Om Malik (@om) did a wonderful interview with Brunello Cucinelli, Italian fashion designer and chief executive of his eponymous brand, Brunello Cucinelli.

Like great interviews you leave with plenty to think about. The biggest take away for me from Cucinelli is the need to be real and authentic with your team. To treat them with dignity and respect.

… [Y]ou must be credible. Because everybody knows the problem that I’m concerned about.


Everything is visible, when things go well and also when they go less well. When we are sad, when we are worried, when we are happy: If you show all these different moods, then you are credible. That’s why I say this is simple.

You are told and often read how as a CEO you need to keep your feelings to yourself. That you cannot show worry, sadness and the like for fear it will spook your team.

To some extent that may be true, but at times you’re concerned, it’s your team that can help you — and the company. There’s no monopoly on good ideas and often it’s those closer to the challenges who have the solutions.

But until you’re authentic enough to tell folks you believe we can do better, how can you expect them to be authentic enough to approach you with ideas?

From Cucinelli:

You must believe in the human being, because the creativity of a company — Let’s say you have a company with 1,000 people. Maybe we were told that there are only two or three genius people in the 1,000. But I think that if you have 1,000 people, you have 1,000 geniuses. They’re just different kinds of genius and a different degree of intensity.

We hold a meeting here with all the staff every two months. Everybody takes part in it. Even the person with the humblest tasks knows exactly what was the latest shop we opened. Everything is based on esteem, and esteem then generates creativity.

I’ve gone to my team individually (quite a few more to go) and as a group over the last few weeks. I told them what I was working on. I told them where we were excelling. I told them where I was concerned. I asked for their ideas. I asked for their help. I asked them what I could do better.

I learned a lot. Their feedback and ideas will lead to improved products, service, and better overall performance of the company. As I learn to listen more and talk less, I will learn even more.

At age 60 Cucinelli told Malik he has come to appreciate the contemporary figures that left him with a different view on the world. Dostoyevsky, Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Kafka, Kennedy and the Pope.

At the end of the day, all these great people, what do they focus on? Human dignity. They all talk about being custodians in the world.

As a leader of a company, almost age 60 myself, I need my team now more perhaps than when I was younger. I need to show them the dignity and respect they deserve, empower them to do great things, and be willing to be true and authentic.

Maybe it is that simple.