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Poole Podcast Episode 7: Empathy, Authenticity, and Soft Skills: Next Generation Leadership with Chuck Saia and Leigh Shamblin

Episode 7

What skills do the leaders of tomorrow need? How do we teach those skills in the classroom? How has the pandemic changed leadership styles? And what does any of this have to do with an armadillo, a Mandarin duck, an eagle, and a dolphin? Leigh Shamblin, director of leadership and a professor of practice and Chuck Saia, senior partner at Deloitte share their insights on leadership and everything in between.

Chuck Saia: Your team is so vital to how you both think and do, and on any given day, you might do more thinking than doing, but the most important thing is to leverage a team that allows you to both think and do, even if it’s viewed as an extension of you, the most enjoyable thing for me personally, as a leader is to think through strategy, set that strategy.

And then inspire my teams to go and execute that strategy. 

Leigh Shamblin: Something that I hear often from individual contributors is I’m not a leader. And I would challenge you to think differently. You absolutely are a leader you’re already 100% responsible for leading yourself. So figure out how to get good at that.

Even if you don’t have other people to lead. But never think that just because you don’t have positional power, you’re not a leader.

Jenny Hammond: Welcome to the Poole Podcast, the official podcast of the Poole College of Management at NC State University. This is a think and do conversation about the relationship between academics and industry and each episode we will share research and ideas from the classroom, from our incredible facts. And explore how it’s being translated into practice.

I’m your host, Jenny Hammond, chief marketing and communications officer here in Poole College. Let’s dive in.

This topic of leadership can be discussed in many ways. Our two guests are going to share insights on the traits critical and building a strong. Our first guest is Leigh Shamblin. Leigh currently serves as the director of leadership and a professor of practice here in the Poole College of Management prior to joining NC State in 2014.

Leigh worked for 20 plus years in international development, including as a US foreign service officer for the US agency for international development and the US, Macedonia, Nambia and Jamaica as a global leader, Leigh has helped governments, companies, and organizations, and more than 20 countries address, critical issues and education, private sector development, technology, and global health.

Her current teaching practice and scholarship focus areas include leadership. Critical thinking design and systems thinking the ethics of AI business, life coaching and change management welcome to the Poole Podcast. 

Leigh Shamblin: Thank you so much for the opportunity. 

Jenny Hammond: Our second guest, Chuck Saia, as a senior partner at Deloitte and his 30-year career.

Chuck has held various leadership positions at Deloitte, including being the former chief executive officer of Deloitte risk and financial advisory board. Chuck is a CPA and holds an MBA from Quinnipiac University, where he is a member of their board of trustees and chairs, the boards futures committee earlier this year, Chuck authored his first book.

You got this kid words of advice for young leaders, with all of the proceeds, benefiting lupus research and environmental sustainability. So excited to have you join the Poole Podcast. Chuck welcome. Leigh actually, let’s go ahead and start with you. We’re going to kick off with you. So as a professor of practice in the field of leadership, share with us some of the core principles that you’re teaching in the classroom right now.

Leigh Shamblin: Thank you for that question, Jenny. Number one, there is no one perfect model of leadership you need to lead authentically. There are a lot of models out there and some of them are really good, but there is no one right way to be leader. Who you are, is how you lead. So getting to know yourself really well is important because you need to be authentic.

Vulnerability is important in leadership, you know, there’s so many people out there trying to be perfect. There’s no such thing as perfect. Being real with the people that you work with is really important. Principals are getting to know other people and what motivates them. Everyone isn’t motivated by the same things, learn to understand your team, be flexible, practice resilience.

The world is constantly changing and your ability to adapt is important as a leader and also practice forgiveness for yourself and others. You know, we’re all learning this together. We’re trying to figure out how to move through this Buka world.

Jenny Hammond: So I think that’s also important a follow-up to that I would ask in a classroom type of structure.

How do you teach those types of skills? I mean, are they teachable or are they things that you’re helping students kind of unearth about themselves as they go through kind 

Leigh Shamblin: of your curriculum? Both. Both. So I think some, some leadership traits are inherent, you know, there are things that we’re born with, like personality and temperament.

But others, the things that we can practice, like learning about emotional intelligence, learning how to have difficult conversations. And so one of the ways that we teach that in the classroom is we lay out the theories and the models and things like that, and talk about the principles, but then if people an opportunity to practice.

