Season 1 | People You Should Know in Forestry and Natural Resources | Episode 11

#11 | Young leaders today have to say no and engage teams

November 11, 2016 | Sam Cook

Sam Cook is the Executive Director of Forest Assets at North Carolina State University’s College of Natural Resources. Sam first began studying forestry in 1979 at Tuskegee University and continued later at N.C. State. When he began, there were very few African Americans in the industry. But Sam succeeded with mentoring, persistence and looking past color to work with “the whole person.” Sam is highly regarded for his forestry and leadership work at International Paper and putting forestry “on the ground” with the Heirs’ Property Preservation in South Carolina. In this episode, Sam discusses how diversity in the profession has improved somewhat over the years, what young leaders need to know today, what he learned about leadership, and some of the common mistakes leaders tend to make.

Key Takeaways:

[2:30] How did Sam get involved in forestry?

[8:40] Sam understood early on that he had to be part of his own success.

[9:45] How does Sam define what a mentor is?

[11:30] When Sam first joined the forestry industry in the 90’s, not a lot of people in his field were African American.

[12:15] Fast forward today, how has the forestry business changed for people of color?

[13:10] Sam attended Tuskegee University in 1979. How has it changed over the years? What forestry programs do they offer today?

[21:30] What kind of leadership lessons has Sam learned throughout his extensive career?

[24:45] How can people, young and old, learn to be better leaders?

[25:15] What are some of the common mistakes leaders tend to make?

[30:30] A lot of foresters don’t know how much work is really involved until they’re in the trenches. Some things can’t be taught in school.

[31:50] Why are foresters bad communicators?

[36:00] What kind of challenges will foresters face in the years ahead?

[38:40] Sam’s favorite movie is The Hunt for Red October.

[42:20] Tom’s Leadership Tip of the Week!

Mentioned in This Episode:

Strengths Finder 2.0 by Tom Rath
Sam Cook on Linkedin


Leadership Nature is a proud supporter of #forestproud, a diverse community of forest stewards.