top of page

7 Questions on Leadership with Isabel Novais Machado

Name:  Isabel Novais Machado

Title: Head of Design

Organisation: Cofidis Portugal

I'm a CEO, Director, Non-Exec and Isabel Novais is a passionate Head of Design with a focus on design thinking, currently shaping experiences in the financial industry. Her journey spans both corporate and startup environments, where she has honed her skills in people empathy and creative problem-solving. Isabel firmly believes that collaboration is the cornerstone of a happy life. On a mission to build bridges between people and knowledge, humans and tech, and emotions and rationality, she strives to bring a harmonious blend to every aspect of her work and life.

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

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


Jonno White

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

As a leader for innovation, is hard to lead decision-making on bets for the future, even with a good mix of qualitative and quantitative data, because there is always uncertainty.

On the other hand, managing a diverse and growing team, is also a challenge while optimising onboarding and assuring a good culture, as well keeping people happy and motivated in times of change. I’m also more a collaborative leader than an authority agent, but sometimes is important to step up.

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

Actually, I used to run away from leadership paths. I guess my first steps into leadership started as a design sprint facilitator. I fell in love with the magic of leading people towards innovation, together, with different profiles and vision and aligning everyone around a user centric approach. That made me change company, towards a bigger one, working as a coach of design thinking for digital transformation. Later, we decided to invest in UX and design people/skills in the company and a leader was necessary. And just like a river, that’s my leadership path till now.

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

I have 4 kids a husband and a dog, besides a busy live at work. So I really appreciate that silent moments of the morning before the day starts. Sometimes I put my AirPods and meditate, other times I check my email slowly, and then I start an industry line of kids clothes breakfast and commute. At work, I often pass by the meditation room to take a 10min deep focused breath work and then I check emails and write my bullet jornal. The day is normally full with meetings and workshops, and by the end of the day I fly back to my family, sometimes a walk in the park with the dog and then some reading until my eyes gently shut down and take me into dreaming.

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

That as a leader, my main goal is not to DO things, but to develop people and to make sure that they do and grow. Also, the power of the word NO and the ability to plan for longer periods of time.

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?

Inspired by Marty Cagan and Corageous Leadership from Brené Brown. One for the vision of growth and teams almost like a big band, and the other for the power of vulnerability and to help me accepting my fragilities as empowers.

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

“I do, you watch.

We do together.

You do and I watch.” - make sure you lead by example and than you let them fly.

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

The power of accelerating growth in other people and allowing jumps for a brighter space than before.

bottom of page