So for example, in women, as leaders, one of the things we practice, we read, uh, Dr. Bernay Brown. Dare to lead and we practice rumbling with vulnerability, dealing with something that’s difficult to deal with having a conversation that you may not want to have, but you know, you need to, and by practicing that and realizing, I think that I’ve had that conversation.

I’m still okay. I honored myself, I respected the other person. It gets easier and easier for people to do that. We do that with learning how to work with teams. So. A lot of the stuff that we do in leadership class is in this executive education, experiential mode. We want people to understand why we’re doing it and what to do, but then we put them right in and give them the practical experience of doing it because we think that’s the best way for people to learn how to.

Jenny Hammond: Check. I think this is a perfect question. You’ve had the opportunity to serve in a lot of different capacities and leadership roles, listening to Leigh. What would you say are some of the principles that you’ve leveraged the most throughout your career?

Chuck Saia: Well, Jenny, thanks for the question. Leigh, I’d love the answers, especially around authenticity and vulnerability.

And Jenny first, I appreciate that. You mentioned the book that I just don’t know. And I’ve committed that every time I talk about leadership and I grew up once the book that I would make sure the audience knew that all of the proceeds go to benefit lupus research and environmental sustainability, two things that are very important to me.

Um, leadership principles, you know, there there’s many, and Leigh touched on. Uh, many of them in the book we compare, we use animal analogies to compare the animal kingdom to the corporate jungle. And one of the animals we use is, is an armadillo, a thick skin. If you will, from a leadership perspective, it’s a true story.

Um, Alex, the Armadillo was walking across the jungle and a Puma comes out of the brushing attacks him. He makes it back to the dead and wastes. His mom, Isabelle to come home and greet them. And I’ll let you read the book to find out what happens to Alex. I then Palo it to my own story, where I had to look very deep inside myself to understand what created my thick skin.

I, unfortunately, I was downtown in 9/11. I made it out of the darkness that day at home, home to my family, to live my life. And what that did for me is it put things in perspective. Promotions didn’t mean as much. Raises didn’t mean as much when people made personal attacks on me and my leadership style, it didn’t mean as much.

That didn’t mean I didn’t need to learn and perhaps do things differently. But leadership is a contact sport, especially in the corporate jungle and you need a thick skin. There are other skills and we referenced them. You know, one is continuous development. Others is understanding the importance of mentors.

Teams diversity of thought there are many skills, but the one thing that I would say all leaders need is a big scam. 

Jenny Hammond: So this is a question to both of you. I’d be interested really to hear your different perspectives on this. It’s often said that leadership is not something that can be taught. It’s an inherent skill.

What would you say to that? 

Leigh Shamblin: So, as I mentioned earlier, there are some things about your style as a leader, like your personality, your attempt. Those come along with your genes and your early upbringing, right? When, so when you get to an organization, they can’t change that’s already in place, but what you can develop are the skills to be, as Chuck said, to, to develop a thick skin, to be resilient, to learn how to have crucial conversations, to pay it, learn how to pay more attention to yourself and what you need to really learn how.

Work with your team and your organization to move things forward. All of those things can be taught. All of those things can be taught. People may approach it differently based on what they inherited and how they grew up. But all of those, all of the leadership traits can be taught.

Chuck Saia: So I, I would agree on, on the taught piece, I certainly believe that we’re, we’re born with things the way we’re brought up may give us an advantage on, on how we live.

But I, I certainly believe that, that there are skills that, that can be taught in the book. There’s, there are two sections. One is it’s about you. And the other section is it’s not all about you. And in it’s about you section it’s purposely written, so you explore your own self-development. And one of the stories is about a butterfly and only 10% make it to the butterfly stage from the egg stage, which is similar to corporate.

The corporate jungle only 10% really make it to the highest levels of leadership. Oh, Lord illustrator was a student from the Parson school. Uh, there were three students that helped me launch the book, but Alexia did an unbelievable job. She drew it caterpillar for this section. They named the caterpillar William and they chose a tagline underneath the caterpillar that says, stay home.

And in that phrase, you can think about leadership and your development. You need to stay hungry, continuously, continuously learn. I find it fascinating that the book is you’ve got this kid words of advice for young leaders. And most people buy the book and hand it to someone younger than them, but the most seasoned leaders and the best leaders are reading it because they understand that you never truly.

Get to that butterfly stage, you always have to learn. And if they’re able to take something, anything and learn from it, they’ll do that. And in that response, you can see that a lot of it is taught. It’s taught how to be effective. 

