An Honor With Obligation

Fresh on the heels of the federal government shutdown and the abysmal performance of healthcare.gov, it’s hard not to believe our political leaders are failing us. Against the backdrop of a record, multi-billion-dollar settlement between JP Morgan Chase and the Justice Department, we're reminded of recent failings on Wall Street. Everywhere, it seems, our leaders are failing us.

“Where have all the leaders gone?” asks one article in this issue, echoing a refrain that’s become all too common. Introducing a recent Forbes article with that very question, William M. Isaac suggests: “I don’t know where all the leaders have gone, but I’ve concluded that a more important question is how will we produce the new leaders we so desperately need?”

Here in central Illinois, we’re doing everything we can to grow those new leaders. This year marks the 20th anniversary of iBi’s 40 Leaders Under Forty program, which has recognized 800 young leaders from all walks of life since its inception. Many are familiar names in our community today, leading businesses and organizations through times of great change and turbulence, while others prefer to work behind the scenes, no less diligently.

The times, indeed, are a-changin’. Our region continues to see that, with significant changes in leadership at a number of area organizations. As my generation—the Baby Boomers—begin to retire, we are turning over the reins to the next generation. (Some might say, “finally.”) The generational shift is reflected in this year’s 40 Leaders Under Forty, even at the surface level: I think it’s pretty unlikely that our inaugural class of leaders counted 11 people with tattoos among them, as does this year’s class! Yet another sign of the times.

To lead is an honor, but it carries with it an obligation. In this tumultuous day and age, when we can hardly find time to get all our work done, that obligation can seem a heavy burden. “And yet it is in obligation that we find not imprisonment, but liberation—the chance to become who we are capable of becoming,” writes London-based economist Umair Haque in Harvard Business Review. “It is obligation to the possibility of one another—leadership in its purest form—that frees us to be more than mere lovers, friends, partners, fellow travelers on a dusty road; but to become husbands, wives, father, mothers, to be worthy of the proud titles: citizens, councilors, executives, representatives, senators, presidents, prime ministers—to be worthy of the word ‘leaders.’”

Congratulations to central Illinois’ newest class of young leaders! iBi

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