"The supreme quality for leadership is unquestionably, integrity. Without it, no real success is possible, whether it is on a section gang, a football field, in an army or in an office." –Dwight Eisenhower
This issue announces the 2000 40 Leaders Under Forty. They were announced just after the first of the month, prior to the elections. What kind of people are they? Really?
Much has been said about leadership in the last eight years, most specifically, on how the character issue applies to leadership. That's important. Is it possible to make tough, bottom line decisions in business, or in public life, for the good of the whole, while making selfish, spontaneous private decisions based on instant gratification? That's a good question, and one we hope our 40 Leaders can answer in the negative.
Because it's an election year, the American public has been polled endlessly. A recent Forbes poll, for instance, asked if Americans would like to be known for 'being intelligent, being authentic, being good-looking, or having a good sense of humor?" Amazingly (maybe not), the majority responded authentic. Given we now live in a technology age, when it's very easy to lie, embellish the truth, pretend in private, being authentic is a character trait that's hard to attain.
So, based on that poll and others, what are the traits that are considered important in our 40 leaders? There are a lot: authenticity, integrity, trust, loyalty, reputation, vision, fairness, decency, morality, courage, cooperation, ability to lead by example. Funny, isn't it, that things like intelligence, good sense of humor, good appearance and other such things are missing from the top ten list. What seems to count most is a person's character and ability to motivate others.
It's not easy to attain a leadership position in any area of life, and then, once attained, it's not easy to keep. It's easier to hide self-doubt and uncertainty behind the closed door of hierarchy than to open the door to team and group empowerment.
In business or in government, today's leaders must be capable of thinking globally. As our borders have come crashing down, that seems to be increasingly a must. Leaders must be capable of not only understanding other cultures, but dealing with them. We also expect today's leaders to have a firm grasp on the people, processes, and products in their own company or organization. True leaders have the confidence to create an environment where others around them can rise to their own fullest potential. That environment, once created, is contagious and is self-perpetuating.
There were more than 100 different nominations for the 40 Leaders recognition again this year, representing a wide variety of people from various occupations, both the public and private sector, male and female, white and minorities. But they all had one thing in common: they all possessed or demonstrated many of the leadership traits mentioned above. And they demonstrate them every day-in their public lives, in their private lives, with their families, in their occupations, and in their extra-curricular pursuits.
We just expect that trait of authenticity from our leaders. To say what they mean. To mean what they say. And to act accordingly. All the other positive traits flow from that-honesty, integrity, fairness, trust, etc. In other words, if you can demonstrate time and again that you're authentic, then you're able to demonstrate those other positive traits as well.
This year's 40 leaders Under Forty, do all those things very well. They think, or are capable of thinking, globally. They inspire the rest of us through their words, deeds, or quite often, both. And most of all, they're authentic.
We salute the 40 Leaders Under Forty, the class of 2000-all who have become leaders early in their careers. And we're proud you've chosen to lead in central Illinois. IBI