Jenny Hammond: Carrying that a little bit out, kind of to the both of you Leigh, I was going to address this more to you looping back to principals, but we’ve had conversations with several people that have been on the podcast and response to kind of industry needs, right?

What are the skills that our students are going to need in the future? What are those skills that we for the jobs that we don’t even know exist yet? In my opinion, again, just my opinion. Leadership is one of those kind of inherent skillsets that transcends any industry. Are we preparing our students in your opinion, to be prepared for these jobs that we don’t even know are out there yet or, or, or giving them the right skillset and is leadership a core function of that?

Leigh Shamblin: So that’s a great question. We actually just had a meeting of our HR advisory board. The MIE department met with the HR advisory board and we asked them what skills does a 2024 graduate need? And we did it in a word cloud and what they came up. Where things that pertain to leadership, but they’re not so static content dependent.

For example, adaptability thinking, critical thinking, the ability to communicate, learning about analytics as technology and analytics are so important. Now, empathy, resiliency, the ability to engage. Problem-solving listening, humility. So all of these things pertain to leadership, how you lead yourself as an individual and then how you work with others.

And I think they also go back to many of the things that Chuck has already said, but you’ll notice on this list. These are things that we can work with anyone to learn, and these things can be connected to a variety of subject areas. So if we’re preparing people for the future, We’re preparing them to learn how to adapt quickly, to be confident in their ability to adapt, to be able to deal with things when they don’t work out.

You know, we say fail fast, fail often, fail fast, fail, often fail cheap, but to be able to approach things and try things and have a bias for action leading with vulnerability, humility, and empathy. 

Leigh Shamblin: Yeah. I, I find it fascinating that so many of these are soft. That we take for granted and Jenny, I think part of that is because we don’t know all of the things that are going to be required for future jobs, but we’re confident in our ability to learn that as long as we’re on this continuous learning journey as a species.

Jenny Hammond: We can adapt, check a follow-up to that. Yeah, sure. You’ve been in a position many times and hiring individuals. When you’re thinking about a candidate, are you looking for someone who already has a lot of these leadership skills or are you looking for someone who potentially might have them or has potential to grow?

Chuck Saia: So in, in all of my leadership conversations, I always get the question what differentiates a new employee, and I’ll answer it this way. Everyone has a special sauce about them and Leigh. I love the fact that you had confidence on that slide. Um, everybody has a special sauce and I’ll go back to the book again.

There’s a story of a Mandarin duck. It’s a true story. He flies into a New York city pond and the city is abuzz. People are calming to go take pictures of him to visit him because he specially looks different than everybody else in the pond. What I try and tell him. Students and people coming into the workforce is that year you’re special, but it’s going to take you 50 18.

It took me 15 to 18 years to figure out what makes me not only special, but that I had the confidence to use what differentiate. So you’re not going to come in day one and understand and fully appreciate what your own special sauces that it may sound cliche and it’s work ethic. How can you outward? And having tremendous work ethic, regardless of the task.

I tell the story of my first task, which was a miserable one. I was a graduate student MBA. I was asked to go to a print shop and watch, um, paper come off of a printer and be mailed outside of the door. And I had to follow that paper trail. That’s all I was asked to do. And I was so angry at my manager. I wanted to, you know, I didn’t want him to tell him off.

Um, I didn’t do that when he came. I said, I’ve seen some inefficiencies in the process. I don’t think I need to be here for three days. Next time we can shorten the life cycle. And he almost looked at me with disbelief because everyone had complained. But what I showed him was I understood, I was part of a team.

And then I had the work ethic to do this with the same Gusto as if I’d love the assignment. So I always tell people what can differentiate you on day one truly is work ethic and understanding you’re part of a bigger. 

Jenny Hammond: That’s great advice and pertinent. So to so many of our listeners too, who are entering the job market or who might be new to the job market as well, 

Chuck Saia: I mean, I would, so I applaud Leigh and I applaud NC State for trying to infuse soft skills.

It’s very easy to, to gravitate towards the hard skills that bring people into the workforce because those skills on day one are very important for the companies that are hiring your students. But the soft skills are really what are, what’s going to differentiate the student as they progress in their career.

And then just having a basic understanding of it is incredibly important. 

