The Leadership Playbook

A Podcast on How to be a Leader, From the Best Leaders of our Time

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Welcome to The Leadership Playbook

Launched in 2020, The Leadership Playbook asks top executives from the business world’s most recognizable brands and companies about the stories behind their success, their leadership secrets, and the biggest obstacles they’ve faced and overcome.

The show consists of interviews hosted by Joseph M. Phillips, Dean of the Albers School of Business and Economics, or recordings from some of the most memorable Albers Executive Speaker Series talks.

The Leadership Playbook is made possible by the generous support of RSM US LLP.

RSM logoRSM is the leading provider of professional services to the middle market. The clients it serves are the engine of global commerce and economic growth, and RSM is focused on developing leading professionals and services to meet their evolving needs in today's ever-changing business landscape. Its purpose is to instill confidence in a world of change, empowering its clients and people to realize their full potential.

RSM US LLP is the US member of RSM International, a global network of independent assurance, tax, and consulting firms with 57,000 people in 120 countries.

Leadership Playbook Episodes

Episodes are listed from newest to oldest.

Math and Magic

Taco Bell CEO Sean TresvantIt was a packed Pigott Auditorium on February 8, 2024 when Taco Bell CEO and MBA alum Sean Tresvant spoke at the Albers Executive Speaker Series. Tresvant, the first Black CEO of Taco Bell, succeeded Mark King as CEO after being the Global Chief Brand & Strategy Officer of the $16 billion QSR brand. At the Series, he talked about his journey from university to the top position at Taco Bell, lessons he learned along the way, and how the brand is expanding beyond its food and beverage lane to become a pop culture phenomenon. He also talked about the challenges in global expansion and how he sees marketing for the future: "It's both math and magic."


Leadership is About Learning, Collaboration, and Embracing Change

Ketul Patel CEO of Virginia Mason Franciscan Health"You want to be a leader? Then you must be a sponge." Virginia Mason Franciscan Health CEO Ketul Patel told the audience at the Albers Executive Speaker Series on October 17, 2023 that learning is core to leadership success, along with building relationships and leaning into change. Healthcare continues to face challenges, among them workforce shortages and the entry of Wall Street, but he is optimistic about growing and scaling the only health system covering the entire Puget Sound. A wise mentor once told him that to be successful, "you have to live on an elevator. What he meant was you must connect with people at all levels of the organization, not just make it to the boardroom.

The Regime Change of our Times

Kevin Depew Deputy Chief Economist at RSM USMost recessions are not all hands-on-deck, everything-stops-at-once collapses." RSM US Deputy Chief Economist and Industry Analyst Program Leader Kevin Depew talks to Albers Dean Joe Phillips about the economy, domestic and global, and prospects for inflation. Recorded in August 2023, Depew elaborates on why he doesn't think a recession is guaranteed and how the regime change the world is experiencing is underpinned by three key factors: Globalization, growth, and liquidity.

The Challenge and Promise of NIL

Speakers at a conferenceIn April 2023, Albers' MBA in Sport and Entertainment Management hosted the Pacific Northwest Academy of Legal Studies in Business' regional conference in Seattle. Among the sessions was a highly anticipated panel discussion on NIL.

NIL (name, image, likeness) refers to the rights of college athletes to profit from their personal brands as mandated by an NCAA policy that went into effect on July 1, 2021. The evolving legal landscape for NIL makes it a closely watched topic by athletes, brands, universities, and other stakeholders.

This is a recording of the panel discussion with NIL subject matter experts who are deeply immersed in the area: James Buder, Assistant Attorney General of the University of Washington; Hector Rivas, co-founder of Disruptive Sports; Debbie Spander, founder and CEO of Insight Sports Advisers; and Natalie M. Welch, assistant professor at the MBA in Sport and Entertainment Management.

Bringing the World to Seattle, and Seattle to the World

Peter Tomozawa, CEO, SEAFWC26

The FIFA World Cup is the world's largest sporting event, 14% bigger than the Olympics in audience size and six times the size of the Super Bowl's 175 million viewers. And it's coming to Seattle in 2026 as the city becomes one of 16 North American locations chosen to host several games. How do cities pitch for sporting events of this size? What is the economic impact of occasions like this?

Peter Tomozawa, CEO of SEAFWC26, the organization tasked with preparing Seattle for the 2026 World Cup, talked about this and more at the Albers Executive Speaker Series on May 8, 2023. More important than putting on a good show is the legacy left behind, he said. "We're not going to build another Space Needle," he said, referring to the iconic construction from 1962 World's Fair. "The plan is to focus on a people-based legacy, on community, culture, and children."

Renaissance Man

Bill Weis management professorManagement Professor Bill Weis sat down with Albers Dean Joe Phillips In June 2023 to talk about how he became the school's longest serving faculty member with 50 years of teaching under his belt. In this half-century, Weis became the standard bearer of banning smoking in the workplace; brought worldwide attention to an obscure 15th century Italian friar; and started an adventure-based leadership course that built strong bonds among generations of MBA students. The freedom to pursue his varied interests was one reason he has stayed at Albers: "This is a place that honors who you are."

