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MY MENTORS /2. Lucio Noto - Lessons in Leadership

Lucia Pasqualini (June 04, 2015)
When I first met Lucio A. Noto I did not know who he was, and I could not imagine how much this person would influence my life.

What makes New York special are indeed the people. New York is a melting pot of brilliant, creative, enthusiastic, passionate, and visionary people who believe in an idea, in a dream, in other people. During my stay in New York in my capacity as Vice Consul of Italy, I met many extraordinary people. I feel extremely fortunate to have had such an opportunity. 

I met Lucio A. Noto in July of 2011 during an event at the Council of Foreign Relations. His smile emanated both warmth and self-confidence at the same time. That evening I did not know who he was, and I could not imagine how much this person would influence my life. Lucio Noto was born in Brooklyn to Italian parents who had moved from Sicily early in the century. 

He worked for Mobil for most of his working career and had the talent and good fortune to rise to the top of the company. He is a renowned top executive, and thanks to various circumstances, it so happened that he  became one of my mentors.              


The secret of true leadership    

After the summer, Lucio invited me out for lunch. It was the first of many more  which were to follow, the beginning of a  true friendship. I got to know him in this  way. Lucio enjoys the pleasure of fine  dining and is an expert on Italian wines. The choice of the restaurant and the wine  was a ritual of sorts. And while I learned  things about him, I also discovered much  about myself. 

Lucio Noto is a true leader  and, as such, he is also humble and  genuinely curious of everything. I noticed  as much even in the smallest of details,  including the swift way he would establish  a relationship with the waiters and the  sommeliers. I recall once him talking to a  sommelier named Pascaline. He enjoyed  conversing with her. At the time, she was  going through a very difficult period in her  life, and Lucio would give her advice and support. 

A very cultivated person, Lucio has many  different interests and is one of few Italian Americans who speaks fluently  Italian. I enjoyed our conversations immensely; they opened my mind to a  different approach toward people both  in the personal and professional sphere.  Each lunch we had together became for me a lesson of leadership and style. Lucio has the ability to understand people at a glance. This is one of his greatest qualities, a trait, I find, that is shared by many successful people. He possesses an ease in dealing with people, and always manages to get the best out of them. He knows what he wants and how to get it; but what is striking is the polite and  charming way in which he does it.              

The ability to understand people    

As time went by, I started to ponder the ability to understand and inspire people.  I realized how much these qualities could be powerful and effective. There are many other skills that a leader should have, and the ability to transform an organization  begins not by setting a direction, but by  getting the right people. Thanks to Lucio’s example, I understood how important it  is for a leader to possess a great sense of empathy and to motivate one’s team.  I learned the importance of listening  to people and of giving them the well  deserved attention and recognition. 

I experienced how a positive attitude in the  working environment has a tremendous  influence on the results of teamwork. I  understood that a great leader is aware  of this very simple principle and needs to  be able to build relationships with people  very naturally. It may seem simplistic, but  I learned so much just by observing him in  a restaurant!          

A natural gift    

Once, Lucio told me that he never introduced himself as the CEO of Mobil,  but as part of Mobil. A leader does not need  to underline his own role, because power  does not derive from such a role, but from  the inner awareness of oneself and of one’s  capabilities. 

Lucio has a natural gift: he derives pleasure from getting along with  people in every context and possesses the  ability to make them feel like the most  important person in the world, simply by  an honest appreciation of one’s particular  qualities, which he immediately recognizes  in people. He improved and refined this  art through his world travels. He worked  for Mobil in Japan, in Italy, and in Saudi Arabia. He spent many years abroad and  never spent long periods of time at the  company’s headquarters: he enjoyed his  job and his life outside the country. He  loved getting to know different cultures  and languages, just like a true diplomat. 

He inspired me then, and continues to do so  Most of the lessons I learned from Lucio Noto are the result of my personal  perception. We have never really spoken about leadership. There was no need. His  example counts more than any words  might. Furthermore, every time I needed  support he was there, to guide or advise  me on many different occasions. 

Thanks  to him, I better understood New York  and I was able to be better at my job. He  lead me by hand where I would not have  dared to go. Thanks to his suggestion, I  embarked on a large fundraising project  for the Italian Subtitles at the Met, a very  important initiative of the Consulate General of Italy in New York. The project  meant a lot to me for many different  reasons. He asked me: “what can I do  for you?” And he immediately offered to  sponsor one of the Italian operas of the  season showing me how to proceed: a  sponsor for each opera. It worked out!  

Lucio’s trust and guidance during the  project paved my way, allowing me to  discover my full potential. Through it I  learned how much can be accomplished  in New York, and believe me…a lot can be  accomplished!      

Mentoring USA

Lucio boosted my confidence, little by  little, one lunch at a time.... He helped me  to see that which was already within me,  something that I did not know I possessed.  He changed and enlarged my perspective  on life. I have always yearned to become a diplomat; I never considered other career  options. He showed me a different path  in life that I never considered. I came to  understand that dreams have no time  constraints. Thanks to his inspiring words,  I came to understand what vocation is.  Now I know that serving my country is  not my job, but my inner vocation. His mentorship brought me to reconsider  myself and my life in a different spectrum.  

Now I know that there are numerous paths  my life can take, and that I am strong  enough to conquer any of them, and  this awareness gives me a great deal of  confidence. I owe so much to Lucio Noto,  and I am very grateful for that. Inspiring role models are more precious than any material gifts. They can change your life for the better.  Grazie, Lucio!  





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