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May 17, 2022

Former President of Argentina Visits Georgetown University to Share Lessons on Leadership and Governance

On April 19 and April 20, the Georgetown Americas Institute (GAI) hosted former Argentinean president Mauricio Macri, who shared his personal insights on best practices for leadership in politics and the private sector and the challenges he faced during his administration. These events were co-sponsored by the Center for Latin American Studies, Latin America Leadership Program, Center for Advancement of the Rule of Law in the Americas, McCourt School of Public Policy, Latin American Policy Association, and the Global Business Initiative in the McDonough School of Business.

Click here to see a video summary of the April 20 event.

Mauricio Macri speaking in an April 19 event with GAI founding director Alejandro Werner on the left.
Mauricio Macri speaking in an April 19 event with GAI founding director Alejandro Werner on the left.

Lessons in Leadership

In an April 19 event, moderated by GAI founding director Alejandro Werner, Macri described how his calling to be a leader came about after being kidnapped for 12 days by rogue members of the Argentinean Federal Police in 1991.

“During that experience, I decided that I wanted to help create a better society through politics.”

In 1995, Macri was elected president of Boca Juniors, a world-famous Argentinean soccer club. His goal was to make the club one of the top five soccer clubs in the world. During Macri’s 12-year tenure (1995-2007), Boca Juniors won 17 tournaments. In 2005, Macri became mayor of Buenos Aires and later president of Argentina in 2015. Based on these experiences, Macri offered four key lessons in leadership.

“First, communicating with your members is key,” he said. “[Second], you need to build a team. To have great transformations, you have to combine great leaders. [Third], leaders define clear goals and empower people to maximize their potential. Finally, you need to share your vision and consolidate your team. To be considered a good leader, you need to be fair.”

Macri shared multiple anecdotes on leadership, highlighting the need for leaders to have a supportive inner circle, a commitment to building trust in society, and an appreciation for the private sector.

“The most important thing that helps society is building trust and confidence,” according to Macri. “Remember who gave you the power and what for. You need to build a trustworthy narrative.”

He also emphasized the symbiotic relationship between politics and the private sector when it comes to leadership development, commenting that “there is no future in politics without seeing the value of the private sector...”

Mauricio Macri in conversation with Diana Kapiszewski at an April 20 event on lessons from his presidency.
Mauricio Macri in conversation with Diana Kapiszewski at an April 20 event on lessons from his presidency.

Experiences as a President

In an April 20 event moderated by Diana Kapiszewski, the Provost’s Distinguished Associate Professor at Georgetown University, Macri discussed the main challenges in reform and governance that he faced as president of Argentina. According to Macri, it is difficult to pursue deep reforms in any society because “changes in society means losing privileges.”

One of the main obstacles for democracies in Latin America is the rise of populism. Macri warned that, within the Latin American context, populism “offers a better present in exchange of destroying your future. Populists create narratives that spread fear all around society.” Populists do so by convincing people that economic reforms need to be avoided because they will actually exclude the vast majority of people in their country.

Macri noted that a good leader needs to strike the right balance between governance and change.If you go for full change without governance, you end up with social demonstrations and crises, and will not be able to finish what you started,” he said. “A good government and a good politician will find the ideal path combining governance and change.”

In response to a question from an undergraduate student on how politicians should fulfill their campaign promises, Macri advised: “Do not promise what you will not deliver because in the short term you will suffer the consequences. You need to create expectations that you will satisfy.”

Macri also pointed out how people today have more information at their disposal via technology, which unfortunately skews their expectations on reform and political change. A good leader should not feel rushed to produce results at the expense of being fair and trustworthy.

“Common people today receive in thirty days more information than a person who would have lived fifteen years ago during their whole lifetime,” he said.

“Now everyone wants solutions at the same speed at which they receive information on an electronic application. Democracies cannot solve problems at the same speed, so you have to be very clear as to what you are proposing so that people will support you at the maximum speed at which you can go.”