top of page

7 Questions on Leadership with Tatiana Illarionova-Zervas

Name: Tatiana Illarionova-Zervas

Title: HR Director

Organisation: Aeroclub Co.

More than 13 years in civil aviation, recently moved into traveltech. Representing the company’s interests in international organizations in the field of Human management and development, likewise identifying the impact of the human factor on business efficiency and preventing risks.

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

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


Jonno White

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

It's hard for a leader not to be a leader.

Leadership is a combination of states of acceptance, balance, and prioritization.

If you are a leader, then you are a leader in everything. In any situation, you calmly take responsibility, strive to identify stakeholders and their interests, and assess the importance and significance of decisions and consequences. It is difficult not to do this, to learn to stop at the level of your thoughts when there is no request to you as a leader.

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

In my professional life, I made two transitions: from the bar (civil and criminal lawyer) to psychoanalytic practice (clients), and then I was invited to an international airline, where I became the head of the psychological department two years later.

My first leadership experience in a large company was with a team of 8 people, with whom we grew together and were able to create synergy - this greatly influenced my formation as a leader.

Subsequently, I made a second transition to the field of human management, where the responsibility and amount of worthwhile tasks are constantly increasing.

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

I get up at 05:30 six days a week, on Sunday at 09:30. Sleep time 22.00/22.30.

It is obligatory in the morning: yoga, a glass of warm water with lemon, a shower, and cooking breakfast for my son.

On the way to work, I take my son to school (I like to drive) - this is our most productive time. We discuss curious topics, listen to scientific podcasts, and along with sharing each other ideas, and plans. I have time to plunge into the corporate world in my car and listen to podcasts/ summaries about leadership, life organization, and organizational philosophy.

I start working at 08.30/09.00 after breakfast and try to schedule meetings from 10.00 to 17.00 with a compulsory 30-minute lunch break.

After 17.00, I sum up the first result of the day and return home. On the way, I listen to music or fiction.

I drink tea at home with my family, switch to other online activities (client counseling, psychoanalysis, meetings, English, etc.), and write posts for LinkedIn, and Telegram channels.

I have two daily mandatory rules: 10,000 steps and 2/3 meditation. Before sleep, 10 minutes of yoga, a shower, communication with family, diary entries, meditation, and sleep.

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

My job involves constant interaction with different leaders, and every time circumstances suddenly change, I tell myself, Be water (Bruce Lee's motto), which means that water always, in any condition, finds a way out and continues its movement. The biggest lesson for leaders is to learn to accept what is (it is what it is) and continue their movement in any conditions.

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?

It may seem strange, but this is “The Ego and the Id” by Sigmund Freud, which I read on my 15th. After that, I wanted to study psychoanalysis, and in the future, knowledge about the work of the unconscious human psyche always helps me to remember that everybody has not only conscious but also unconscious motivation. There are no wrong or good people, only personal stories, the diversity of each psychological reality that affects our actions. This awareness expands the perception of human interaction and explains why human behavior is sometimes strange and illogical.

For a leader, understanding motivation is a necessary resource when organizing teamwork.

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

It is crucial to discover how to prioritize and balance your own life and always start acting from the state of "Being yourself"! The balance should change depending on the period and current tasks. Learn to rebuild yourself and your space promptly to reach your goals.

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

The period of my leadership is associated with close interaction with the CEOs and senior and middle managers. Every time a new manager appears, a fresh vision opens up in front of me, even for the same company/team; it can be challenging, but if you trust the professionalism of the head, try to see with a new look, then the teams begin to manifest themselves in a new way. It allows me to gain more experience and expand the facets of my leadership.

bottom of page