Leadership may be one of those items folks aren’t able to define, but they’ll know it when they see it.
Well, if you want to see leadership, be sure to read the profiles of people from the first class of "40 Leaders Under Forty." You’ll find some familiar names-names more familiar today than they were 10 years ago. You’ll find people who’ve made an impact on the community-and who continue to make an impact today.
These are people whose abilities have given them many options, but they’ve chosen to stay in central Illinois. "No reason to leave," "No better place," "Wouldn’t want to live and work anywhere else," "Excellent professional and social opportunities," "Amenities are fabulous," and "Not every place can be a home" are among the reasons they give for living and succeeding here.
They-and we-are richer for those individual decisions. That richness comes not just from their successes, but from the long list of volunteer work they’ve done for the community. In so many words, they attribute their success to those around them. Family, of course, heads the list, but I’m particularly taken by words such as "surrounded by good people," "surround yourself with people smarter than you are," and "surround yourself with people who know more than you do."
I can’t help but think how different leaders need to be today than they were just 10 years ago. People are different, values have changed, and managing people isn’t what it used to be. The ability to adapt is critical, and I don’t think we’d be talking about this group today if they hadn’t been able to adapt.
More than values have changed in that relatively short span of time. The explosion-and implosion-of the dot.coms, September 11th, a war, the growing internationalization of even the smallest of businesses, and the shift in our economy from manufacturing to service (a shift felt so strongly here) have an impact on how all of us think and act. Certainly, they have an impact on our need for leadership.
The local issues we read about daily didn’t exist a decade ago. Lakeview, PeoriaNEXT, government financial crunches, city and school leadership changes, downtowns, and riverfronts are among the issues that have flourished in the time since this first class burst on the scene.
I can’t help but chuckle as I remember some of the reactions when this then-fledgling publication introduced that first group. "How are you going to get enough people for next year?" and "You’ll never be able to keep this going!" were among the well-meaning comments we received.
Well, 10 years and 400 people later, the process continues. We here at InterBusiness Issues are proud of that, and I’m confident that when we see the next list of 40 Leaders Under Forty in the November issue, we’ll agree they meet the criteria of "defining the new spirit of youthful initiative throughout our community."
What we don’t know now is what this next group will have faced as it looks back on its 10th anniversary in 2013. What are the Lakeviews, the PeoriaNEXTs, etc. that they’ll deal with? We’ll rely heavily on this group to help us solve them.
Browsing the list of nominees over the years, one item is somewhat disappointing, if not disturbing. Very few have chosen public service. Don’t get me wrong; our community wouldn’t be what it is today without the service these people have given back so unselfishly.
Nonetheless, I think we’d all be richer if these lists contained more future city council members, school board members, county board members, and mayors. They’ve excelled in business leadership. The next step would be to transfer some of that talent into civic leadership.
Who knows what the next 10 years could bring if we could accomplish that? IBI