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7 Questions on Leadership with Tony Samuel

Name: Tony Samuel

Title: CEO/Founder

Organisation: Talented Books

Tony Samuel is a Leadership Expert, Philanthropist, Strategist, and Author. He is the CEO/Founder/Chief Strategist of Talented Books ( Tony's passion for writing and diversity resulted in creating two critically acclaimed children's books, starring his beautiful daughter Nadia. Nadia suffers from a rare chromosome disorder called 22Q13 deletion (Phelan McDermid Syndrome).

Princess NADIA was created to make children of color see themselves positively. At - We CREATE positive images of people of color! Tony received academic honors while attending Fairleigh Dickinson University. Tony has a BS in Business Marketing from the University of Phoenix (3.8 GPA) and a MA in Leadership from Bellevue University School of Professional Studies, graduating with a perfect 4.0 GPA. Tony also earned a DE&I certification from Cornell University.

Tony is a veteran music biz journalist and entrepreneur. He has interviewed countless industry executives, artists, and music professionals. Over a four-year period, Tony created and was the leader of a small street team that engineered Insomniac Magazine's presence on up to 87 newsstands in New York City.

Tony is the author of three children’s books. Will You Play With Me? The Adventures of Princess NADIA, Princess NADIA and The Search for the Missing Treasure and Nightly Owl. Tony pursues greatness every day.

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

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


Jonno White

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

One of the intense leadership challenges is convincing some people of the greatness they have within them. They will use all kinds of excuses and deny their innate ability to rise to challenges due to past experiences and not wanting to be wrong. Some people will hate to ask questions even though they are not clear on the vision. To me, vulnerability is not a negative, so it is essential to ask questions and to think analytically.

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

I have always considered myself a leader, even from a young age. My ability to think analytically and to look at what is said and unsaid gives me an edge over most people. I became a leader in the kids' book education and entertainment space after my daughter Nadia was born. As an avid reader of books, it was critical for me to ensure she saw herself represented in kids’ books.

There was a scarcity of children’s books with African American characters, so I decided it was time to not only create a new princess with brown skin but to make my daughter Nadia the main star of my first two books. This is how Princess NADIA was born. As I always say, “ALL kids deserve to see positive images that look like them every day.” This is not just a tagline. I represent this to my core and live this philosophy every single day. Diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice are critical…just like oxygen.

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

I am unabashedly a night owl and not coincidentally, that is the title of my third children's book. Most of my creative work is done late at night when everyone else is asleep. This helps me to plan my strategy when I am at my most optimal self. If I have something pressing to do, I may write a short checklist, otherwise, I like to work extemporaneously. My goal is always to create a way forward that fits each scenario, knowing that the issue may require me to adapt quickly. I am creative by heart, so I think differently and am always looking to see an issue from multiple angles.

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

When you have a seat at the table speak up. If you don’t have a seat at the table speak up. Speaking up for justice is non-negotiable. From my perspective, far too many people see injustice and choose to stay silent, which encourages more injustice. Leadership requires action and sometimes, it means you may have to lose “friends”. You may have to be vulnerable, but being your authentic self is more important than trying to please people who do not have your best interest at heart. Leadership matters…always!

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?

I read a lot of books on leadership and culture, so it is hard to select one book. While studying for my MA in Leadership, I was introduced to Daniel Goleman and his book about “Emotional Intelligence”…it was very insightful. Everyone has the ability to increase their emotional intelligence and thus their leadership skills. I am always learning every day! Another very powerful book was Built To Last by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras. Their extensive research and insights, make these must-read books for leaders.

Collins and Porras demonstrate through their research, the success principles that make companies stay relevant. I believe these principles can be employed by people too. BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goals) was a concept that appeared in this book and I use it to inspire every team I’ve had the pleasure of serving. There are many other classic books…too many to list!

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

You have more power than you realize, so it is crucial that you become self-aware. Leadership is about doing the hard things and sometimes even taking an L, as long as you know you are acting with integrity. Create boundaries and do things that excite you, while being open to new experiences. Speak up and let your light shine. It’s impossible to please everybody, so make sure you watch the company you keep, be kind to others, and always remember to be kind to yourself too.

Always learn new things and read vociferously…research and gather competing viewpoints, so you can make your own decision. Think and be analytical! Step into the arena when you see injustice and make a positive difference, by lifting others up. You never know who you are inspiring!

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

A leader I admired told me, “You better speak up” and since then I have made it my mission to speak truth to power. She was basically telling me, you have a seat at the table, so you must use it. As a leader, I am now able to use my voice for change and to make things better in any situation. Nevertheless, I am still learning every day.

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