As a transformation leader, Annalisa Gigante appreciates that everyone has a hidden talent that can help them to make an impact – it’s just a case of knowing where to look.
I believe everyone has a superpower. You may not have identified it yet, but it’s there. I have led global teams, many hundreds of people in near and far-flung countries, and I have found this to be true every time. When your superpower fits with your occupation, then everything fits, and you can fly.
My superpower is finding four-leaf clovers. I had no idea as a university student that this was a rare or special skill, or even that it would be of some practical use. Looking back, I now know better – I can spot patterns, and things that don’t fit just jump out at me. As an analyst in my first ‘real’ job, this meant I could spot a cell in a spreadsheet that ‘looked wrong’. I would then work on finding out why, and it usually ended up uncovering a mistake. It also means I can identify patterns (for example business models, team structures, processes) that work well in one area, and see if they would work equally well in another industry, company or product.
It took me quite a while to see how finding four-leaf clovers worked, and how it might be linked to something useful, other than a neat – or sometimes annoying – party trick. Understanding this ‘superpower’ and finding how to best use it has been both fun and difficult. It’s a job that continues every day, but it’s well worth it, and has its funny moments too. I recently went on a long walk up hills and through farms in Switzerland with a good friend. As we talked about the future of education, politics, and the impact of artificial intelligence (AI), we passed fields full of clovers. I started picking a few four- and five-leaved ones, and gave them to her. Her first reaction was, ‘Wow, you’re a freak!’ Even a few years ago I would have found some excuse, minimised the comment and made it go away… but now I said, ‘Yes! Isn’t it great? My brain spots patterns, and something that doesn’t fit stands out – a lot.’
An hour later, the coolest thing happened – my friend said, ‘It must be difficult for you to concentrate on our walk and conversation when you must be getting distracted by all these things pinging at you from your peripheral vision’. I had never thought about it like this before. It was just normal for me to have to concentrate on the conversation, or on not tripping up. So I learned something more about my superpower – it makes me exercise my concentration!
Part of my job as a leader is to help find other people’s superpowers, and set the conditions for each team member to shine in a constructive and productive environment. It’s amazing to see, once this groundwork is done, how much can be accomplished, and how complex and difficult tasks get handled even without drama. This is fantastic especially working in innovation, where failure is part of the learning process, and on average across all industries just one project out of 11 funded ones makes it as a success in the market. We try new things every day, push the boundaries of what is possible both on the technology side and in the market, for example, understanding better how to find solutions to customers problems, and useful ways to use digital technology.
So, have you identified your superpower yet? That way of looking at things or an attitude that is second nature for you and unexpectedly helps you out somehow? Have you asked your friends what they think it might be? Can you spot it in your family members, friends or colleagues? It can be anything from determination to empathy to picking up a song or learning a language. Once you’ve identified what resonates for you, think about how it helps you in your everyday activities. How can you make it shine and put it to work? What new opportunities open up? Finally, how can you link with others with different superpowers to make an even bigger impact?
Editor’s note: Read more about ‘Unlocking Your Superpower’ in Peggy Liu’s article.
Annalisa Gigante is a CEO, transformation leader and board member, with a background in technology and life sciences. Former CTO at LafargeHolcim, and executive committee member of Adecco Group, Annalisa started her career at Bain & Company in Milan in the retail and consumer practice, and has a track record of award-winning innovation for 30 years. She studied Natural Sciences (Bio) at Cambridge University (Queens’ College), an MBA from SDA Bocconi, and further education at IMD. Annalisa is Venetian and is now based in Zurich with her family.