Jenny Hammond: Let’s talk about emotional intelligence because I think that falls into that category too. Right? Some might call it E Q emotional touch changed a lot over the years, but I can tell you from my own perspective, as a leader of a group, I feel that that’s a skill set that I carry, but it’s also one that I value so much because.

Try to understand everybody from, from where they are, meet them, where they are, not every leader can do that.

Leigh Shamblin: How important is it to have emotional intelligence and a role as such as a leader is when you’re leading people, emotional intelligence is critical. You need to, as you said, meet people where they are.

I love that. And really be able to, to have empathy for them and understand what’s going on with them. Not everybody may do it. I think everybody can do it. It’s like any kind of, we use StrengthsFinder in our Clifton strengths in our program and there are 34 strengths and everybody can do all 34 strengths, but the energy to try to do the ones at the bottom, the ones that are not don’t come so naturally and move those up.

That takes a lot of energy. Same thing with ETQ. There may be some emotionally emotional intelligence skills that don’t come naturally to you, but you can develop. We actually offer in our leading people, one class for all our part-time and online students, everyone learns about emotional intelligence in that class.

And then we have a one-credit class on emotional intelligence as well in the MBA program. So we really believe you can get better at this.

Jenny Hammond: I would say Chuck too, this is one of those differentiators when you agree. 

Chuck Saia: Yeah, I would agree. Um, you know, it goes back to the term authentic. That Leigh you used, if you’re not an authentic leader, you really can’t, you can’t fake emotional intelligence.

You can’t fake how you deal with your team, your stakeholders in an emotionally intelligent way with empathy and roll things that require you to be an effective leader. So I agree with Leigh’s response and I do tie it to being authentic. And also to the other word you use, which is vulnerable because if you don’t show your own vulnerability, Um, your team is not going to believe you check out.

Leigh Shamblin: I love that. And you reminded me that, you know, for example, if you’re not so good at it, rather than trying to pretend that you are being able to say to your team, this is something I’m not so good at, but I’m trying to get better. Please help me. That’s authentic. And I think people will respect that more than you pretending to be something that you.

Jenny Hammond: And I would say, I guess my question, my next question is how important has humility, especially as a leader of a large organization and Chuck, maybe from your seat of a larger organization, how important is that for a leader to show that they have the humility and a role, that question keeps coming up.

Chuck Saia: So I think more and more people are asking the question about leadership and our, do we have humble leaders? How important is humility and it has to be part of your plan. Well, I mentioned one, one section of the book is it’s about you. The other section of the book, it’s not all about you. And in that section, I use an analogy of an Eagle to display the importance of mentorship, mentee, mentor relationships.

I use dolphins. To talk about the importance of team use dogs, to talk about the importance of diversity and diversity of thought, and a really humble and effective leader understands that before they make the big decision, they should be leveraging their team, their mentors and diversity of thought before they go execute.

And in that you’re showing that you’re humble. You don’t have all of the answers and you’ll be a more effective leader. If you take that approach. 

Jenny Hammond: I can remember one of the first meetings I had, uh, uh, I will not name her name on this podcast, but I was in a meeting with one of my old bosses. This is when I was a younger young buck.

And, um, we were in a, in a room with all the big wigs of the organization and she got called out and I was asked a specific question. Why did this happen? And she said, I don’t know why that happened. I’ll take that onus on myself. I don’t have an answer, but I’ll find out. And it was just so empowering to hear somebody.

Say they didn’t know the answer that set that, that little dose of humility. And that example has carried me all the way through my career. I think about things now, when I go through situations, tough situations and I get those hard questions, transparency, and just being truthful and, you know, showing that I’m a human too at the end of the day.

And I guess this is a question Leigh, specifically for you, maybe things that you’re seeing in the classroom now, you know, this last year of the pandemic. So I would say it’s been great in a lot of ways. Some say it’s been challenging. How has that impacted kind of maybe your style of teaching and have students that maybe you have in the classroom that have leadership roles, how have they pivoted and changed and use some of these skills with them?

Leigh Shamblin: Jay, that’s a great question. I’m really apropos for the time. What I keep hearing, what I’ve learned myself is in situations like this, we have to give. You know, we have to be stronger leaders recognizing there are people who are working at home, raising kids and schooling them at home. Maybe even having to also deal with elderly parents at home, in our new normal.

If we expect that we’re going to lay those same rules down that we used to have in the office, or to be as rigid as we used to be. I mean, remember when people said, oh, no, people can’t work from home. That’s just not going to work, but we know that’s not true. But we have to, I think give grace to each other.

