The pandemic brought a lot of changes in our lives. We came to realize what really matters. What are the things that light us up? Elizabeth Bachman sits down for a meaningful conversation with Angela Santi about the La Dolce Vita approach that helps business leaders thrive and have a blissful lifestyle. Angela is the one-of-a-kind Dolce Vita Leadership and Lifestyle Designer for elite entrepreneurs, business owners, and experts. In this episode, she shares in-depth insights on fulfilling things for ourselves and enjoying life. She emphasizes that the pandemic may have been a challenging time, but it sure made us look within ourselves and make a change. Life shouldn’t be daunting. It should be joyous, and we should align our values in every aspect. Tune in to learn more about the importance of knowing yourself and setting boundaries.
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Transforming Leadership Through The Four Pillars Of La Dolce Vita With Angela Santi
This is the show where we interview experts from around the world on topics such as leadership, visibility, presentation skills, international communication, and how to have a sweet life, La Dolce Vita, which is what I’m talking to my guest for. Angela Santi is a leadership coach based in Bologna. We have tried four times to do this interview. This is the best of them, so I’m very glad this is the one that we are going to publish.
She speaks about how you can be a leader and still have a sweet life, La Dolce Vita. Her official bio is that she is Italian by birth and cosmopolitan by vocation. She is the one-of-a-kind Dolce Vita lifestyle designer for elite entrepreneurs, executives, and experts. She’s fiercely protective of her craft, which is the art that is the science behind the good life. As such, she has pioneered the four pillars of the Dolce Vita life mastery model.
As she is known as a disciplined rebel, she works privately with a select group of ultra-high performers and global leaders. Her Mediterranean-infused methodology will help high flyers rise to unprecedented levels of success while living La Dolce Vita, which is the signature Italian lifestyle. Through her signature system, the best life blueprint, she offers a transformational implementation of daily business and personal routines so that you can effortlessly live your best life, your Dolce Vita. I know you’ll enjoy this conversation with the wonderful Italian, Angela Santi.
Angela Santi, thank you so much for being patient and coming back to the show. This is our fourth time making sure we are going to make this work, so welcome back.
I am only so happy that having the fourth interview with you is a treat.
Thank you. Certainly, over the course of the several years that we have known each other, it’s been fun to know you and to see you in Bologna twice. We tried to do this in Bologna. That was the third try, and that was the one that I made a mistake with. I’m going to ask you about mistakes later, but first, let me ask you about who your dream interview would be. If you could interview someone who’s no longer with us, who would it be? What would you ask him? Who should be listening?
I would love to interview Elizabeth, the Queen mother, because she was a pioneer. She was a disciplined rebel. She was a woman who knew how to behave perfectly in her role, but also at that time, she was doing things that were not common for a woman, especially for a woman in her role. She was also a fantastic Charleston dancer. She used to go to Africa doing Safaris and all sorts of adventurous things. When she became the widow of the King, she didn’t want to give up her institutional roles. She asked her daughter to create a role specifically for her so that she could have this public role anyways.
She was beloved for it. That seems to me leadership and teamwork, even if you are not the leader with the title to still be part of the team.
She was undoubtedly the charismatic leader and the go-to person for many people.
Not necessarily Elizabeth II Queen, because she was this other Queen Elizabeth, her mother, but her daughter Elizabeth, I’m sure, was grateful for the help. She was quite young when she became the Queen. That’s a wonderful thing. As a leader, part of what I wanted to ask you about, and the reason I want to come back for the fourth time to get this right, is because you have a wonderful system called La Dolce Vita, where it is a way of embracing the Italian lifestyle. As a leader, you don’t have to be Italian to have La Dolce Vita, and I love that. Tell us a little bit about what this philosophy is.
La Dolce Vita is enjoying life. It is a committed and yet light-hearted approach to everything. Click To Tweet
In order to do that, I would like to tell you what is La Dolce Vita and how it originated, which is very important. La Dolce Vita is the sweet life, but the literal translation doesn’t do justice to that concept because this is not only the Italian’s signature lifestyle, but it’s a way of being and an overarching approach to all aspects of life, business included.
The expression La Dolce Vita originated in the late ‘50s and ‘60s after World War II. We know that the war destroyed Italy, and all Italians were working very hard in order to reconstruct a country from zero. At the same time, after so many years of darkness, sorrow, pain and fear, we also want to have fun.
