Adubato Challenging Students to Put the Phones Away – and Speak Face to Face


Steve Adubato, PhD, wants to help the next generation of leaders succeed and hone the skills needed for effective communication and understanding—traits that seem to be waning in 21st Century public discourse.

Adubato is the President of “Stand & Deliver, Inc.” and has partnered with the Buccino Leadership Institute at Seton Hall University to teach a “Master Class on Leadership and Communication” to a cadre of fifteen select students.  Drawing off of his book “Lessons in Leadership,” Adubato is offering three unique seminars which challenge students with real-life-oriented situations to refine and enhance their communication and leadership skills.

“We at the Buccino Leadership Institute are thrilled to partner with Dr. Steve Adubato and his Stand & Deliver team this semester for a truly unique master class on leadership and communication,” Bryan Price, PhD, Executive Director of the Buccino Leadership Institute said.  “The best leaders are great communicators, and what better way to learn than from one of the best at both in Steve Adubato. The combination of his professional and personal experiences coupled with practical exercises that put our students outside of their comfort zone will take them to a whole other level.”

“The course is first based on my book lessons and we created a podcast which deals with a whole range of leadership issues,” Adubato told Insider NJ.  “It is distributed on a whole array of platforms including AM970 Radio in New York and News12+ premiering next month.  We decided, since I have a long standing relationship with Seton Hall University, that it would be a wonderful opportunity to take the work my firm and I have been doing around leadership development and executive coaching and go beyond large corporations and share it with students who are the leaders of tomorrow.”

The students themselves opted in for the course, Adubato said, having been vetted by the university.  “The Seton Hall Buccino Leadership Institute has some of the smartest, most engaged young leaders.  They were carefully selected by the leaders of the program as students who would be responsive to this curriculum. The bottom line is this, they aren’t being lectured to.  They’re being put into real-life, challenging situations where their leadership and communication skills are tested.”

Adubato said he has drawn off his years in media to develop a strategy for students to focus on effectively communicating in an interview.  “They role play as the leaders of certain organizations and deal with difficult issues.  Their job is to communicate in a clear, confident, concise fashion under very challenging circumstances.  They are then given feedback by me and other students.  And more than anything it’s a leadership and communication laboratory not just to read about and theorize about leadership communication, but practice it in a challenging environment.  That’s what is different about what we’re doing with this master class, and what Seton Hall, to their credit, thought was necessary to help these students round out their leadership and communication toolkit.

Insider NJ asked Dr. Adubato if he saw any connections between the degradation of public discourse and shortening attention span of the public from sources such as the 24/7 news cycle or the decline in conversation as a whole.

Adubato felt some of that had its roots in the effects of technology on communication.  “Given the fact that so many students and others in their twenties are bombarded more than the rest of us with social media, and their phones become such a big part of their lives, there are serious questions about the ability of future leaders, students of this stage, to actually interact and communicate in very human terms.  Face to face, looking at someone else.  Instead of tweeting, texting, or putting a picture on Instagram, they have to put their phones away and deal face to face.  They have to communicate verbally as leaders must do in difficult circumstances.  And that’s a credit to the students at Seton Hall, not only that they’re willing to do this, but the other part is that my view of leadership is that great leaders are open to feedback and critiques.  For a 21 year-old student to receive direct feedback as to what he or she did well and where he or she could improve—and not be defensive about that but take it as an opportunity to grow and learn—is an extraordinary leadership trait and, frankly, one that is missing in leaders at the highest levels of public life, starting at the White House.”

Since ad hominem attacks and straw man arguments are commonplace in what is called debate today, too often criticism of an issue is often interpreted as a personal attack.  Insider NJ asked if that was something he would discuss in the course of his class?

“A major theme in the Leadership Master Class is the connection between being a great leader and having a high degree of emotional intelligence,” Adubato replied. “What that simply means is, great leaders not only have to understand themselves, their strengths, their opportunities to improve, but also understand how they are perceived by others and have the maturity to receive feedback and ‘criticism’ less from a personal perspective and more from an opportunity to grow and learn.

“That sounds so simple but if you look at our leaders from the White House and state houses across this nation, and the political culture that we’re in, the first sign of criticism is often responded to with a personal attack, or making it so negative and nasty that it shuts people down and creates walls, barriers, and the polarization that we experience now.”

Adubato was able to boil down the concept of leadership to a simple framework: understanding.  “To me, great leadership is about understanding our differences, appreciating our differences, being open to other people’s points of view and, frankly, having a conversation with that person where you could learn something new.  It sounds so basic, but the age we are living in politically and culturally, that is a skill set and mindset that does not exist in many public leaders today.

“If one’s objective is to simply hear their own voice and say ‘this is my opinion’, and confuse leadership with pontificating, that’s not what this master class is about.  It is about saying ‘this is what I believe now I want to hear your perspective and we’re going to have a conversation’.  Negotiation and compromise are also part of this master class, and they are all tools and skills that leaders need as opposed to saying I’m right, you must be wrong, and therefore you must be a bad person, I can’t listen to you anymore.  My question is where are we leading people to?  How can we get anything done?”

For Adubato, teaching the master class brings personal rewards as well.  “The opportunity to talk to the students at this extraordinary leadership institute at Seton Hall—fifteen students who decided they wanted to be in this course–and the leadership at SH decided they were the right students–to be able to engage with them, learn from them, and to potentially help them see leadership and their roles as leaders is an extraordinary opportunity to make the world a bit of a better place.  It may sound grandiose to some but for me it is the greatest thrill and honor that I’ve had.”

When the master class wraps up, the students will have the chance to be a part of a pilot podcast: the “Steve Adubato’s Lessons in Leadership and Buccino Leadership Institute Podcast.”  The students will use the skilsl they have learned to help produce the program and identify topics for guests, or with Adubato and Price on air.

Co-hosted by Mary Gamba, the video podcast will be available on News12+ at 10AM on Sundays, starting March 8.

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