And the way that you expressed what your manager said to you, being honest and being vulnerable is so critical. It builds trust in the team. And if you have trust, if I trust you and you trust me, then even you don’t see me sitting in this chair, even if you don’t see that. And I don’t see you sitting in your chair, I trust you’re going to get the job done and we’re going to work well together and we can make it.

That from student after student leader, after leader, we’ve made adjustments. We’re more human. Now as a result of the pandemic, we’re treating people as humans, more and less as assets to be used. So I hear that over and over. And as a professor, I just, I recognize if you tell me I’ve got this thing that makes it hard for me to get this done, let’s talk.

That’s good. 

Jenny Hammond: Chuck, I guess I was going to ask you too, from your perspective, has the pandemic, or will the pandemic alter the style of those in the C-suite? 

Chuck Saia: Well, I, I certainly agree with Leigh that I think it’s, it’s forced the conversation around the human aspect of leadership, the importance of understanding that we’re all humans and we all share a common thread that we’re in this world together.

And I, I think it’s put a lot of pressure. That employees shouldn’t apologize for, um, odd leaders to become more human, to meet their needs in a, in a different way. I think in that respect, the pandemic has changed the world for the better part of the, the underlying theme in the book. And especially the Mandarin duct story is that when you, when you fly into a pond, if your special sauce is not recognized, you can go fly to another pond.

Um, I always tell young leaders that people that are entering the workforce. So if you fly into a pond and they’re not treating you like a human, they’re not embracing what makes you special, you have choices. So I think the pandemic has certainly pushed leaders to think differently. Frankly, some leaders aren’t gonna make it.

It goes, they didn’t show that human side of things in the appropriate way. But I think, I think because of that, the corporate jungle, so to speak is going to be a better place moving from. 

Jenny Hammond: I have a couple of questions to round out the podcast, but I’m going to throw one in here that was not on your cheat sheet before the podcast.

And it can be referenced to someone who is doing something now or maybe in the past, but do you both have a favorite leader? Someone that’s doing something out there now that you admire or carries a lot of the leadership skills and traits that you think are worthy of following? I do have a number of mentors.

Chuck Saia: That I’ve chosen. I think that’s the other important thing. Choose your mentors wisely that I’ve chosen because I see them as great leaders. I think as I think about the common thread of what makes them great leaders is their willingness to spend time with me. When I have issue, they’re willing to reach out to me when I don’t have issue, but also their willingness to have an impact on broader things.

It’s not just the impact on the organization or the people in the organization or a client base. It’s an impact on our communities and society as a whole. Those are the mentors that I gravitated towards people that are having a broader impact than just the specific business. 

Jenny Hammond: Leigh, you mentioned not to name drop, but you mentioned Bernay Brown as someone you utilize in your teaching.

So she’s pretty powerful. I’ve read a couple of her books as a female. Anyone that resonates with you right now, or someone in the past?

Leigh Shamblin: So in our women as leaders class, I asked everyone to choose a woman, a female leader that they admired. And my choice was Stacy Abrams for all of the work that she was doing on voting rights and getting people out.

I definitely am I, hi, my Renee Brown, as I’ve mentioned before, in terms and Stacy and stay to be an action leader, someone who’s getting out there and really just doesn’t quit. Someone who I admire as a thought leader is actually Dr. Yuval, Noah Harari, who wrote sapiens, because I think it’s Jack was saying, you know, they’re they’re leaders that help society get better.

And he’s really challenging us to think about what our role is as human. And how we’re going to interact with each other and what we’re going to do on the planet. So those are, those are some that I admire. 

Jenny Hammond: Do you think leadership is different from a male perspective and a female perspective or vice versa?

Do they lead differently? 

Chuck Saia: Um, no. I don’t think you can generalize any human being that way. I, I don’t. I think the principles of leadership are shared across genders, across races, across. Uh, any demographic, the leadership principles are the same. There are leaders that are more effective at embracing certain principles than others, but I don’t think you can generalize it and say that, you know, one sex versus the other sex is better at one thing or not.

Leigh Shamblin: I agree with Chuck on that in terms of, um, being effective. One thing that did come up when we were having this discussion in class, cause we do have a few men and the women as leaders class, and I think. As we think about embracing the traits of humility and vulnerability and emotional intelligence of willing, willing to be vulnerable, that comes a little bit more naturally for women than it does for men.