During La Dolce Vita, since the world was nothing, it was very easy to create businesses, things, and so on and so forth. Many people started to have a car, fridges, and TV, and they could go out for weekends with the family, which was very unusual for Italians at that time. The Dolce Vita was enjoying life, but most of all, it is this committed and yet lighthearted approach to everything. If we look way back, we can also say that La Dolce Vita is rooted in our Roman Latin origins. When the ancient Romans that we know conquered the world, I think that the Roman empire was still the biggest and the largest empire ever built.
Possibly not a Western empire. Don’t forget China.
As an Italian, I’m so proud.
The largest empire in the Western world, let’s put it that way because China was doing it long before the Romans did.
They are not doing it the right way, I would say, because the Romans were also having fun, meaning the Romans were in battle. They were fighting. Also, they found the time to rest, enjoying going to the spa (baths), discussing with philosophers, and doing all pleasant things. It was an integral part of their strategy. There is this expression in Latin that is otium and negotium. Otium means inactivity, and I will also say idleness, which for the Italians doesn’t have a negative meaning. Negotium means neg prefix without otium. This was the activity. It’s interesting to notice that activity means lack of inactivity.
Our negotium, which is the English word negotiate, and the word for a shop in Italy. Is it negocio? Also, in Spanish, it is negocio. Would it still be the opposite of time for yourself? It’s a negative. It is the obvious opposite.
It’s a negative. Negotium is something that you do between two moments of otium. Otium before negotium, and then negotium and then otium again.
That’s been the Dolce Vita incorporating rest, shall we say. Time for yourself and fulfilling things for yourself.
The Dolce Vita also means being in that zone. Doing things that you love, and we can extend it to business. We can say do something that you love. If we think about it in a corporate, when you put the right person in the right role where the person can do their best because they are in their zone of genius, then the leader knows that and wants to empower or foster people do that.
This takes me to the question I had farther down on the list, but I’m going to go right to this. We have been through years of a pandemic. The world has completely changed. Why has the years of isolation, and possibly more coming up, creating a need for Dolce Vita leaders?
First of all, people that were forced to stay inside on a physical level were also forced to look inside themselves. Most probably, many of them understood that before the lockdown and the pandemic, they didn’t have a life and were doing something that was too stressful. I’m thinking about The Great Resignation or Great Reshuffle, or however we want to call it.
People that were forced to stay inside on a physical level were also forced to look inside themselves. Click To Tweet
I know people who talk about this The Great Awakening, and I like that.
I prefer this term and I will utilize it. Thank you very much for suggesting it to me. If we think about it, people are quitting jobs or bosses. They are not empowering them or do not understand them. In my idea, a boss or leader embodies and incorporates La Dolce Vita in their leadership style and lifestyle. First of all, they understand this need for Dolce Vita, and they understand that La Dolce Vita means for being more productive, focused, and a way to success. It’s not taking time away from your business, but it’s an important component so they can understand and relate with their people that want to have more Dolce Vita.
These bosses can create a Dolce Vita empowerment and an environment where organizational wellbeing is a priority and values and culture are very important. They try to get people that are already aligned with values. This is also something that I say to somebody that is going for an interview. Check out the values because sooner or later, if you are not aligned with the company values, something will crash.
Part of this Dolce Vita is delegation because, through delegation, you empower communication and assets. The Dolce Vita leaders understand that part of their assets is not only the products of the services, but the most important assets are your people and their skills, so you want to prioritize the investment in your people. To me, this is the time where you should embrace La Dolce Vita as a lifestyle and leadership style.
We are seeing this more. The companies that are embracing this are succeeding and people are attracting good people. The companies that are resisting it, not listening, are losing good people. One of the things I heard from one of my colleagues, who is a South Asian woman, very dark-skinned, is not going back to work because she’s very short. When she’s on Zoom, she is the same size as everybody else and they listen to her. She’s discovered that when she walks into the office and she’s tiny next to the people who work for her, they don’t listen to her. She said, “I’m also bearing in mind my people.” For me, it’s easier not to go to the office or maybe 1 or 2 days a week. It is easier for my employees who have children not to go into the office.
