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Leadership Learning Through Stories: Claudia C. Corleto (MBA ’18) Shares the Power of Narratives

Claudia CorletoClaudia C. Corleto (MBA ‘18), is the director of learning and development at Entertainment Partners, a global leader in entertainment payroll, workforce management, residuals, tax incentives, finance, and other integrated production management solutions with offices in the US, Canada, Australia and the UK. Claudia graduated from Pepperdine Graziadio’s Part-Time MBA program with an emphasis in leadership and managing organizational change. In 2020, she continued her education completing the MBA Plus Program with a concentration in entertainment, media, and sports. 

Claudia, a recipient of employee nominating/voting leadership awards and nominations, has held multiple leadership positions in her career, understanding the value of hard work, dedication, and learning from failures to achieve success. She offers Pepperdine students and alumni glimpses into her life, encouraging them to learn from experiences and find opportunities to help others through storytelling. 

Read Claudia’s Interview:

What industry are you in and why did you choose that industry?

My life has led me to a career in learning and organizational development, but that’s a fancy way of saying I am in the business of learning from people for people. In a way, I feel the industry chose me. I spent more than 10 years of my life in a call center, and well over 15 years in customer service. However, in each role I had, my excitement and fulfillment came from relationship building with customers and colleagues alike. The real “What am I doing with my life?” question came crashing down on me in 2008 when I became a supervisor of a team of call center agents. The four years that followed came with a lot of pain, tears, and confusion. Not because I didn’t know how to lead, although that was part of it, but because I felt I was losing myself in the work. I started off a little rocky as a supervisor, not being properly trained (as many of us have experienced), but I ultimately found my bearings. The internal struggle was about the industry I was in and the type of work I was doing. I found myself enjoying the parts others didn’t like; having difficult/developmental conversations, teaching others ways to improve in their work, and guiding others to be the best version of themselves, even if that meant they would do it elsewhere. It was in 2010 when I began my search for what this meant for the few years to follow. 

How do the values of being a servant leader play out in your life?

My values of being a servant leader play out daily; at home and at work. In 2010 I made a life-altering decision to become the legal guardian of two young girls/sisters; an almost 8-year-old and a 15-year-old. The title of guardian/parent at home, and supervisor at work, meant that this was the moment when I stopped living for myself and began living for others, to see the world from the lens of those who looked to me for guidance. 

At an early age, I learned from my mother how to care for others without being a helicopter parent. My mother was strict but didn’t have the time to follow my sister and me everywhere; she was also kindhearted but not a fool. She was a single mother of two who had too much on her plate to let herself be taken advantage of. From her, I learned how to care for others in a way that makes them feel heard, respected, and involved in their own growth— helping others understand how to help themselves and how their stories shape who they are meant to become.

As a leader, if you can put your ego aside and can guide others the way they need you to guide them, the servant part comes with ease. Yes, it is about teaching others how to fish, but not forgetting they may need help while they learn the process and find their style. 

What is one thing that you learned from your experience at Graziadio that has influenced your life?

One of many things that I learned at Graziadio, is to take a consultant approach. I approach everything and everyone with curiosity. I don’t have to have all the answers, but if I listen carefully and pay attention, I can help others find the answer they need. I have also learned how to be the best resource for my team members, my colleagues, my leaders, and anyone else I intend to help. This has taken so much of a self-inflicted burden off my shoulders and has opened the doors to the unknown. This is what gets me excited about being in my industry. “How can I help?” “What’s next?” These are my two favorite questions. 

What is one business tip that you could share that you’ve learned during the pandemic?

I am no business owner, but as a chatterbox and listener, what I would suggest to business owners and leaders is to not forget about the people. If your employees are happy, they will make your clients happy. If your clients are happy, your business will thrive. But you can’t know what will make them happy if you are not able or willing to engage them. 

Many organizations lost people, either by choice or by force, during the pandemic. I have also witnessed organizations successfully overcome the hurdles of changes in their business, but each one has enlisted the aid of their people. Bringing people into the thinking process helps you gain buy-in and provides you with a whole new set of ideas. Granted, a businessperson can’t give people everything they want. This is where real and honest conversations and transparency are needed.  

Instead of asking people “What would make you happy?” and creating a long wish list, leaders can get a little more specific and bring people into their critical-thinking tank by asking something like: “With budget constraints and potential limited resources, what are three things you believe we can do over the next two years to continue to improve a) our customer service, b) innovation, or c) the services we provide?“ Tailoring the question to make others feel engaged and listened to, and providing some level of transparency, can bring leaders ideas they have never considered. The key takeaway here is to actively listen and strongly consider without overpromising. 

While listening, meet people where they are. Let people tell you their personal stories about their own successes and struggles. In this they will share with you what they really need from you and your business. 

What do you think makes someone a Best for the World Leader?

I think leaders need to remember that without followers, we really aren’t leading anyone. We should acknowledge that what we do is with influence and by instilling trust. Egos aside, it’s about the people we lead and their development. People believe in those they trust, and trust is built by letting others see us for the humans we are. This is where storytelling becomes our biggest ally. How will people share with us if we’re not willing to share about ourselves? How can we lead without knowing who we are leading?  

A world-class leader is willing to give more than they receive, without burning themselves out, of course. Share your stories. Share your failures. Share your successes. Bring your human to the forefront!