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7 Questions on Leadership with Dr. Chad J. Ashley


Name: Dr. Chad J. Ashley


Title: Founder CEO


Organisation: Q Intelligence Group and AdaptXcel


Recognized by his peers as an influential leader, change agent, and trusted advisor, combined with 20+ years of experience and leadership, Chad has delivered multi-million-dollar operational, financial, and business results. He leverages his wealth of knowledge, hands-on operational expertise, and growth-centric strategies for technology and acquisition programs to achieve the core mission and help organizations thrive at optimum levels.


Chad has a sterling reputation as an effective communicator and collaborator in presenting solutions to lead mission functions and culture-building when working cross-functionally with diverse populations, people, organizations, and teams to cultivate relationships and build an organizational structure that consistently drives growth and facilitates meaningful change in the portfolio management and national security landscape. He is a guest lecturer at the Air War College and Air Command and Staff College on career topics in the Intelligence field.


Chad’s career-defining roles and exemplary leadership over the last two decades include serving as Principal Account Executive at a large commercial cloud provider and Director of Strategy and Innovation for a large aerospace and defense firm. Early in his career, he started as a Program Manager and ascended to Chief of Staff and Business Operations for the for a large enterprise in a USG agency. His experience as a take-charge leader in the national security realm and overseeing technology programs focused on maximizing productivity for intelligence operations and acquisitions, strengthening partnerships, developing strategies to secure funding, and translating requirements into executable actions to steer organizations to financial success.


Under his leadership and strategic-level thinking, he held full accountability for budget planning and execution for billion-dollar systems and large-scale portfolios with oversight for a blended team of government staff, contractors, and critical functions. He aligned priorities with organizational strategies by developing productive relations with groups, senior leaders, and key stakeholders. Chad’s early private sector roles included developing defense and intelligence systems and sales in commercial building and maintenance supply. He consistently sets the standard and example to be a positive role model and a mentor for future leaders.


He is the founder and CEO of the change management consulting firm Q Intelligence Consulting Group. He most recently founded a M&A consulting firm, AdaptXcel, AdaptXcel focuses on M&A post merger corporate culture building.


Chad holds a Doctorate degree in Business Administration in Strategy and Innovation from Capella University and is a Delta Mu Delta Honor Society member. He holds an Executive Master’s degree in Business Management from Jack Welch Management Institute and attended the Notre Dame University, Mendoza School of Business, receiving a certificate in Executive Leadership.


He has been married to his wife, Heidi since 2014. During his free time, he enjoys reading, writing, woodworking, cooking, overseas travel, and most importantly spending time with family.


Thank you to the 2,000 leaders who’ve generously done the 7 Questions on Leadership!


I hope Chad's answers will encourage you in your leadership journey. Enjoy!


Cheers,

Jonno White



1. What have you found most challenging as a leader?


I do a lot of change management. One of my previous executive bosses called me “The Janitor” because he kept moving me to places to manage change efforts. Some of these jobs were simple restructuring while other were full on culture changes. Regardless of the change, I always found it imperative to maintain a high level of energy. The energy you project is contagious and your teams will feed on it. For me, the hardest challenge is maintaining the level of energy and not burn out.


2. How did you become a leader? Can you please briefly tell the story?


No one becomes a leader, at least not consciously. Or at least the good ones do not. Leaders that really deserve that title and all that go with it must focus on everything not related to leadership so that they might become the kind of person people would want to follow. It has been said in many different ways but ultimately if you have to tell people you are a leader, you probably aren't.


3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?


I always try to start my day with a long walk outdoors. I am lucky enough to be in a climate that allows me to go for walks almost all year around. I find is to be a leveling experience for the day and it gives me a sense of accomplishment right out of the gate. I come home, shower up and jump in with both feet. I read emails, create a to do list, look at my calendar in that order. I make sure I keep 45 minutes at the end of the business day where I can finish any small open items, clear my email again, and look ahead to the week. I start my to do list for the next day.


My evenings are usually a combination of a few activities–cooking (I love it), reading something, and a little brain candy (streaming tv). I typically go to bed at the same time every day.


4. What's a recent leadership lesson you've learned for the first time or been reminded of?


I observe leaders everywhere I can. I find it interesting, to say the least. The lesson I keep seeing over and over again is simply, “It’s no longer about you, it’s about them.” Thank you, Jack Welch, for that profound thought. The best leaders I have seen are not always in management, but the best ones embrace Jack’s idea. You can see firsthand the opposite as true.


5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?


There are so many I can’t pick only one. Professor Robert Sutton from Stanford wrote three prolific books, starting with The No Asshole Rule. The Second is called Good Boss, Bad Boss. Another brilliant book is The Leadership Challenge, by Kouzes and Posner.


Dr. Sutton's work made me think about the types of people that are worth tolerating in the workplace and it helped me continuously reflect on my behavior. Toxic people cost business millions of dollars a year, not only in lost revenue from killing morale and forcing people to quit, but health care costs and absenteeism. The stress these toxic people create is too high to be tolerable. No one is so talented that we should tolerate them if they are toxic.

The Leadership Challenge is one of the greatest blueprints for new and seasoned leaders alike to reset where they are on their journey. Leadership is “the” unending quest. The five leadership practices are perfect for anyone who leads or follows.


6. If you could only give one piece of advice to a young leader, what would you say to them?


Beware of drinking your own cool-aid or believing your own press. I was guilty of it and I see it now as a natural part of growth in the leadership realm. Be humble, question all of your feedback -good or bad — in a manner that helps you understand what prompted the feedback and how it can help you grow. Just because someone made you boss doesn’t mean you have all the answers. “With age comes Wisdom.” -Oscar Wilde


7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader, so far?


One story that I think about often is the time I took over a group of 230 experts. These people were genuine grey beard SME in every stretch of the word. When I arrived, I was told the organization had the lowest climate scores in the Enterprise of over 3500 people. When I left 33 months later, that team, our team, had some of the highest climate scores. I still remember the genuine sense of joy I felt and the looks on everyone’s face when we announced the climate scores at an all-hands. This story is a long story that includes experimentation, failures, successes, moments of great confidence and self-doubt. It is still one of my fondest memories of the many organizational change efforts.

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