Cinzia Sasso: “The best leader is a woman”

The journalist and wife of former Mayor Giuliano Pisapia thinks women-run business has many advantages

Cinzia Sasso: “The best leader is a woman”

She has a leader at home, her husband Giuliano Pisapia, the former Mayor of Milan and one of the leading figures of the Italian Left Party at the moment. Indeed, she is a leader herself. She has worked for years as a journalist for the Italian newspaper “La Repubblica”, and has managed to be a single mother without giving up her top career in journalism. Then she decided to re-invent herself as “the wife of”.

During the five years in which her husband was the Mayor of Milan, she decided to quit the editorial office and discover the fulfilment that only total sharing can give. Cinzia Gallo talks about this period of her life in a new book “Wife” (Utet, 2016), and now reveals to LINC her idea of leadership.

The cover of “Wife” by Cinzia Gallo

The cover of “Wife” by Cinzia Gallo

What’s there behind a leader? How does a leading figure such as Giuliano Pisapia nourish himself in private? How did you support your husband throughout five years of leadership?
«I take the words spoken by Barack Obama during his last speech as President of the United States as my own. Looking at his wife Michelle, he said: “You have not only been my wife […], you have been my best friend. You took on a role you didn’t ask for and you made it your own, with grace and with grit, and with style and good humor”. I tried to be, most of all, a “best friend”, as I literally acted as the “wife” of my husband; I totally shared my life with him, and I did what the person I appreciate, I love and who was in charge of Milan needed most».

How women act as leaders in their own peculiar way? Which are your female reference figures?
«I admire the women I see every day at work. I think about the baby-sitter who looks after my son, who came from Eritrea with three children: even though she was alone, she managed to give herself a new life. I think about the female doctor who works at the Mangiagalli Clinic who cooks aubergine balls for her children in the morning before going to the hospital. The universal example is that of women who carry work on their shoulders – like male counterparts do- and life, which is often a burden loaded on women.

Broadly speaking
I would divide leadership style
into feminine and masculine

I have the feeling that the female style has now become more wide-spread. Looking at the American presidential elections, I think Hillary Clinton was defeated not because she is a woman but because her style was too masculine».

Which is the greatest responsibility for a leader?
«Assembling the right team, which means being able to surround yourself with the best people, not fearing debate, and thinking that the most valuable people bring wealth, not shadow. It also means being able to listen to all different views and critics and then having the strength to take a decision: the more things are complicated (and everything is complicated at present), the more important is the capacity of being inclusive and summing up».

Do leadership and charisma always coincide?
«No. Trump, for instance, is probably the most influential leader in the world at the moment but he is not a charismatic person. I also think that Berlusconi wasn’t a charismatic leader. Matteo Renzi isn’t either. I believe a true charismatic figure was Mother Teresa of Calcutta».

Being a leader at work could be an advantage or a stumbling block?
«Being a natural leader is an advantage, but it depends on the type of leadership. Perhaps, it would have been better if Trump didn’t have an inborn inclination to power. For most average women, doing a career still means behaving like a man o sacrificing a part of themselves».

Which advice would you give to women who are entangled in this paradigm?
«The women I see today are not entangled in this paradigm. Perhaps, women who are now in their thirties and forties still are, because they grew up holding a knife. Younger women, instead, have overcome this hurdle and can express themselves more freely. I also have the feeling that our society – men in the lead – is going after them».


Giuliana Grimaldi Giornalista professionista e digital strategist. Collabora con Dal 2007 è coordinatrice didattica del corso di alta formazione "Il piacere della scrittura" dell'Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore