Inside Stories: What Makes a Leader by Gianluca Cagiano



In 2008, Gianluca, a lifelong entrepreneur with a passion for technology, created Apparound with a team of seven people. Apparound has since become a successful company employing over 90 team members.

His entrepreneurial spirit recently attracted the attention of the Politecnico di Milano, where Professor Emilio Billini, lecturer in the course of Leadership & Innovation for the master’s degree in Management Engineering, requested Gianluca’s help in the form of an interview that could be used in his program. The aim of the interview and of the program was to study the profile of an innovative leader, such as the CEO & Founder of Apparound, by analyzing his personality and skills in the workplace.

What follows is an excerpt from the interview where Gianluca Cagiano talks about the challenges faced over the years and his opinion on innovation and leadership.


Based on your experience, you started with a start-up and made it grow into a successful company. How did you become a leader and what do you think the ideal profile of a leader should be?

First of all, I believe that leadership is not something that we already have in our DNA, there are courses that can teach you to become one, but it cannot be limited to this. As far as I’m concerned, everything starts from a sense of responsibility that makes you participate in something, for example an idea or a project that you want to grow. You must feel motivated to achieve the goals you have set for yourself, including planning all of the necessary steps to realize that idea or that project.

It is a very long path, and in my experience it has not always been easy to achieve the objectives you set out: you have to motivate your team members so that they can follow you to obtain results together.

Passion, a sense of responsibility, and good and constant communication must be the basis from which to start.

A good leader must also be able to communicate, especially in times of uncertainty, and must monitor and discuss with his team the strategies to be followed to obtain results. People must then be encouraged, given achievable goals, challenges, responsibilities, and tools to complete tasks with gradually increasing levels of autonomy.

This will help to write a success story. We must never forget that we are a team, we win and lose together.

Innovation and leadership: what is the role of a leader in innovation

Innovating often means creating something new, something that does not exist and has never existed: therefore, a good leader must have a clear vision in mind and have an idea on how to achieve it in the future. Even more important is sharing the vision with other people to understand, for example, the impact that your idea can have in the community.

I believe that one of the most important tasks is to involve team members, motivating them and recognizing their work. Working together on projects and recognizing the success of the whole team, I believe is an element of extreme importance.

Working together for something that does not yet exist can be more complicated, it takes a long time and there is the risk, indeed the certainty, of encountering obstacles along the way. It is not easy, but together it becomes a more stimulating challenge, which once overcome brings great satisfaction. As I like to say: “it’s not easy but it’s worth it”.

And since we’re talking about challenges, what’s the toughest challenge a leader has?

I think that as a leader you have to be responsible for your people, you are a role model, so it is very important to continue to motivate employees and engage them with a positive approach. This is because to achieve the goal there will only ever be one constant: change. Changing in the race is never an easy thing, because you have to question everything you have done up to then, you have to think “outside the box” to find new solutions and you don’t know if the changes made will lead you to success or not. However, we must not be afraid of change or possible failure, because the latter is also part of the growth of a leader.

To close, what suggestions would you give to the leaders of tomorrow?

I am sure that every leader has his own personality and I believe that everyone wants to become a successful person by sharing their achievements with the people they work with.

For future leaders I would recommend that they are courageous and respectful, not to be afraid of the challenges that need to be faced and not to fear change, which is the only sure thing in life.

Finally, I wish future leaders good luck so that they can see their future dreams and desires fulfilled. 

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