“A leader must always stand up for himself”. These were the words spoken by Albert Rivera (Barcelona, 1979) in November 2019 at the Ciudadanos headquarters, just before announcing the end of his political career. Three years after that farewell amid tears and applause, the former candidate for Prime Minister of Spain is now focused on new academic and business consultancy projects.
In addition to holding the position of managing partner of RV+, the consultancy for companies, investors and entrepreneurs founded this year together with the former secretary general of Cs, José Manuel Villegas, Rivera is working on the launch of the second edition of the postgraduate course in Leadership and Political Management that he directs at the Cardenal Cisneros Centre for Higher Education, attached to the Complutense University of Madrid.
Margarita Robles, Ana Pastor, Josep Piqué, Alberto Ruiz Gallardón, Daniel de la Calle, Gloria Lomana, Jorge Bustos, Antonio Miguel Carmona, Eduardo Madina and Eduardo Sicilia are some of the renowned figures from the political, media and business worlds who make up the teaching team that will teach modules on Strategic Communication, Public Speaking and Protocol. The programme offers students a stay in Brussels to meet with senior representatives of European institutions and international organisations.
A few weeks before the inauguration of the new academic year, Rivera talks to DIRCOMFIDENCIAL to reflect on communication, reputation and leadership.
Why is Albert Rivera embarking on this project?
Since I was in politics, I have always seen the need to train the leaders of the future of our country. When you are a candidate for President of the Government or you lead an organisation of 30,000 people, you realise how lacking we are in some of the skills that are essential to be good leaders.
When I left politics, I was given the opportunity to become a patron of the CES Cardenal Cisneros. It then occurred to me to suggest to the centre’s management the possibility of creating an institute to train professionals from both the public and private sectors in the skills needed to develop leadership. We have created an exceptional group of more than 30 top national and international professors who, thanks to their decades of experience as leaders in politics, business, communication and science, provide participants with a know-how that is impossible to find in the best manuals.
Is leadership a pending subject in Spain?
Leadership is a skill that is partly born, but it is also made, trained, which is what we are doing at the university. Spanish society and the world in general needs leaders. No great social, economic or political transformation has ever taken place without leaders at the helm.
What new skills are today’s leaders called upon to master?
Knowing how to communicate your ideas or projects in public, being exemplary, capturing and nurturing talent, having the ability to innovate and continue learning, managing success and failure, making decisions, learning to delegate, knowing how to negotiate and reach agreements and having a strategic vision are some of the skills that a good leader today must possess.
“A good leader must learn from other leaders, but must be able to create his or her own style”.
Is personal style a determining factor in leadership?
A good leader must learn from other leaders, but must be able to create his or her own style, with his or her own identity, with authenticity, enhancing his or her strengths. It is also important that he/she knows and tries to improve his/her weaknesses.
What should be the key attributes of a good leader?
There are many attributes that recur in good leaders, but not all of them are concurrent. Some of these attributes are the ability to innovate, the gift to inspire others, the ability to communicate and understand those who think differently, the ability to spot others’ talent and discover new leaders, empathy or the ability to learn, among others.
In the battle for leadership, does the best speaker usually win?
Not always. There are leaders who are not particularly good at public speaking, although it is true that knowing how to communicate your ideas, your projects or your feelings in public is one of the main skills of good leaders.
Can a good leader afford to have a low profile?
It depends on the moment and the field, but there are leaders, such as Amancio Ortega, who have managed to be leaders with a very discreet profile and hardly any public exposure. In the business world there are good leaders who do not appear on Google or on any social network.
What were your greatest leadership lessons learned during your political career?
I learned a lot leading an exciting project for more than a decade and from a very young age. But perhaps my greatest learning was that in order to achieve a dream, a very big and difficult goal, the only thing that is not allowed is not to try, not to get down in the sand. You don’t achieve anything big with a small mentality. Then you can achieve it or not, but at least, as Roosevelt said in his speech at the Sorbonne, if you fail at least you do so having dared, so that your place will never be with the cold and timid souls who know neither defeat nor victory.
An example of a good leader in Spain?
Fortunately, there are a few, but if I had to choose one that meets most of the attributes of a 21st century leader, I would choose Rafa Nadal. He is not only a leader on the courts, in world sport, but also in Spanish society and around the world, off the courts.
Rafa has achieved an almost perfect balance between important values that are often falsely presented to us as contradictory. He is ambitious and at the same time humble. He is very competitive and wins almost every time, but at the same time he knows how to lose with fair play. He has earned money thanks to his profession, but he has also demonstrated his solidarity on many occasions. He speaks clearly and gives his opinion without complexes, but does so without offending those who do not think like him. He is a rational man but also shows his emotions. He is a number one in every sense of the word.