Leading with Purpose

Jim Weber CEO Brooks RunningIn his book 'Running with Purpose: How Brooks Outpaced Goliath Competitors to Lead the Pack', Brooks Running Company CEO Jim Weber shared how he led a passionate, committed team to transform a failing business into a billion-dollar brand in the ultra-competitive global running market. Brooks' success caught the attention of Warren Buffett, who declared it a standalone subsidiary company of Berkshire Hathaway Inc. in 2012. Listen to this live recording of Weber's Albers Executive Speaker Series talk on October 13, 2022, where he discoursed on a range of topics, from promoting diversity in the workplace to what he would tell his 20-year-old self.

Economic Allyship: Bridging the Gap Between Intention and Action

Laura Clise CEO and Founder IntentionalistIntentionalist founder and CEO Laura Clise makes the call for thinking small—small business, to be specific. In her talk at the Albers Executive Speaker Series on May 12, 2022, she talked about how we can all be part of the solution to economic inequality, racial injustice, and the fraying of our social fabric by being more intentional about where we eat, drink, and shop. As Clise put it, "Economic allyship is a powerful way to translate our good intentions into action that contributes to the cultural change necessary for a more connected, inclusive, and equitable world."

The New Return on Experience (ROE): Redefining the Fan Experience

Catie Griggs President Business Operations Seattle MarinersHow is the highest-ranking female business executive in baseball looking to revitalize one of Seattle's most loved sports franchises? Catie Griggs, President of Business Operations for the Seattle Mariners, joined the Albers Executive Speaker Series on April 27, 2022, to talk about her vision. For her, it boils down to a renewed focus on the fan experience that's grounded on three principles: Winning their games, creating a truly inclusive and welcoming experience to all, and offering outstanding value. Listen to the recording of Griggs' live panel where she talked about all this and her mantra, 'Doesn't Matter; Get Better'.

Harriet Stephenson: All Business from Day One

Harriet Stephenson Professor Emerita AlbersFor Albers' 75th year, Dean Joe Phillips sat down with the iconic Harriet Stephenson, a business professor who taught at Albers from 1967 to 2014. Stephenson, one of the few female business PhDs in her time, founded what is now the Innovation & Entrepreneurship Center (IEC) and won many awards for her teaching and her work in social entrepreneurship and small business management.

Phillips asked her how she first got interested in business (leasing her grandfather's swimming pool in Walla Walla), what it was like to be a woman in business in the 60s ("business was pretty much men"), and the origins of Albers' triple bottom line, among others. When asked how she felt about the IEC naming their business competition after her, Stephenson said with much satisfaction, "I gotta say I like it."

If you studied under Harriet or are just interested in the woman after whom our business plan competition is named, listen to this interview from March 2022 and understand why she's a living legend.

Beyond Net Zero Carbon by 2045

Mary Kipp CEO Puget Sound EnergyIn this recording of the November 18, 2021 Albers Executive Speaker Series, Puget Sound Energy CEO Mary E. Kipp talked about the dual utility's journey toward its goal of net zero carbon emissions, including natural gas sold to customers, by 2045.

A big challenge, as Kipp explained, is "how do you optimize existing assets to make sure you decarbonize as quickly as you can and not leave anyone behind?" To meet its goal, PSE has upped transparency, asked for more input from diverse communities, and focused on partnerships in a big way. "This climate change thing is bigger than all of us," Kipp said. "So let's get together and do it in a collaborative, respectful fashion."


Go Do. Go Try. Go Challenge.

Eric Artz, President and CEO REIREI Co-op President and CEO Eric Artz emphasized values and impact in this October 13, 2021 recording of the first live Albers Executive Speaker Series in 18 months.

With an ambitious goal to grow membership from 20 million to 50 million, Artz said their aspiration is to grow a community of 50 million who are engaged and fighting for pressing societal issues we face today such as climate change and racial equity. He also spoke about how REI is handling supply chain challenges, how he built a powerful company culture, and the advice he'd give aspiring leaders. "Challenge yourself. Go do. Go try. When you get comfortable, force yourself to get uncomfortable, because those are the moments that you're growing."

Reflections on More Than Two Decades of Leading Seattle University

Father Steve Sundborg, former Seattle University presidentA panel of three former Seattle University Board of Trustees Chairs—Phyllis Campbell, Jim Sinegal, and Steve Hooper—asked outgoing SU President Father Steve Sundborg about his leadership insights, the most challenging moments in the 24 years he led SU, his post-retirement plans, and how he sees the university in the future. The May 19, 2021 discussion also announced the creation of the Stephen V. Sundborg, SJ Endowment for Business Social Impact to support community outreach programs such as the Innovation & Entrepreneurship Center's RAMP-Up program.

Learning is a Continuous Journey

Christine Gregoire former WA state governor Challenge Seattle CEOChallenge Seattle CEO and former Washington Governor Christine Gregoire talked to Albers Dean Joe Phillips about her experience navigating a recession, the initiatives she is spearheading in response to last year's racial unrest, and her advice for students graduating in a pandemic. The common thread throughout the episode was being open to learning throughout one's lifetime. "Whatever you end up doing, don't assume that's your lifelong job," she said in this interview recorded on March 25, 2021. "Let the doors open; let the sky be the limit."

