EMBA students learn leadership from Gigi Datome

The former basketball player discussed his extraordinary sporting experience and addressed many topics surrounding leadership during the Executive MBA's Human Capital Week.


During the last session of the "Human Capital Week", the Executive MBA classroom featured a particularly special guest: Gigi Datome, NBA and European basketball star, 3-time winner of the Italian championship. He spoke with Executive MBA students about his vision of leadership, bringing valuable insights from his long and successful sports career to the classroom.


The first point of discussion was the subject of charisma. Is it an innate gift or can it be developed? "I believe that charisma is a trait that benefits the coach more than the player." Datome affirms. "Charisma is what a coach needs to get players to immediately believe in them, in their vision and give everything on the court from the first game. I have worked with many coaches with exceptional charisma: Brad Stevens at the Boston Celtics, a calm, composed and elegant person. Zeljko Obradovic, one of the best coaches for titles won in Europe, known for his fighting spirit and strong personality. Ettore Messina, uncompromising and rigorous, even and especially with himself, and then Pozzecco, the most extrovert and passionate of them all. Despite their marked differences, a common thread unites them: authenticity and spontaneity. Leadership is not something that can be imitated by others; rather, it is similar to a sartorial garment which must be tailored and adapted to one's individual characteristics".

Singing the praises of Gigi Datome after his retirement, Giorgio Armani said that his greatness lies not only in his technical excellence, but also in his inexhaustible perseverance. On the subject of dedication, Datome expressed an interesting thought: 

"it's perfectly logical to think that the more you sacrifice, the more you train, the more chance you have of making an impact on the victories. The origin of the word 'sacrifice' comes from 'sacred’, and I like to think that we should only make sacrifices for what we are truly passionate about. For me, training every day was not a sacrifice, it was what I wanted to do. My sacrifice was not being able to be present at a wedding, or at the graduation of a close friend of mine because I was bound by commitments away from home for 11 months of the year. That, to me, means sacrifice."


Another element that has played a role in his sporting journey has been change. "Having moved from one city to another from a young age, the first move at 15 years old which meant changing school, friends, habits, was very important in helping me to get out of my comfort zone and develop a mindset that was open to different outlooks. This definitely had a positive influence on the subsequent steps of my career. In the beginning, change would generate some fear, but by the end of my career it had become a necessity to find new stimuli."


Dealing with failure is another valuable lesson that sport offers on the leadership front. "In sport, failure is very normal and there are many ways to deal with it. The basic principle, however, is to be true to yourself. Take responsibility without making excuses. The focus must stay on the performance at all times, on identifying the mistakes made, even those that did not make an impact at the beginning of the game but then exploded at the end. From this scrutiny we must derive a clear perspective and ask ourselves: how can we avoid making the same mistakes in the future?"  


At the end of the event, the Executive MBA students were able to ask Gigi their personal questions, which he answered willingly. In some cases, he went into detail about some of the games he played years ago and concluded with a reading suggestion for those who wished to delve deeper into the topics discussed: Simon Sinek's The Endless Game.


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SDA Bocconi School of Management





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