The only ones who are happy to go into the office are the straight White men who have wives at home who are taking care of everything else and don’t have to deal with the rest of life. She said, “I’m not going to accommodate them. I’m going to make something that works for everyone and remind the straight White men that they need to be allies to the people around them.” That’s why she’s got the hybrid lifestyle in her company. She’s a CEO. She speaks about this. Because I’m tall and I’m White, I know what it’s like to be looked down on as a woman, but not because I’m tiny. That was something that opened my eyes, and I’m now saying, “It makes sense. I get it.” It’s not that if you are short, it’s hard to have that authority.
This time has opened up new opportunities and even new challenges because you have to adjust your leadership style if you are managing remote teams. I would also say that not all people and not all roles function well remotely. You want to do it on a one-on-one evaluation and basis, but the effort to accommodate people’s needs and desires should be made. The hybrid model is the best one because you go physically into the office, and it’s also important to have this in-person feel and understand what’s around in the environment.
I love this idea of making it work for everybody as a leader. You have the Vita system. Give us some specifics, please.
Dolce Vita means a sweet life, and VITA is an acronym for Vitality, Illumination, Techniques, and Assets, and these are my four pillars. In my idea, you have a destination to reach, be it a personal or professional destination, and you reach this destination in a car. I like to talk about cars because this is my background. I come from the automotive. You are hopefully driving the car and not in the trunk, or you are having somebody else.
This is a lot to do about leadership, but the car has these four wheels. Every wheel should be aligned and balanced to make the trip smooth. If the wheels are not balanced, not inflated, or broken, you probably never get to your destination. What are these four pillars? Vitality is whatever you do to keep yourself energized and vital. It’s your habits, what you meet, how you exercise, your sleep, and all these habits.
Illumination is the spiritual part, the mindset, your approach, and how you are taking things. Techniques is the hard part. It’s systems, strategies, and habits that keep you very focused when it comes to be focused and also set the boundaries when it comes to be in the La Dolce Vita and assets. The Assets are your beliefs and skills, but the most important asset is yourself and your people. This is when you bring it to the company environment. We can talk about the four pillars in your life and your company environment. Your people are your most important asset because, at the end of the day, it’s the company’s know-how.
Many years ago, a friend of mine who is an executive in a construction company. He built skyscrapers. He said, “Our buildings are only as good as our people. I have never forgotten that.” At first, I was very young. I went, “What is that?” The more I work and run a company myself, I realize it’s all about the people.
The pandemic made people realize a lot of things. They started quitting jobs that were not empowering or understanding them. Click To Tweet
People make the difference.
What can we do moving forward? If you are thinking, “I’m doing too much. I’m too stressed. I’m too busy to take time for myself,” where can you start?
That’s challenging you to take some time for yourself and schedule your weekly, even if it’s just ten minutes. Before that, I would like you to clarify to yourself what La Dolce Vita means for you because it can be a super luxury experience or something as simple as having your cup of tea, taking a walk in the greens, or whatever lights you up.
I encourage you to think about what are the things that you liked and loved doing years ago that you are not doing anymore and are missing. Make a list and start with one. I am a big proponent of baby steps, the compound effect method, because we want to do things that are not stressful even when you are making these nice things and transforming. This is the first thing and also knowing yourself. Knowing what you want but also don’t want and what you don’t want to tolerate anymore.
Sometimes, it’s easier to find out what you don’t want. It’s one of the ways that I have my clients figure out what their speeches are. What’s your thought leadership? Think about what it is that bothers you in your industry and how it could be better, and then write a speech about it. Let me ask two more questions. We mentioned mistakes. This is the fourth time around. The first two times were technical issues and we couldn’t get the recording going. The third time was I made a mistake and erased the recording. As a leader, how can you move on after making a mistake?
As a leader, we should value our mistakes and encourage our people to make mistakes. The Dolce Vita way to make a mistake is to take it seriously but in a lighthearted way and be gentle with yourself. A mistake is not the end of the world, hopefully. Some mistakes are, but the majority of mistakes aren’t. I’m a high achiever, perfectionist, and all that. When I make a mistake, I recognize, “I did all the best that I could. It didn’t work out the way I wanted. Let’s move on.”
