Learning to Lead Episode #47: Allan Woods

In this podcast I interviewed Allan Woods, former Vice Chairman and Chief Information Officer at Mellon Financial. This was one of my favorite interviews. Allan is one of the most interesting people I have ever met. He retired from Mellon in 2005 in order to become a paramedic. In his words, “I went from being the most senior person in the boardroom to the rank of a rookie in the ambulance, having twenty-year olds tell me what to do.” In the interview, Allan talks about that transition and what it taught him.

Allan also shares with us his best leadership advice. At Mellon, he was responsible for 8,000 people in his reporting structure. He lets us know what it takes to be in that position of responsibility.

You can find the questions that I asked and my key takeaways below in the show notes. I know that this interview will add value to your life! Enjoy!

Episode #47: Allan Woods


 Key Questions 

  • Tell us the story of transitioning from being at the top at Mellon to starting a new career as a paramedic.
  • When you started off as an EMT, you had twenty-year olds telling you what to do. Through that experience, what did you learn about being teachable.
  • You have lived a life most young leaders dream of living. Life at the top. Corporate jets, first class clubs, meetings at world-class resorts, etc. Looking back on that experience, what advice would you give young leaders striving to get there? Was it everything it seems cracked up to be? Was it hard to walk away from?
  • What advice do you have for young leaders when it comes to money?
  • What’s the greatest thing being a paramedic has taught you?
  • You had 8,000 employees in your reporting structure, what is it like to be in that position? What are the challenges? What is essential to leading well?
  • What have you learned about failure throughout your life?
  • How do you process pain as a leader?
  • What do you want your legacy to be?

Key Takeaways:

  • The most powerful people on the planet can do some amazing things, but they can’t save souls. As believers, we have that opportunity.
  • #1 Key to success in a job is to show up!
  • Work hard… really, really hard!
  • Everybody fails. The failure isn’t a problem, it’s how you respond to failure.
  • Own your mistakes!
  • Never ever give up!
  • Everyone needs 2nd, 3rd, and 4th chances!


1.) Learning to Lead Breakfast Series Our November breakfast is Saturday, November 15th at 8 a.m. at the Bistro to Go on the North Side of Pittsburgh. Greg Peaslee, an Executive at UPMC, will be speaking. Register for this event here.

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