery, particularly in the context of knowing when and how to ask for help. Leadership often conjures images of unwavering self-reliance, but true courage is found in the humility to acknowledge that we don't have all the answers. It's about recognizing that collective wisdom can illuminate paths that might otherwise remain obscured.

This reminder came at a crucial juncture, reinforcing that reaching out for assistance isn't a sign of weakness, but rather a strategic move towards strength. It has taught me to be proactive in seeking diverse perspectives and expertise, which not only enriches decision-making but also fosters a culture of collaboration and mutual support. It's a lesson in the power of vulnerability that underpins authentic leadership.

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?

Two books have notably shaped my perspective on leadership: Daniel Goleman's "Emotional Intelligence" and Brené Brown's "The Power of Vulnerability." Goleman's exploration of emotional intelligence introduced me to the five key elements that are essential for effective leadership: self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills. This book was a catalyst for a deeper understanding of how these elements affect interactions and leadership styles. It encouraged me to cultivate these within myself, leading to more meaningful connections with my team and a richer, more communicative workplace culture.

Brené Brown's work complemented this by delving into the transformative power of vulnerability in leadership. It challenged the traditional notion of leadership toughness and invincibility. Embracing vulnerability as a strength allowed me to create a more authentic and trusting team environment. It encouraged open dialogue, risk-taking, and the acceptance of imperfections, which in turn fostered innovation and creativity.

Both books together helped me realize that the heart of impactful leadership is rooted in our humanity—our ability to connect with others on an emotional level and to lead not just with authority, but with empathy, understanding, and authenticity. This dual influence has been instrumental in developing a leadership style that is both emotionally intelligent and courageously vulnerable.

6. If you could only give one piece of advice to a young leader, what would you say to them?

If I were to offer a single piece of advice to a young leader, it would be this: Enjoy the journey and stay true to yourself. Leadership is not just a destination; it's a path with twists, turns, and unique experiences that contribute to your growth. Embracing the ride, with all its challenges and triumphs, allows you to savor the moments that make the leadership role so rewarding.

Being authentic means leading with your values and beliefs at the forefront. It's about being genuine in your interactions and decisions, which in turn fosters trust and respect from those around you. Authenticity can't be faked, and it's the cornerstone of a leadership style that is both effective and sustainable. When you're authentic, you inspire others to be the same, creating a culture of transparency and integrity. So, relish each step of your leadership adventure and let your true self be the guide.

7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader, so far?

One meaningful story from my leadership journey is the time I founded the digital transformation department at a steel company. This chapter began while I was thriving at Oracle. It was at this point in my career when I received a call that would set the stage for a significant shift. The caller was someone I would come to regard as one of the best bosses I've ever had—and I consider myself fortunate to have consistently had wonderful bosses.

He, who had recently been appointed CEO of the steel company, reached out to me with a proposition that was both exciting and daunting: to spearhead the digital transformation within his organization. When he presented this opportunity, I felt compelled to be transparent about my experience—I had never led such an initiative before. Although I had a background in technology, project implementation, and had some knowledge of lean, agile, and innovation principles, this was uncharted territory for me.

His response to my admission has stayed with me: "Me neither, but we'll do it together." It was with his unwavering support, motivation, and empowerment that I took on the challenge. Throughout the first year, my exceptional team and I launched 36 pilots. These initiatives not only significantly influenced the company's results but also, and perhaps more importantly, instilled a culture of innovation and agility.

This experience taught me the power of trust and the importance of leadership support in achieving ambitious goals. It was a testament to the belief that when leaders empower their teams and work collaboratively towards a vision, remarkable transformation can occur.

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