Often, women have a hard time admitting to mistakes. It’s because we have the feeling that we are supposed to be better and that any mistake a woman makes reflects on every other woman, which only comes if you are the only woman, so get more women into your company that will help. I’m also a perfectionist. I don’t like making mistakes, and it wasn’t the end of the world. We get a chance to do this again. It just felt I don’t like feeling stupid.
Mistakes, to me, are a synonym of experience because if you are willing to learn from your mistakes and understand what the part of the process that didn’t work is, there is always a part of the process that didn’t work if it depends on yourself. If it doesn’t depend on yourself, there is nothing you can do about it, so why get mad?
Apologize, make it better, and move on. Another thing I wanted to ask you about is I know you work with women, but you also work with men. Talk a little bit about your base in Italy in the beautiful City of Bologna. Talk about what it is about the Italian culture that brings men to you.
I would like to say that men, in general, don’t like what I do or what we do because many of them know it all. I’m sorry to say that, but it’s the truth, and these are the alpha men. Men that come to me are men that have a different energy. I wouldn’t say more feminine energy, but they are taking their role in a less serious way. Meaning they have this awakening and don’t care about society’s expectations anymore.
They wouldn’t want to be a man with all this burden of showing up because they are tough all the time. They know they have weaknesses. Those men who give themselves permission to make mistakes, be weak, do not want to do what they want to do, and live in a lighter way are the men I like to work with who they want to improve also their leadership style.
You work with clients around the world, mostly in English. I assume you speak Italian. What is it that brings someone from another culture to you? I like the idea of the Dolce Vita.
It is precisely the idea of La Dolce Vita, and of me embodying this Dolce Vita and bringing an exotic taste in a way or wanting to confront a different culture because this is a quicker way. This is what I did to learn to be more focused on the business side. I found no Italian coaches and consultants as good as the Americans because, with the Americans, it is built in their DNA. I went for Americans. If you want to do business the Italian way, live more like Dolce Vita, and incorporate more of Dolce Vita, why not see an Italian?
The American is very much business before life, so perhaps this is something that we can learn. Angela, thank you so very much for doing this. It’s truly a joy to know you and to work with you. Where should somebody start if someone is reading this and thinks, “How do I want to learn La Dolce Vita?”
I would suggest going to my website, www.AngelaSanti.it. There is a section where they can download a freebie that I have created, The Wheel of La Dolce Vita. It’s similar to the Wheel of Life that most coaches utilize, but there, you can check in many different areas of your life in the four dimensions of La Dolce Vita, how you are performing and how those areas are impacting each other. This is a very nice and quick reality check you can make, and then you can go from there.
I have been through this wheel and learned some things about where I don’t give time for myself. I highly recommend it. Let me remind you if you are curious about how your presentation skills are helping you or not, you can take our free assessment at SpeakForResultsQuiz.com. It takes about four minutes. You can see where your presentation skills are strong and where perhaps a little bit of support could get you the results you need and the recognition you deserve. Angela, thank you so very much for having been my guest. I will see you on the next one.
- Angela Santi
- The Wheel of La Dolce Vita
About Angela Santi
Italian by birth and cosmopolitan by vocation, Angela is the one-of-a-kind Dolce Vita
Leadershp and Lifestyle Designer for elite entrepreneurs, business owners, and experts. She is fiercely protective of her craft – the art that is the science behind the good life. As such, she has pioneered the Four Pillars of Dolce Vita life mastery model.
Working privately with a select group of ultrahigh performers and global leaders, her Mediterranean-infused methodology ascends today’s highflyers to unprecedented levels of success while living Le Dolce Vita (the signature Italian lifestyle), through her bespoke best-life blueprint, a transformational implementation of daily business and personal routines and habits falls effortlessly into place.
Humanistic by nature, Angela’s love for people initially led her to 20+ years in HR and Organizational Development. Angela believes that even those who have achieved what others have defined for them as the highest levels of success deserve to truly, deeply, love – and live – their one life to its fullest. Based in Northern Italy, the world’s sweet spot, where creativity, productivity, and Dolce Vita naturally collide, Angela she serves her clients globally.
If Angela were a movie, she would be a remix of “Breakfast at Tiffany” AND “Easy Rider”: as she perfectly integrates and embodies the two opposites. Her style has a sophisticated, yet casual elegance; and her knowledge feeds her unassuming power She is a tango dancer, passionate about yoga, and a world-wide traveler. She loves beautiful cars and the wildest adventures.