Breaking Through the Clouds and Finding the Blue Sky

Brad Tilden Group Chairman Alaska AirAlaska Air Group chairman Brad Tilden, who retired as CEO in March 2021, reflected on the challenges, triumphs, and lessons learned in the nine years he led the Seattle-based airline. The self-confessed airline geek who "loves the smell of jet fuel in the morning" talked about transcending the pandemic, what he is most proud of during his time as Alaska CEO, and how to spot the right talent for the airline industry. Like him, they all "believe in the magic of flight".

The Path to Achievement Starts with Building Your Runway

Craig Dawson President and CEO Retail LockboxRetail Lockbox President and CEO Craig Dawson knew he wanted to go into business when he was four years old. In this interview recorded in January 2021, he talked about how he is leveraging his experience as a Black business owner and leader in heading up the Washington Roundtable and Washington Employers for Racial Equity. Dawson spoke on how he strongly he felt about championing Black business and the advice he would give to young professionals as they start their careers. "When I graduated, I thought I was old," he recounted. "What I didn't realize was how much runway I had."

Leader Humility and Its Surprising Role in Organizational Success

Marilyn Gist Seattle University Emeritus Professor and AuthorIn this interview recorded in February 2021, Seattle University Emeritus Professor, thought leader, and author Marilyn Gist talked about her seminal work on leading with humility and how it underpins success in the best performing organizations. Gist defined leader humility as "feeling and displaying deep regard for others' dignity". Her research shows that contrary to the perception that it denotes weakness, leader humility builds a strong culture and incentivizes members to bring their best selves to the table.

Seeking the Spark in Everything

Jessie Woolley-Wilson President CEO and Board Chair DreamBox Learning"Talent exists everywhere, but opportunity does not." When the pandemic hit, K-8 digital math program DreamBox Learning opened its platform for free to schools and parents, providing a much-needed resource during trying times. President, CEO, and Board Chair Jessie Woolley-Wilson talked in this interview, recorded in January 2021, about COVID being a pivotal moment for DreamBox, the future of education technology, and the challenges she has faced as a renowned Black female leader in the historically male-dominated tech world.

Wanted: Contrarians, Disruptors, and Do-gooders

Rajeev Singh CEO of Accolade"Seek businesses that are built on principle or go and build one of your own." In January 2020, the Albers Executive Speaker Series hosted Accolade CEO Rajeev Singh, one of the Pacific Northwest’s most successful entrepreneurs. During his talk, he shared his guidepost for his every decision, other highly successful innovators who embrace beliefs that contradict the current orthodoxy, and how to recognize and master those moments that will change your course forever. 

Three CEOs Look Back on Their Experience Running Boeing

Ray Conner, Frank Shrontz, and Alan Mulally former Boeing CEOsFor the first time ever, three former CEOs from Boeing were on a panel discussing their experiences in leadership and culture during their executive tenures. The Albers Executive Speaker Series hosted Frank Shrontz, Alan Mulally, and Ray Conner in October 2018, asking them a host of questions from the challenges they faced in running Boeing to what advice they'd give students aspiring to senior leadership someday.

How Diversity is Building a Better Apptio

Sunny Gupta Co-founder and CEO ApptioEmbracing diversity in everything from hiring practices to choosing office locations has had multiple benefits for SaaS solutions provider Apptio. Recorded in August 2020, Co-founder and CEO Sunny Gupta explained in this interview how ‘opening our aperture’ not only strengthened their culture, it also enabled the Bellevue-based firm to recover faster from the initial impact of COVID-19 on their business. 

Bringing Hockey Back to the Northwest

Tod Leiweke, CEO, Seattle KrakenIn October 2019, Seattle Kraken CEO Tod Leiweke spoke to a packed Pigott Auditorium about building a successful sports franchise, reviving the Key Arena (now known as Climate Pledge Arena), and what brought him back to Seattle: "At the end of the day, you have to believe in the fans". Followers of hockey and the business of sport will enjoy this throwback episode where Leiweke enthralled and inspired an animated audience. 

What it Means to be a Leader

Amy Hood Microsoft CFOIn September 2020, Microsoft CFO Amy Hood sat down virtually with Dean Joe Phillips to discuss her leadership philosophy, how disruptive technologies like blockchain are changing finance, and what advice she would give to recent graduates, particularly in a pandemic period. 

Performance, Product, and People

John Burke Trek Bikes CEOAs the pandemic deepened in the US, Trek Bikes saw a surge in bicycle sales, especially among new riders. In this interview recorded in August 2020, CEO John Burke talked about how this trend has impacted their business, the opportunities presented by e-bikes and new technology, and how to thrive in a family-owned business. He also elaborated on his 16 nonpartisan solutions to save America, as written in his Presidential Playbook 2020. 

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Alicia Kan

Albers Director of Marketing and Communications

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