Warren K. Zola

Warren K. Zola ’89, P’18

executive director
Boston College Chief Executive Club

Bringing together visionaries at the top of their game is part of the daily routine for Warren K. Zola ’89, P’18. As executive director of the Boston College Chief Executive Club, Zola connects leaders reshaping finance, media, medicine and more, making him the best person to ask:

Q: What unexpected trait makes someone a strong leader?

A: “All of the CEOs that visit the Boston College Chief Executives Club run complex, global, successful organizations and come to us to share their views on leadership. And while each of these CEOs has their own style and philosophy, there are consistent traits of exceptional leaders that emerge.

Above all else, leaders need to be decisive. All too often people delay, seeking to analyze data or reach consensus in their quest to make the perfect decision yet research shows that the ability to make decisions with speed and confidence over precision is the mark of a successful leader. While it is inevitable that mistakes will be made, great leaders make those mistakes in their laboratory, learning from them, and evolving.

In addition to decisiveness, true leaders consistently lead with intent and passion. Reliably showing up every day with a purpose while embracing your core values is another constant theme. Experienced leaders have the conviction of knowing when to make an unpopular decision for their business because of their moral compass.

Finally, progress is driven by the quest to better oneself and the world around you; learning is a lifelong process. Passionate curiosity is crucial. Adherence to the status quo leads to complacency and, as such, a great leader challenges dogma and is never afraid to ask ‘why?’ The best leaders welcome different perspectives and surround themselves with people who will challenge them. Not only does he or she ask questions, but they look to be questioned themselves. As any Hobart and William Smith alum knows, diversity of thought is critical to developing new ideas and evolving.”

The MBA Maverick

Warren Zola ’89, P’18 currently oversees Boston College’s Chief Executive Club, a premiere business forum where the nation’s top corporate and non-profit leaders gather for keynote addresses by visionary global CEOs.

“In my job, I have been fortunate to meet some of the most successful business leaders in the world,” Zola says. “As such, I have been in a unique position to learn from these men and women, who hail from a wide range of industries and backgrounds, and they have provided valuable insight into what it takes to be successful.”

Zola, who majored in economics at Hobart and William Smith, holds a J.D. from Tulane University, where he founded the Sports Law Society, and an M.B.A. from Boston College. An attorney, a thought-leader in the business of sports and sports law, and a respected higher education professional, he has lectured around the country, served as a guest expert on a Congressional roundtable discussion about reform in college athletics, and written extensively at the intersection of business, law and sports. Zola joined Boston College in 1992 as assistant director of operations in the athletics department, served as assistant dean for graduate programs at the Carroll School of Management for a decade, and is now the executive director of the Boston College Chief Executives Club. Zola has also taught graduate management courses on the Business of Sports and Sports Law for over a decade.

During his career, Zola says he’s discovered that “there is no ‘one size fits all’ style” of leadership. “What is critical is that each individual needs to find his or her own voice and style,” he explains. “As John F. Kennedy said, ‘leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.’ A great leader understands that leadership is a process of continual learning and growth.” –Andrew Wickenden ’09


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