Publisher's Note

The Business of Building Leaders
by Jan Wright, Publisher
A recent issue of Fortune magazine tapped into the thoughts of top corporate CEOs on the changing landscape of leadership development. For decades, a scarcity of financial capital was the driving factor in the business world, but in recent years, that has shifted significantly. Today, it is the competition for human ability and leadership skills which drives the success of companies.

“We have openings for qualified candidates, but where are the candidates?”

In today’s knowledge economy, human capital is the gold mine. Indeed, central Illinois is well-acquainted with the shortage of qualified individuals to fill high-skilled positions— just ask the small business owner, employment agency or the HR director at our own Fortune 50 company, Caterpillar, which, incidentally, was recently named by Fortune as one of North America’s Top Companies for Leaders.

It is an issue that is not going away. The Central Illinois Workforce Board reports: “One thing is for certain in the new global economy: technological and social changes will perpetually create new forms of work. In the 21st century, in every industry, from health care to manufacturing to transportation, innovation will continue to be the key driver of competitive advantage. Having talented, skilled human capital that is innovative and techno-literate will be the critical factor that will drive economic prosperity.” Says Fortune: “That’s why the world’s best companies are realizing that no matter what business they’re in, their real business is building leaders.”

The best young employees are hungry for leadership opportunities and seek out jobs that make personal and career growth a priority. They cite “job flexibility, development and community involvement as the top three factors in keeping them at the company.” Those companies which provide such opportunities then become magnets for talent.

This year, once again, we received more than 100 nominations for our 40 Leaders Under Forty award. Not only does this year’s extraordinary class of individuals excel in their careers, they teach in our churches, mentor in our schools, coach our sports teams, volunteer with professional organizations, lead social service agencies and develop their own networks of social change.

The Class of 2007 boasts of professors, physicians, entrepreneurs and bank presidents. Engineers, dancers, psychologists and media personalities are among those chosen. Several of our leaders have run or are running for public office. From healthcare and education to finance and government, the constant thread of leadership reigns supreme.

The world is changing, and we’re changing with it. If we are to thrive in these uncertain times, so different from the world in which I grew up, these are the people who will show us the way, and we salute them. IBI

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