And because I think men are taught and I’m generalizing here, but then there are all sorts of different situations. But I think in general, men are taught that it’s not okay for them to be vulnerable. That they’re supposed to kind of suck it up and sometimes not even really feel. And so I think that can be harder for men to actually adapt to than women.

But I agree with Chuck, everybody can leave. 

Jenny Hammond: You are kind of everywhere in the leadership space at Poole. What are some exciting things that are happening in Poole right now in that space? And what can we look forward to in the next 12 to 18? 

Leigh Shamblin: So lots of things going on. We, at the undergraduate level, we have, we have our Poole Leadership Program where undergraduates can track their engagement and the whole bunch of activities.

And as part of that, we created a new inclusive leader badge for our student org leaders to really help them better understand diversity, equity and inclusion in the graduate program. We have a new business leadership certificate. It’s 12. So many of our MBAs are pursuing that we had our first graduates in December.

We’ll continue to, to work with that and to get more online leadership courses so that we really can expand our reach to others. We have our McLaughlin leadership series that was initially instituted in 2015 with a generous gift from Russ and Cara McLauchlan. And in the first five years of this series, we had 127 McLauchlan fellows.

Out of our MBA program, the McLauchlan’s have renewed their grant, which is fabulous. And this year we have 27 fellows and looking forward to the next four years. So I think we’ll continue to build out our leadership offerings at both the undergraduate and the graduate level. We continue to move many of our leadership courses to an executive education format.

I talked about this at the beginning so that we. Talk about leadership, but give people an opportunity to practice so that they walk away from leadership classes with something that they can use immediately. That’s really important to us. It’s not theory let’s dig in and practice being leaders, true, actionable items that they can take them out.

Jenny Hammond: Chuck, we actually got introduced virtually through Mark Beasley. Who’s been on this podcast already. He came and talked a little bit about risk, which he’s very good at, by the way, talking about risk, but he made the connection for us mostly because of this book that you released earlier this year, we mentioned it kind of in your intro, but I’d love if you would just give us kind of a general overview of the book and really more importantly, what inspired you to write.

Chuck Saia: I can’t tell you how much I appreciate you giving me the opportunity to talk about it. As I mentioned, all of the proceeds go to lupus research and environmental sustainability. We have a foundation at the university where I’m on the board of, um, and I’m flabbergasted by the helping hands like NC State, like Mark that have embraced not only the book, but the philanthropy side.

Of things. I, when I wrote the book, I was frankly, at an inflection point in my career where I was trying to decide what I was going to do next. So it was therapeutic for me, which was fun. Um, I’ve always used animal analogies and I thought, well, wouldn’t it be great to write a book using animal analogies about the animal kingdom versus the, the corporate jungle.

I set forth for three things. One to make it fun, make it memorable. I thought that you would remember seven animals better than you would remember some big leadership framework and that it would be impactful. And the impactful side is the impact that we’re having. With the proceeds, but in addition, um, we’ve now formed strategic partnerships with, for instance, the lupus foundation of America, where we’re doing joint things with them around awareness, we’ve created a curriculum.

At one of the medical schools in the Northeast, the one that I’m on the board of that syrup is centered on leadership, lupus and environmental sustainability. I should say it started with those proceeds going there because my sister and he has Lucas, I’ve seen the impact that it has on our family and hers.

And then, because I’m a fisherman. I had been the benefactor of some clean waterways, and I wanted to have an impact in local communities. I’ve since learned that auto-immune diseases like Lou. People are impacted because of the toxins in the environment. I’ve learned that because I’ve met so many people with lupus, so many people that want to have an impact on environmental sustainability.

We’ve put a board around our foundation that are sort of, sort of helping us make decisions. And there are people with lupus and a passion for environmental sustainability. So I think. I mean again, I’m, I’m so touched by the university, Mark making the introduction that you’d give us the opportunity to do this.

I used to joke that we’d we have one book, so because I buy my own book and you know, it’s done a lot better than that. Yeah. There’s a lot of great things happening around, around the book that made me feel really, really proud about the people that have helped me launch it and are helping me drive it to, to a new place in terms of positive impact on our society.

Do you see a sequel? I do. Um, you know, one, thank you for asking Julia, you know, we, so the students said we need Merck, I guess that’s the term for merchandise. So they created merchandise and the proceeds from that also go to the same, the same color. We have started to write curriculum for, for, as I mentioned, the college-level high schools and grad schools we’ve already got at each of those levels.

