This is the time of year that we, as a community, celebrate the leadership contributions of 40 individuals under the age of 40. These leaders—and the growing alumni group—come to us from every business sector, demonstrating what is great in Greater Peoria. Selfishly, I would point out that the organization I presently have the privilege of serving has a tremendous interaction with this list of community leaders. I offer no “official” data, but I know the Young Professionals of Greater Peoria, who have been such an integral part of our Chamber of Commerce, represent the 40-under-40 contingent very well. I even see some plaques lingering in the offices of colleagues who have “aged out” of the young professional arena, but still enjoy the camaraderie this group has developed over the last 22 years.
The primary reason I love the work I do is because I get to be part of something greater than myself. At the same time, I get to connect tens of thousands of professionals with one another so we can all be something greater than our individual businesses and charities. You see, I believe the energy to make this all happen comes from both our individual and collective leadership. In the case of the Peoria Area Chamber of Commerce, we have provided strong community leadership dating back 106 years.
Too often, our culture defines leadership in a very limited way. We find leadership qualities in the high scorer on the varsity team, the person with the most money, the one who talks loudest at the meeting or the guy with the coolest car. It’s not always as “sexy” or convenient to get behind quiet leadership. iBi’s 40 Leaders Under Forty program does an exceptional job of identifying and celebrating the diverse styles of leadership that make our community great.
As parents of two teenage boys and a ten-year-old girl, my wife and I are provided daily opportunities to instill leadership qualities in our children, but more importantly, we teach them to respect their classmates, teammates and teachers. We teach them to have the courage and confidence to make decisions and influence their environment, but to do so without simply dismissing the opposing view. These are not easy lessons to learn or even hear in the crowded social media environment in which they are growing up. Heck, these aren’t easy lessons for me to keep up with as I grow in my 40s.
I do believe, however, that the challenges of today are in no way greater than those of our forefathers. In fact, I think our lives are quite manageable compared to past generations—we have just become used to amplifying our struggles. What is drastically different is the pace at which we process information and the intensity with which we destroy leaders for every misstep, large or small. It requires a unique courage and self-awareness to stand for your principles, lead a cause and remain committed to your beliefs over time.
I applaud the efforts of this year’s class of leaders and challenge you to keep giving back to your community. Be the voice of our next generation while taking the time to make sure the generation behind you is ready for their challenge. As always, the Peoria Area Chamber of Commerce is there to support you as we collectively work to make our community great. Congratulations! iBi