You don’t need a “C” on your jersey to be captain: Leadership Lessons from Exhale’s Matt Sheehan

In Part 2, Exhale Home CEO Matt Sheehan talks leadership lessons he’s gained over the years as VP of Redbox, President of Primo Water, and now CEO of Exhale. “You don’t need a ‘C’ on your jersey to be captain,” so whether you’re a leader by title or not, you’ll want to tune in.


Donald Thompson: Welcome to the Donald Thompson podcast. Thanks for coming back, Matt . Happy to be back. Let’s pull back a little bit and you are very experienced business leader, entrepreneur. What are some of the things that being an entrepreneur has done to prepare you to be a better leader.

Matt Sheehan: .That’s a fascinating question. And I know a lot of. Uh, leaders who are entrepreneurs first. Right? So a lot of folks I know who have started companies, they are amazing often better than me at seeing the world, seeing the gaps in, in the world. Um, I’m a bit different. I can do those things, but I was a leader first.

..So I’ll go back to my, tonight, my childhood a bit, I remember being eight, maybe it’s because my dad scared me so much with an accident that I had to find my soul early. But, uh, for me, I started to recognize these moments that are now called leadership vacuums. And I know you’ll recognize these, but these were moments when you’re in a room, you’re in a locker room.

You’re with a team or you’re with a family. And it gets really quiet, you know, there’s a problem on the table and somebody has to step up and lead. I remember athletics were a big thing for me growing up and it, um, I’m grateful because it, allowed me to find that voice now. Yeah. We’re just doing a podcast.

I’m a pretty short guy. I’m, I’m maxing out if I have six and a half and probably not that half. Um, so I had to find ways to be my best self and I played, uh, hockey through college, but I was never going to go pro and I knew that pretty early. So I think I’ve put a little bit of pressure on myself, but I also found a voice in me to, to lead.

And so that’s what happened to me early. I was captain a lot of teens early and I, I love the pressure. I love the responsibility of, you know, getting a team on, in any kind of team or even my family. Get them up when we’re down. Right. Get them focused when it’s chaotic. I just I’d love those moments. So that came to me first.

What’s piled on top of that is this intense passion for growth and, and for the new, I love change. Uh, sometimes my people say enough change. Like you’re spinning, you’re spinning us. I’ve heard that feedback before. Yeah, I’m sorry. But it’s in my head and I got to get it out. Right. You know, so for me, those, the addition of the growth mindset, if you will, that change the new that has layered on top of my desire to lead.

And that has made me a entrepreneurial leader. And, uh, and I, I love mashing those two together. So what I’ve constantly found in my experience is when it gets really big or really stable it’s time for it’s time, for time for me to go.

Full Episode Transcript

Part 1: Raleigh’s “Open Source” Network, Growth Mindset, and Power of Diversity: Matt Sheehan

WEBINAR: professional development webinar hosted by Don and emmy award winning broadcaster, Tedx & keynote speaker Sharon Delaney McCloud. In this webinar, hear from two executive branding experts sharing their insights, knowledge, and experience to help you share your brand with the world. It’s Thursday June 17th at 12PM EST, and you can sign up at But don’t worry, if you can’t make it, sign up anyway and the video replay will be sent to you.  When you leave this webinar, you’ll have actionable tips, and tangible takeaways to step up your personal branding game both online and offline

The Donald Thompson Podcast is hosted by The Diversity Movement CEO, mentor, investor, and Diversity and Inclusion Consultant Donald Thompson.

Music for this episode provided by Jensen Reed from his song, “You Can’t Stop Me”.

The Donald Thompson Podcast is edited and produced by Earfluence. For more on how to engage your community or build your personal brand through podcasting, visit

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