“I needed a new approach
to lead and inspire a more
diverse team, and the
programmes at LBS
really gave me this.

Matteo Martini

General Manager at Dedar UK,


Stepping up from a Sales Director role leading a sales team to the General Manager of a luxury fabric brand, Matteo needed to adapt from leading a single functional team to leading a diverse team of staff from across the organisation. He credits the Next-Level Leadership (NLL) programme for giving him the skills and confidence to help him effectively manage his new team and this transition. Shortly after, he completed the Finance for Non-Finance Executive (FNFE) programme, which gave him the financial acumen to take on managing finances and bringing new insights to his current role. He hopes to take the Certificate in Management at LBS next.

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I’m currently the General Manager for the UK branch of an Italian company, Dedar, who distribute luxury fabrics and wall coverings to the interior design industry. I manage a team of approximately 20 people, consisting of showroom, sales, office and customer service staff, and we also have contracted sales agents on the road. My role is to support the team and problem solve. In my previous role as Sales Director at Atlas Concorde I had a relatively large team, but I only managed sales, now I cover the showroom department, sample department, accounting, customer services and a sales team. So my team is different in terms of background, education, purpose and end result.

I needed a new approach to lead and inspire this more diverse team, and the leadership programme really gave me this. In my previous role I had a younger Italian team who I had personally hired and trained. In my current role my team is a lot more diverse in terms of age and nationality. Adjusting to managing people who are so different in terms of background, career expectations and age, has proven both interesting and challenging.

When you’ve recruited and trained the people you work with, you automatically align in terms of mindset. Coming in as the new General Manager meant my team had been recruited by someone else and had developed a loyalty to them. Something I learned on the NLL programme is that you can underestimate the impact of your actions on your team. Whether it’s a kind word or an outburst because you’ve had a bad day, it can have a massive impact on the confidence of your team and the way in which they interact with you. The NLL programme equipped me with both soft skills and people management skills, and from that perspective the leadership programme was very helpful in my job.

“I was interested in knowing more about the financial side of business, so I took the Finance For Non-Finance course (FNFE) at LBS shortly after the NLL.”

“People management requires different kinds of leadership styles, and these are very important in my situation. Working with people who have varying backgrounds and characteristics, requires different approaches. These skills were taught on the programme. One of the first modules we did, which was taught by faculty Ena Inesi, was specifically dedicated to leadership styles. We were taught techniques to guide conversation, and to guide your relationship with your team. She gave us a list of five techniques which have really stuck with me in my working practice.”

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The Reflective Best Self exercise gave me better self-awareness of how I can influence things around me, including my relationships. I grew up in Italy where at work and school I was constantly invited to focus on my weaknesses. During the programme, we did the opposite, and focused mainly on our strengths. This was an approach I really didn’t expect. Of course, you should work to improve on your weak spots, but you shouldn’t forget your strengths. If you leverage these, you can achieve excellent results.

I’m now more able to explain to my team why we’re doing things, including the vision and purpose of change, and the process of change. Also, how they can respond to change, and how they can contribute to bringing about that change. On the programme we talked a lot about change. It’s probably one of the hardest things to manage within an organisation, because in most cases we’re naturally reluctant to it.

I was interested in knowing more about the financial side of business, so I took the Finance For Non-Finance course (FNFE) at LBS shortly after the NLL. I had studied engineering at university, so I had a completely different background. I found studying natural, but the one subject I struggled with was finance. It was my weak spot, so I tried to read books and fill the gap on my own, but it wasn’t enough. Finance is an extremely important part of business, and I felt I needed to understand the main dynamics and topics. It was a personal need, rather than business, because in my role at the time as Sales Director at Atlas Concorde I didn’t work in this area.

“The programme is brilliant and the faculty are great.”

“Then this new opportunity at Dedar UK came around, and it was a perfect coincidence because I could use what I learned. As General Manager I have responsibility for the financial results and performances of the brand. The first thing I had to do in my new role was to work on the budget for the new financial year in terms of costs, ways to generate more revenue, and how to balance the two. The starting point was looking at the current balance sheet of the company; as a result of the FNFE course I was confident in interpreting the numbers and I was able to estimate future developments of the business.”

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I used my new learnings to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the UK branch from a financial point of view. My newly acquired skills helped me to identify opportunities for efficiency and efficacy improvements in certain internal processes; these involved my team and their perception of the impact they can have on financial targets and results. Furthermore, this increased confidence in reading and interpreting financial statements allowed me to compare our numbers and figures with those of our main competitors, providing extremely valuable insights into where my company stands in the marketplace. 

I really appreciated networking with other participants from around the world on this programme. In our jobs, we share so many of the same challenges, issues and problems, even though we work in completely different positions, organisations and sectors. But we found we could share ideas and suggestions with each other about how to tackle these, which was helpful.

My advice to anyone who wants to do either of these courses would be to do it. With the finance course, I’d say preparation is key. The programme is brilliant and the faculty are great. My advice for the NLL programme would be to come with an open mind, as every professional who has reached a certain position in their career has read books about management and leadership one way or another, so you might come with preconceptions, with preformed ideas; you have to put those aside and have an open mind.

Next-Level Leadership

Navigate the critical transition from operational manager to strategic leader.