Learning to Lead: May 2012: Len Petrancosta

This year, I’ve started a new leadership podcast and a newsletter called, “Learning to Lead”. In the podcast, I will be interviewing leaders as well as sharing what I have been learning about leadership. My hope is that through these resources, you will grow both as a person and as a leader. If you would like to subscribe to this podcast through iTunes, click here!

Past Episodes include interviews with: Mike Steidel (Director of Admission at CMU), Josh Dziabiak (CEO of Showclix), Penny Semaia (Assistant Athletic Director of Student Life at the University of Pittsburgh) , and Chaz Kellem (Manager of Diversity Initiatives with the Pittsburgh Pirates). To listen to these podcasts, go to my podcast page.

If you listen to podcasts, I’d highly recommend downloading the app: Downcast for the iPhone. It allows you to stream podcasts instead of downloading them. You can also adjust the speed you play the podcast at. It’s one of the most useful apps I have ever owned!

In addition to the podcast, I will be sending out a. The newsletter will be published 1-2 times a month with new leadership content not found on my blog, leadership quotes, leadership resources, and interviews with leaders. Subscribe to the Newsletter Now!

I would love to hear some leaders around the city of Pittsburgh that you would like me to interview! Please send your suggestions to me via e-mail at douglasasmith53@gmail.com.

Episode 5: May 2012: Len Petrancosta

This month I had the opportunity to interview Len Petrancosta. I met Len through working at Light of Life, where he currently serves on their board. This was one of the best interviews I have ever been a part of! This is well worth the listen! Listen here:


Introduction: Len Petrancosta is a highly accomplished and results-driven TOP EXECUTIVE, with extensive experience in sales, marketing, merchandising, finance, human resources, IT, operations analysis, strategic planning, and team leadership. Utilizes passionate communication skills to clearly convey messages to internal and external parties. Develops systems and methods to facilitate effective goal setting and execution. Directs multi-functional teams to ensure the attainment of established objectives. An integral leader who develops a clear vision to secure long-term organizational growth and success. Utilizes work expertise to serve as a board member of two non-profit organizations and as a volunteer mentor.

For 19 1/2 years he worked at and ended up serving as President of Sysco, a public company with over 50,000 employees nationally and they are the Global leader in marketing, selling, and distributing food products to restaurants. He planned and provided inside sales support including sales training, product research and business analysis. Within 3 years he had progressed to district sales manager and regional sales manager, during this time he was responsible for staff and sales in excess of 10 Million Dollars.  Len moved into the position Vice President of territory sales after 7 years, within a year in this position he moved up the ladder to Senior Vice President.  Leonard stayed in this position for 7 years.  Most recently he served as President and CEO of Sysco Food Services of the Pittsburgh, LLC office for the last 3 years.

Currently he serves as the President of LP Business Advisors, where he helps entrepreneurs create  successful franchise opportunities throughout the United States.  Prior to Sysco, he owned and operated three restaurants for thirteen and a half years.


Personal Leadership:

Walk us through your leadership journey . . . did you always aspire to be a leader wherever you were? How did you learn leadership? Did someone teach you?

Can you name a person who has had a tremendous impact on you as a leader? Maybe some one who has been a mentor to you? Why and how did this person impact your life?
What leadership experiences have you had that have shaped you as a leader outside of the work world?

What have you learned about leadership from your experience at Sysco and owning your own restaurants?
What are you doing and what have you done to ensure you continue to grow and develop as a leader?
Could you talk about one or two of your greatest leadership failures? What did you learn from them?

What advice would you give to leaders when it comes to failure and making mistakes?

What have you learned about money as it relates to your personal life and to business!

You’ve lived as an executive, how did you balance life and work?


You are a Christian. How do you balance being a Christian working in a secular environment?


What advice would you give young leaders when it comes to picking the “right” career?
What are your thoughts on doing something that you love verses doing something for the money?

You have been promoted several times throughout your career, what advice do you have to leaders when it comes to moving up in a company?
Organizational Leadership:

What were and are the most important decisions you make as a leader of your organization?

How do you or other leaders in your organization communicate the “vision and core values” and how do you encourage others in your organization to communicate those things as well?

Did you set aside specific times to cast vision to your employees and other leaders?

How do you ensure your organization and its activities are aligned with your “vision & core values” and don’t get off track?

How do you help a new employee understand the culture of your organization?

What qualities do you look for in up and coming leaders?

What have you learned about building a team?

When faced with two equally-qualified candidates, how do you determine whom to hire?

What is the biggest challenge facing leaders today?

Can you talk about the difference between candor and care when it comes to holding people accountable for their responsibilities?

What is one mistake you witness leaders making more frequently than others?

What is the one behavior or trait that you have seen derail leaders’ careers?

Closing Questions:

You’ve retired. You’ve reached what most people would call success. Looking back, what would you do differently?

You’ve recently gotten involved with Light of Life, how has your experience getting a look into the non-profit world been?

What do you want your legacy to be?

What books have you read that have made a great impact on you that you would recommend?

Who are some other great local leaders that we should interview to pick their brains?

Where is Len Petrancosta in 15 years?

Any closing advice for young leaders?


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *