33 min

Interview with Paul LeBlanc, President of Southern New Hampshire University The Innovating Together Podcast

    • Education

Leadership journey into academic leadership

Paul LeBlanc has been President of Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) for going on twenty years. President LeBlanc’s journey started as a faculty member as a grad student when personal computers first arrived. He was a composition TA. The full-time faculty didn’t want to touch the new computers that were dumped on the school. The TA’s were the first ones to use the computers. He discovered technology with its anonymity opened up a level of candor and trust he had not seen before. “I jumped into technology at a time when it was still so new.” He used a programming language as one of his foreign language requirements. After his PhD, he spent three years heading up a technology start-up program. He worked on a grant with Apple.

His relationship with Clayton Christianson

Clayton Christianson and President LeBlanc met playing basketball in a church gym in Cambridge, Massachusetts, while President LeBlanc was still in graduate school at Boston College. Clay was the head of high-tech ceramics before he went to Harvard and went back to graduate school. They discussed reinventing ceramics and technology. They did a column for higher education on innovation. They were friends for over forty years. “Everyone uses the phrase disruptive innovation but if you go deeper there’s actually very practical things one needs to do depending on what kind of innovation you are implementing, and you can sort of game plan it… Clay was very thoughtful about that. One of the greatest teachers I’ve ever met.” Clay’s theories of disruptive innovation in higher education and healthcare are playing out slowly. He predicted “50% of schools will go out of business.”

Learning from good vs. bad examples of leadership

After watching a president not being willing to admit his mistake cost him his presidency, President LeBlanc said, “I remember saying to myself, when I mess up I am going to get in front of people and say so. I think there are great lessons to be learned by watching people’s leadership journeys, and sometimes you learn more when they struggle, and that’s been true in my own life.” He gave an example of a contractor who came in and interviewed President LeBlanc’s staff and confronted him and his team to be open to other opinions and being courageous to share a different opinion.

Best Advice he ever received

“Say Yes to the invitation.” He shared an example from his personal life.

A Book about leadership he recommends

“I keep coming back to novels, to fiction, to understand who we are as human beings. The one I’m reading right now is by George Saunders called A Swim in a Pond in the Rain.” He then shared he has moved from starting meetings with the agenda to starting with relationships by asking, “How are you?”


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Send in a voice message: https://podcasters.spotify.com/pod/show/innovationalliance/message

Leadership journey into academic leadership

Paul LeBlanc has been President of Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) for going on twenty years. President LeBlanc’s journey started as a faculty member as a grad student when personal computers first arrived. He was a composition TA. The full-time faculty didn’t want to touch the new computers that were dumped on the school. The TA’s were the first ones to use the computers. He discovered technology with its anonymity opened up a level of candor and trust he had not seen before. “I jumped into technology at a time when it was still so new.” He used a programming language as one of his foreign language requirements. After his PhD, he spent three years heading up a technology start-up program. He worked on a grant with Apple.

His relationship with Clayton Christianson

Clayton Christianson and President LeBlanc met playing basketball in a church gym in Cambridge, Massachusetts, while President LeBlanc was still in graduate school at Boston College. Clay was the head of high-tech ceramics before he went to Harvard and went back to graduate school. They discussed reinventing ceramics and technology. They did a column for higher education on innovation. They were friends for over forty years. “Everyone uses the phrase disruptive innovation but if you go deeper there’s actually very practical things one needs to do depending on what kind of innovation you are implementing, and you can sort of game plan it… Clay was very thoughtful about that. One of the greatest teachers I’ve ever met.” Clay’s theories of disruptive innovation in higher education and healthcare are playing out slowly. He predicted “50% of schools will go out of business.”

Learning from good vs. bad examples of leadership

After watching a president not being willing to admit his mistake cost him his presidency, President LeBlanc said, “I remember saying to myself, when I mess up I am going to get in front of people and say so. I think there are great lessons to be learned by watching people’s leadership journeys, and sometimes you learn more when they struggle, and that’s been true in my own life.” He gave an example of a contractor who came in and interviewed President LeBlanc’s staff and confronted him and his team to be open to other opinions and being courageous to share a different opinion.

Best Advice he ever received

“Say Yes to the invitation.” He shared an example from his personal life.

A Book about leadership he recommends

“I keep coming back to novels, to fiction, to understand who we are as human beings. The one I’m reading right now is by George Saunders called A Swim in a Pond in the Rain.” He then shared he has moved from starting meetings with the agenda to starting with relationships by asking, “How are you?”


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Send in a voice message: https://podcasters.spotify.com/pod/show/innovationalliance/message

33 min

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