Skip to main content
Innovation & Creativity
Wellbeing & Personal Development

Ten leaders on the advice they'd give their younger selves

Ten leaders on the advice they'd give their younger selves
Published: September 28, 2023
Share this article:

At the end of every leadership podcast we've recorded this year, we asked each of our guests: 'If you were starting over, what's the best piece of advice you'd give yourself?' Read on to find out what they said.


Leigh Gammons

I’ve had some awesome bosses who’ve taught me a lot over the years. When I was about 28/30, I was on the path to becoming CEO, and my boss said to me, ‘You've been taught to be this corporate person. Can you just stop doing that? Because the other person's actually alright.’ And I think what he was saying was, find out what your principles and beliefs are as early as possible. And be cognisant of the fact that a principle isn't a principle unless it costs you something. So be willing to stand by it. It took me ten years of working to figure out what I'm passionate about and what I want to do. But in reality, I probably knew some of those things when I was in my early twenties. So find out what really makes you tick, and do it soon.

Leigh Gammons is CEO of Tangent. Listen to his podcast on entrepreneurial leadership.


David Berz

I'm a little bit embarrassed to say this, but early in my career I was very ambitious and I thought that being a strong, individual contributor or manager meant that I had to have the answers. And at some point I realised that not only do I know very little, I know very little about a lot of things. And a lot of people know a lot more about a lot of things. So my advice is: learn to ask questions. Learn to ask the right questions at the right time and don’t hold back. The more questions you ask and the more you seek to understand, the better decisions you'll make.

David Berz is Head of Learning Technology, Data & Strategy, Global Operations at Meta. Listen to him talk about leading hybrid teams.


Molly Brown Pickett

Something I wish I’d done earlier in life would be to find a mentor: someone that is not in your personal or work life who can help you make sense of reality. Who can call you out on your own stuff, make you feel better when you're down, and lift you up a little bit so that you can learn from work and keep moving and being true to yourself.

Molly Brown Pickett is Head of People Development at Asana. Listen to her podcast about agile leadership.


John Maddy

Trust your gut and always choose the right thing. This might not be the cheapest, quickest or easiest thing. But it’s important to ensure your values remain at the heart of the choices that you make.

John Maddy is co-founder of Long Valley Holidays. He talked to Dan about owning and leading a sustainable business.


Liz Ward

I think the advice that I would give my younger self is to not give in to that voice of imposter syndrome that tells you that you can't do it and instead uplift that voice that says ‘maybe it's possible’ and ‘just give it a go and see what happens’. I definitely have had moments when I wish I'd just gone for it, just pushed myself a little bit further forward.

Liz Ward is Director of Programmes at Stonewall. Listen to her talk about leading diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging.


Alex Staniforth

Aim bigger. With fundraising in particular, my goal is to raise £1,000,000 in my lifetime. I think considering what I've done and the pain I’ve put myself through, I should be a lot closer to that now. I've often felt that I just haven’t given things my all. I just thought ‘get the job done, get the challenge done, and everything else is a bonus’. But if I’d got the right people around me, if I'd been willing to ask for help a bit sooner, and also not tried to do too many things at once, I could have absolutely nailed those challenges.

Alex Staniforth is an adversity adventurer and founder of Mind Over Mountain charity. Listen to his thoughts on vulnerability in leadership


Mukta Arya

Basically, enjoy your life. It’s too short. There are such beautiful things in this world and work is only one part of our life. We should not be wasting our energies on the small things, on emails or the fact that we didn't like someone’s tone. There are plenty of things to do. So go out and smell the roses.

Mukta Arya is Chief Human Resources Officer (APAC) at Société Générale. Listen to her podcast on HR and inclusion


Louisa Rodriguez

Don't be so worried about what people think of you. Just do you. I’ve got a big birthday coming up this year, which I’m really embracing and celebrating. But the beauty of getting older is that you step more into yourself and you strip yourself bare. You’re like, this is who I am. And I'm not going to apologise for this, because when I play small I don't serve myself, and I don't serve others. Do what feels right for you and lean into the fear. If you haven't felt the fear for a while, you need to move out of that comfort zone a little bit. If you're pleasing everybody, you're doing something wrong. Not everyone is going to like you, and that's okay, as long as you’re not harming anybody.

Louisa Rodriguez is UN Women Delegate 2023. Listen to her podcast on women in leadership.


Sylwia Chada

Go Girl. You’re doing the best. When I look at myself now, this is my definition of success. Today I feel like a very successful person and this has nothing with my career or position. It’s because I live my life in the way I want to. I’m still learning from people, I’m still becoming a better person, but every day when I wake up and look at myself in the mirror, I say to myself ‘thank you so much for sticking to your goals and sticking to your rules’. There is nothing I would change about my life.

Sylwia Chada is a global business development consultant who we first met when she was at TikTok. Listen to her talk about achieving full potential


Richard Little

If I was advising the 18-year-old me, I’d say first, don’t unnecessarily antagonise people in authority. Second, always necessarily antagonise people in authority because sometimes you have a responsibility to do that. Third, when I was 18 it was just after the Cuban Missile Crisis and I expected to die in nuclear war, along with most of my generation. If I could send a message back it would be ‘you’re still going to be around in 2023, you’d better start planning your life!’ And finally, if I could speak to my 40-year-old self, I’d say ‘don’t worry, hang in there, your glasses are going to be fashionable again in the 2020s.’

Richard Little is a professor at the Institute of Leadership and Sustainability. Listen to him talk about leadership action.


See the full list of leadership podcasts here.