The Mays Office of Diversity and Inclusion hosted Chuck Saia, CEO of Deloitte Risk, Consulting, and Financial Advisory Services, as part of the “Mays Speaks” series. The critical dialogue series seeks to educate students on ways to respond to acts of bias in a manner that invites dialogue rather than anger. Saia led an open discussion with participants on the role of a courageous leader on a global scale.
From the start of the session, however, one could tell that it wouldn’t be difficult for Saia to get his message across, as he was impressed by Texas A&M University and acknowledged that he could see the courageous leadership that is embedded here deep in the history of the campus. “As students attending, you see it and are reminded of it each and every day,” said Saia.
But what is the definition of being a courageous leader, and what does a culture of courageous leadership look like? Saia broke it down into five unique steps:
• Speak openly and be an authentic leader
• Never stop learning
• Build teams that are smarter than you
• Focus on action more than words
• Invite diversity of thought
Saia came to the realization of this concept first-hand after enduring the national tragedy our country experienced on 9/11. Saia opened up to the students when he talked about being on the scene that day, and being one of the last two people to leave the World Financial Center, which is connected to the World Trade Center.
Experiencing that disrupted his perspective and kick-started the implementation of courageous leadership within his company. This was done through, what is now a company tradition, called Impact Day, where the entire firm spends a day making an impact on society and the surrounding community – much like Texas A&M’s Big Event – to create a culture of courage among employees.
Saia then explained to students the steps it takes to embrace the concept of being a courageous leader. One must:
• Walk with swagger and confidence in everything you do
• Elevate your profile, disrupt, and execute
• Learn not to rely on the relationships you currently have
Elaborating on what he meant by being able to disrupt, Saia said that one had to “step outside of yourself and discuss solutions. Even clients don’t know what they truly need.” Continuing with what it means to execute, Saia said “that it is the obligation to leave a firm better tomorrow than it is today. better firm tomorrow than it is today.
Closing the discussion, Saia left participants with some key words of advice on building great relationships:
• Bring breadth and depth to every capability
• Explore new opportunities and step out of your comfort zone
• Be present. Don’t be afraid to have a candid conversation
Saia concluded by asking the students what differentiates them as an individual. “You can’t stay in your own silo, you have to grow as an individual,” he said. “You have to round yourself out in different ways.”