Driven by passion and perseverance, Maddalena di Meo is a strong-willed woman entrepreneur, who has traversed a long path to experience the road of success. She is the Director of Firstmed, a first aid school, and just launches Woman, mother and child Centers that combine human and holistic medicine with digitalization, empowerment trainings, pop up stores and even activities for the little ones. Let’s learn more about her inspiring journey, excellent leadership skills, new and fresh vision of healthcare, and more.
Setting Benchmarks at Every Step
Nominated Woman entrepreneur of the year in 2016, Maddalena di Meo has come a long way. During her initial days as a nurse and a woman, she truly felt a lot of barriers. She was told or could see in the eyes of many people that she should have stayed at the bedside of the patients. However, she firmly selected her path, overcoming those doubts, and decided to accomplish her dreams at every step of her journey. “The social mirror kept reflecting back to me my condition as a woman, daughter of Italian immigrants, working class, throughout my life.”
One day, she decided to take a postgraduate course in Entrepreneurship & Business Development at HEC Geneva, in parallel to her work as a nurse. At that time, she just obtained a diploma in social and cultural management at Sawi, a marketing and communication school, and realized that economic tools were useful to help the poorest people, like sending an operating room to Yaoundé (her diploma work). She wanted to go further, out of curiosity and had a thirst for discovery. Not having the luxury to reduce her working hours, she continued her activity at the hospital at 80% to pay her bills and rent.
For Maddalena, her road wasn’t easy, she faced many hurdles, questionings from her relatives and even a violent clash with one of her teachers. Being a nurse and a lady wasn’t easy while evolving in a male environment. However, despite all this, she still chased and followed her path.
The Turning Point
When Maddalena turned 30 years old, she still wasn’t sure if she was meant for this. Were Entrepreneurship and business development right for her profile? “But I decided to apply for a job as a Director and… got it! The founders of the Firstmed trusted me, so I took this challenge filled with happiness and emotions”, she adds.
A bis shy at first, it took her two years to fully spearhead this position and assume her vision. This is what she did when she collaborated with Henri Dès, a singer for kids, to promote emergency number 144 to the youngest for instance. This project was new and fresh and allowed Maddalena to make a difference. Lately, she founded two Centers dedicated to women and family in Switzerland, implementing a vision of healthcare that mixes an human and holistic approach with digitalization, and she is on the way to opening a few more.
Maddalena’s goal is to promote empowerment to all women, with or without kids, by creating centers that mix traditional consultations and online support. It is a humanistic approach, where a human being is at the heart of everything. With prevention at their heart, those centers will allow all women not only to get access to physicians but also to workshops, pop-up stores, and much more. “I do want to make healthcare move forward and I think I tried to implement this vision and concept 10 years too early. Now it seems that Switzerland is more ready for that and I am glad to be part of the change”, explains Maddalena.
An Accomplishment in Itself
Talking about her greatest accomplishment, Maddalena states that it might sound absurd but her greatest achievement and her liberation is to have dared. She has successfully dared to free herself from the expectations of others, to have dared to believe in her dreams, and projects, to have dared to go against the tide when no one would have believed or bet on her. To have become. To have dared to disappoint because she did not stay within the framework or the expectations projected on her. She wanted to bring a movement of change in society at a modest scale.
A Proactive Leadership
Leadership is a daunting process day in and day out. Every day comes with a new challenge that can be rectified with feasible solutions. However, Maddalena states that she is always in a “ready mode” to go about it. With time, she has learned to know her limits and especially to relate to her risk-taking.
She addresses that one should be attentive to their environment, perceive changes, anticipate new trends. If one wants to bring a change, they should have been the ability to embody it and accompany it. One must never fall asleep on their achievements and remains alert and attentive.
Here are Maddalena’s leadership principles that have contributed to her success. She states that this is more about how one acts and creates a positive movement around. Leaders create a vision while managers create objectives. Leaders take risks, managers control them.
To be a good leader, you have to:
- Be authentic
- Be a good listener, attentive, and close to people. Be empathetic
- Create trust:
- Knowing how to share these values
- Knowing how to integrate criticism
- Admitting these mistakes also shows respect for others
- Honesty: You have to know how to be honest and transparent with yourself and others. You know how to be honest by embodying the famous “why”! “Why am I carrying out this project, this change, why am I doing it?”
- Humility: You have to be humble and know how to listen to a good influencer. Be that person who can put forward and highlight the others!
- To create a united team movement around why people work for or with you, the Vision is certainly federative but the person who embodies it makes it more concrete and human.
- Influence is the force that allows a rallying movement to move forward a project or a cause together. To be able to contribute to society or a change you must know how to rally a team, people around you. (you can never do it alone!)
Maddalena’s leadership style encompasses a team-centric approach. She proposes horizontal and benevolent management. “What stands out the most is management where I am accessible, I value the skills of my employees and I leave room for their initiative, I try to empower them because each of my employees has a real added value in the company”, she concludes.
Also, one Characteristic every leader should possess is listening. As said by Melissa Daimler, Harvard Business Review – “Communication is a skill that is often neglected. But when used well, it has the power to create a climate of security.”
Too Early in the Game
One of Maddalena’s biggest failures was not understanding and learning about the market. When she started, the market was not ready. Being right too early is sometimes being wrong, she learned that sometimes one has to go through stages to accompany the change or the arrival of a new practice.
This was her case with her telemedicine project that she has been working on since 2016. She has had nothing but discouraging feedback such as “telemedicine or tele-expertise has no future, it dehumanizes, telecare never, etc.” However, she had never given up. When 2020 Covid-19 hit, it redefined the use of digital medicine because it has recreated links and bridges where relationships were broken. One needs to have the humility to accept that sometimes one has to listen to the market and adapt to get better adoption of a project. Maddalena has had four years of advanced experience and a pandemic to support her statements.
A Purpose-Driven Success Mantra
Maddalena’s success mantra is unique and valuable. She defines, “Success is not an end in itself, true success is when you have succeeded in making your dream become the dream of your teams and your values are respected by your teams. Real success is to have known how to surround yourself.”
The Ultimate Vision
Maddalena is a visionary leader. She abides by her wisdom and experience of seizing every opportunity of the moment because tomorrow is not acquired as much to give the best of oneself now, and each day that one has the chance to live and a chance for oneself to improve, to advance try and continue.
A Piece of Resourceful Advice
One of the best pieces of advice Maddalena has received was on the topic of trust. Giving your trust to the wrong people can jeopardize an entire project, a vision, or that people abuse your trust and goodwill. It is important to know how to surround yourself. Trust is a precious asset that you must know how to give to deserving people. It’s only supported by the right team that you can move forward.
Maddalena’s objective for her Woman, Mother and Child Centers is to become a center of excellence, where traditional medicine is complemented by a digitalization as well as a humanistic and empowerment approach. This allows patients to be protagonists of their health and to find the answers they need with a 360° reflexion. It includes the notion of preventive medicine that also empowers the patient to take care of her/his health and well-being.