Leadership “More an Art than a Science”
Executive-in-Residence Paul Bianchi shares 25+ years high-tech experience with students

An experienced and successful human capital executive and consultant, Paul Bianchi is serving as the Robert A. Fox Executive-in-Residence this academic year. Bianchi brings over 25 years of high-technology leadership experience at innovative companies such as NeXT, Apple, Ask Jeeves, PeopleSoft and Illumina.

Bianchi is a UC Davis alumnus and serves on the Graduate School of Management’s Dean’s Advisory Council. He has been a mentor for students and spoken to students at career workshops and events, including a panel of prominent business leaders addressing ethics and values-based leadership during incoming student orientation.

Bianchi]As the senior leader of HR and human capital for technology companies, Bianchi has focused on leading organization, culture and people development strategies.

At Strayer Consulting Group, Bianchi offered similar services to a wide variety of clients from small start-ups to large multi-billion dollar companies.

Bianchi has a Masters in Management from the University of Kent, Canterbury (UK) and a Bachelor of Science in Managerial Economics, with a minor in rhetoric, from UC Davis. He has been certified as a Senior Professional in HR, has taught at San Jose State University and has spoken on various topics at HR conferences.

We caught up with Bianchi and asked him six key questions:

What type of activities are you involved in as our Executive-in-Residence this year?

As Executive-in-Residence, I have a combination of roles:

  • I am working with Dean Unnava, Professor Kimberly Elsbach, two students and staff to re-design our approach to teaching and providing experiences around leadership for our MBA students. I’ve spent much of my career developing leaders and leadership in organizations, as well as acting in leadership roles, so I am hopeful I bring helpful perspectives to the group. Our focus we have is on “doubling down” on the kind of leadership that already exists at the School—collaborative leadership. This type of capability is a strong differentiator in how prospective employers view candidates and how they can add value as leaders in their organizations.
  • I have led a career seminar, two Leadership Series seminars and an executive education session for a school client. I enjoy sharing my experiences and insights with others.
  • I act as an advisor and supporter to Dean Unnava, both as a participant on the Dean’s Advisory Council as well as more informally as he continues to pursue his vision for the School.

This winter quarter you’ve been collaborating with Robert Smelick, our Ciocca Visiting Professor in Innovation and Entrepreneurship. You’re team teaching a unique series of leadership workshops for students at all three of our MBA campuses. Can you share more about these sessions?

Bob Smelick and I spoke a few times and met to plan with Dean Unnava to develop a Leadership Series of several workshops. Bob is delivering a course that he also teaches at Darden, a fascinating look at specific cases of leaders and the qualities they exhibited to lead their companies through challenges and into success. 

My focus is to take a broader look at leadership. I provide students with a chance to consider a personalized leadership framework they can begin to build around, as they continue to develop their leadership experiences and skills, both while at UC Davis and beyond.

What techniques do you use in your sessions and how are you drawing on your experience?

My first session is about helping students define leadership and understanding some of the foundational elements of what is more an art than a science.

For example, I believe it’s important for leaders to understand what is important to them—what their values are—in tangible enough ways to be able to act and speak consistently with and to those values in a leadership role. I used a number of examples of my experience with leaders in companies such as NeXT, Apple, Ask Jeeves, PeopleSoft and Illumina to give students a connection to how values-based leadership works and how to consider how to be ready to use values as a basis for their behaviors.  

One of my favorite employers to talk about leadership values is NeXT, where I had the benefit of working for Steve Jobs for several years. Even though he passed away, Steve continues to be an inspiration for great stories and learning.

My second session leverages the first to further explore the leadership behaviors each of our students wants to practice that are consistent with their stated values.

I think the best part of these seminars was giving our MBA students a chance to share their own stories, impressions, mistakes and learnings around leadership – it made for an active dialogue where our students could learn not only from me, but from each other.

What would hope would be the key takeaways for students in the Leadership Series?

Leadership is—at its core, I believe—about taking responsibility, about “leading intentionally” by being clear what you stand for, about “Following Consciously” in a way that makes learning leadership a life-long pursuit, and, ultimately about the secret to credible leadership: Doing what you say you’re going to do!

You are also collaborating with Dean Unnava, faculty, staff and students on developing an MBA Leadership Program for the future focused on better preparing collaborative leaders. Where does that stand?

As a working group, we’ve met a number of times to discuss the various aspects of what we believe “Collaborative Leadership” could and should mean. More importantly, we’ve broken down that term into key leadership behaviors such as “Inspires Others to Achieve” and “Builds Trust and Positive Energy.”

We are then looking to find or create opportunities at the curriculum, co-curriculum and extra-curricular levels that give students the chance to experience and practice those behaviors, while encouraging learning through debriefs and feedback throughout.

What else would you like to share about being part of our community?

As someone with 30+ years of industry experience, I can tell you the students and faculty here are as smart and motivated as any people I’ve come across. This is an institution that is going places!

As an Aggie alumni, I feel privileged to be part of a top management education program that is getting stronger, building new programs and capabilities to teach and develop students as future business leaders. I’m honored  to be in a position where I can contribute to Dean Unnava’s vision of an innovative, unique business school that offers benefits found no where else.