People signed up and through the grabber schools, they run a children’s book. So we are in discussions about putting this together in a children’s book to drive additional philanthropy, looking to break that out somewhere around the holiday season next year. So thanks for asking. 

Jenny Hammond: Yeah, I, I guess Leigh and I have to say, we knew you when, so when this is your second career, right as this well-known author.

No, it’s great. And I think, I think even more of a reason to check the book out other than the principle, which it represents, it’s just the intention behind it. And I think that’s always. Great calls too.

Chuck Saia: Well, if you do read it, send me a note through LinkedIn. I love it. Hearing what your favorite animal is.

It’s one of my favorite things and we’re keeping track. So it’s going to be interesting to understand the demographics and different types of people that say they liked the, you know, the dolphin, everybody hates the scorpion. I’ll let you read it, figure out that. But, uh, the dolphin, I think the dolphin, the Eagle and the, uh, and the Mandarin Ducker and the leader.

Jenny Hammond: I’ll definitely do that. Well, before we wrap up, I have one less question for both of you and it’s kind of a, we try to configure this question as applicable as we can to the topic, but Chuck, I’m not sure if you’re aware, but the NC State kind of tagline is thinking do, and so I was thinking about a question for the two of you.

I’d love to know, in your opinion, for a leader in any space, how important is for them to think and do, or is there one that’s more important than the other? Should they be more of a thinker, more of a doer? 

Leigh Shamblin: What are, what are your thoughts on that? Yeah, I think when we talked about what kind of skills do you need and critical thinking is there that’s so important, but then it, a bias for action is also important.

Don’t let things fester. Be willing to try things, even though you don’t know exactly how they’re going to turn out. If you can see something as needed, get together with your team, try things, have this bias for action. So I can’t choose Chuck. How about you? 

Chuck Saia: I, I think every leader is different and I, I’ll go back to what we talked about on special sauce.

My special sauce is so much different than, than other leaders that, that I’ve come across. Um, that doesn’t make me unique. There’s people like me, but depending on the type of leader you are, that would be one aspect of whether you’re more on the thinking side or the doing side. But the thing that I would say is it’s not all about you, right?

So your team, which Leigh is talked a lot about, uh, your team is so vital to how you both think and do, and on any given day, you might do more thinking than doing, but the most important thing. So leverage a team that allows you to both think and do, even if it’s viewed as an extension of you. Um, I think, look, I I’ve always said that the most enjoyable thing for me personally, as a leader is to think through strategy, set that strategy and then inspire my teams to go and execute that strategy.

So I think that that would put me more. Think side of things, but without my extended team, nothing’s going to get done. So that’s the way I would, I would look at it. I love that. That’s great. 

Jenny Hammond: Well, thank you both for taking the time to spend with us today. I think, um, there are so many key takeaways that anyone, as Chuck said at any age and career stage can use moving forward and we definitely appreciate the time given to the podcast.

So thank you both. 

Leigh Shamblin: Can I add something? Sure. Something that I hear often from individual contributors is I’m not a leader. And I would challenge you to think differently. You absolutely are a leader you’re already 100% responsible for leading yourself. So figure out how to get good at that. Even if you don’t have other people to lead in a team.

Get good at that. And then go learn how to lead others, but never think that just because you don’t have positional power, you’re not a leader. Great. 

Jenny Hammond: Thank you. 

Leigh Shamblin: Thank you both. So, Jenny, thank you so much for the opportunity to be a part of this podcast. Chuck, it’s been great. Getting to know a little bit more about you.

I’m personally. That you’re now working on the academic committee and hope that we can get you involved in our leadership activities here at Poole. This is a real opportunity for me, and I’m just really grateful. 

Chuck Saia: Thank you so much. Really appreciate it.


Jenny Hammond: right. Well, thank you to everyone for listening. For more information on the Poole College of Or follow along on social media, where we’re @NCStatePoole. You can connect with both Leigh and Chuck on LinkedIn, and you can also buy Chuck’s book on And if you like the show, be sure to subscribe and leave us a rating and review.

About the Poole Podcast

The Poole Podcast is a think and do conversation about the relationship between academics and industry. Each episode will share research and ideas from inside the classroom from our incredible NC State faculty and explore how it’s being translated into practice. Released every two weeks on Monday.