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Sig.ra Iliaria Resta, In Her Words

Sig.ra Resta, photo credit Audemars Piguet.
News broke this week that Audemars Piguet's board has selected Sig.ra Ilaria Resta as their new CEO. The commentariat quickly went to work (literally in comments on Instagram but sometimes in story posts). I saw a flury of opinions about what this leadership change "means."

Of course, when someone who is not cisgender male is hired (or even elected) into a position of leadership there is often a ton of baggage that goes into the subsequent discussion. Without pointing fingers at anyone in particular, I regrettably think we're seeing a bit of this play out in the present discussion of AP's leadership change. And, I will be the first to admit that as a cisgender male, my own post may not be as unslanted as I would otherwise like.

In order to perhaps minimize that risk, I decided to see if I could find sources where Sig.ra Resta, herself, actually described her leadership philosophy, achievements, and experience. Lo and behold, I could! There is actually a pretty interesting interview on YouTube that was posted about three months ago and Sig.ra Resta also actively writes posts on LinkedIn. Again, kind of telling that not a whole lot of people seem to be drawing from that material when discussing Sig.ra Resta's hiring.

At this point I could just urge you to go consult those sources (and I will provide links below if you'd like to) but I do want to offer a little more value add than links alone. So, I thought I would share here some parts of the material that speak to Sig.ra Resta's self-described values and philosophy. At the very end, I will offer some of my own thoughts about this development. (Note: I have lightly edited the quotes from YouTube for the purpose of readability.)

On the importance of professional development for employees: "for [her] the biggest reward is when [she] can promote people in their career." Side note: the new CEO in her old job is someone who reported to her.

On her experience with personal challenges and work balance: "being a a mother going back from maternity leave for the first time, it was really, really a big challenge because [she] had this sense of guilt of leaving [her] daughter behind, especially when travelling."

On her professional philosophy: "[she] believes in the power of the three L's ... love, learn and legacy ... you will have lots of hurdles, lot, lots of difficulties. What's important is that you make a conscious effort to see the bright side and your passion and fuel your passion, and then career follows love ... [Resta] truly believe[s], especially in the world of today, there is a a big advantage if you keep on learning every day and move from an attitude of 'I know it all, I know how it's done' into an attitude of learning, relearning every day ... And the third one is the most important for [her], it is legacy. You need to be able when you do a job to look back and and be proud of what you left behind."

On the importance of resiliency: "you need to keep on going even if things don't end up in the way you wanted in the creation process. That process is very complicated. It's not a linear process, so it requires real resilience and determination to keep on going and I'm very respectful of the creators in this industry because I've seen their struggle."

On the importance of boldness: "[Be] courageous in pursuing the idea, the idea might not be democratically accepted or accepted by everybody, but over time, if you look at the best, most successful launches of fragrances, if you look at fashion, if you look at art, what was not accepted at the beginning then became a blockbuster."

On the imporance of diversity: "There is no reason why it's not important, this is fundamental. Diversity is an obligation to represent society. So we we need to represent the society and as society changes, diversity will change and the meaning of diversity will change, so [Resta is] a true believer. We need to be a mirror of society and evolve to represent fairly in an equitable way our society. And today, it's not the case in [the fragrance] industry, which is surprising because this is an industry that has been consumed by women and loved by women, and where we have amazing women creators. But still, diversity is not there is not there in the management team, there is no diversity ... Diversity improves business results, so it's in the interest of the business. Not only that, it improves creativity because, by tension, diversity, and different point of views, creativity increases and creativity is the lifeblood of this industry."

On LinkedIn I won't directly quote from Resta's posts on LinkedIn, but I noticed a few things. First, she has regularly traveled to Asia and she clearly has experience in a market which is extremely important for the watch industry. Second, under her leadership, her company achieved a number of accolades for sustainability. And, third, the financial results she shares illustrate positive financial performance.

So now I would like to share a few other observations. First, Sig.ra Resta's leadership of Firmenich culminated in a successful merger which required shareholder and regulatory approval. The fact that Sig.ra Resta has experience and success with a merger provides AP's board with an option they may exercise in the future. I have no knowledge of whether this is likely, but it is certainly something a board would be aware of when hiring a leader. Second, there is a pattern in CEO recruitment where women are often hired by organizations which are struggling for some reason. It is referred to as the "glass cliff." I don't believe that Sig.ra Resta faces a glass cliff with AP, but it is certainly a historical pattern worth noting.

In sum, Sig.ra Resta strikes me as someone who is eminently qualified for the CEO position at Audemars Piguet. Frankly, as I reviewed her posts and her interview, I wished that the outlook and values that she mentioned were more broadly adopted in workplaces. I am really looking forward to seeing how AP progresses with Sig.ra Resta at the helm.

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