OK, so you missed the first IEEE-USA Future Leaders Forum. Perhaps you had good reason... Your Aunt Geraldine was celebrating her 80th birthday and, despite missing her first 79 parties, you just couldn’t miss this one.
So, what exactly did you miss that late July weekend in New Orleans? How about Google Vice President and Chief Internet Evangelist Dr. Vinton Cerf? It’s not too often you can hear from one of the original creators of the Internet. You also missed a Mississippi River dinner cruise, dinner at Mardi Gras World, and a Darcy Malone and the Tangle concert.
The forum's enthusiastic speakers covered six major themes: inspire, solve, empower, adapt, lead and connect.
Cerf captured and held the attention of about 285 attendees, mostly IEEE student members and Young Professionals. He pointed out it takes more than game-changing design to make a technology successful.
“My engineers sometimes ask, ‘How can I be effective?’” Cerf said. “The answer is, ‘Learn how to sell.’ Sales are about getting your ideas in other people’s heads. … And lest you disparage marketing and sales, remember that if they are not successful, you won’t get paid.”
Cerf and Bob Kahn co-designed the TCP/IP protocols and Internet architecture that allows computers on different networks to communicate and share information. They presented their “design and philosophy” in the groundbreaking 1974 IEEE paper, “A Protocol for Packet Network Intercommunication.”
Cerf said he, Kahn and their colleagues couldn’t predict how much the Internet – a network of networks – would enhance the flow of information and change the way business is conducted the world over.
“But we had a pretty good idea that this was going to be powerful stuff,” Cerf said. “And frankly it blew me away, and it’s still true.”
Cerf likens the Internet to a postcard.
“Everything you know about postcards is true of an Internet packet,” he said. “It has a ‘to’ address and a ‘from’ address, and it has some content. A postcard doesn’t know what you wrote on it, and neither does the Internet packet.”
Entergy, which provides electricity to 2.8 million utility customers in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas, was a Future Leaders Forum platinum sponsor. It also provided a featured speaker: Entergy New Orleans President and CEO Charles Rice.
He drew laughter when he made light of speaking after “someone who invented the Internet.”
Despite his unenviable speaking position, Rice kept the room energized with his insight into leadership and life lessons.
“I believe the journey to becoming an effective leader is never-ending,” he said, “because you can always learn something new to help you improve. It may be in the form of a person you meet, a book you’ve read, a struggle you’ve overcome, or a lesson you learned from a mistake that you made.
“But if you’re really paying attention, you’ll find that life is constantly trying to teach you things about becoming a better leader.”
Rice said leadership doesn’t stem from your position or title. He defines it as “influencing people, influencing behavior, influencing performance, making informed decisions and getting results.”
Strong leaders “know and care” more about people than a company’s bottom line, or how many products it sells. Rice thinks effective leaders, among other qualities, listen well, communicate well, are open and trusting, and don’t shy away from giving or receiving “corrective feedback.”
They also possess a high degree of emotional intelligence, which Psychology Today defines as “the ability to identify and manage your own emotions and the emotions of others.”
“The great thing about emotional intelligence,” Rice said, “is that it’s something that can be worked on and improved, just like other behaviors that can make leaders more effective.”
Col. Barry Shoop is a professor and head of the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point (N.Y.). The academy is in the business of producing U.S. Army officers, some of whom will lead troops into battle. It is the oldest engineering school in the United States.
Shoop, an IEEE Fellow and 2016 IEEE president and CEO, discussed transformational leadership, explaining that it has three parts: acquiring new knowledge, gaining experience, and reflection.
“It’s what we teach at West Point,” he said. “It’s been fairly effective since 1802.”
On acquiring new knowledge, Shoop said, “Being here at this forum is one way of doing that. Listening to others in terms of what worked for them [regarding] leadership. You can read books. There are a lot of books [and articles] out there on leadership.”
He also presented the idea of gaining knowledge and experience from a “world laboratory,” and said that you can learn from observing “good leaders and poor leaders.”
Experience is also a key element for leaders. School projects, as well as IEEE section and student branch activities, provide members with opportunities to take center stage.
“Practicing leadership is particularly important,” Shoop said. “If you are engaged in a capstone design project [or] team-kind of activities in your school [or] university, leadership emerges from there. So you have an opportunity to practice leadership. …
“IEEE [provides many] opportunities to practice leadership. So, you take those theories that you learned from acquiring new knowledge, and you apply it. You basically get some experience with that.”
Shoop offered that after you’ve read about leadership, have observed it and practiced it, it’s time to reflect on what you’ve learned.
“You need to step back and take an opportunity to think about, ‘did it work? What could I have done better? How shall I do this the next time?’” Shoop said.
Duty, Honor, Country
Rice was a second lieutenant in the Army who served as a military intelligence officer in the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) at Fort Campbell, Ky.
He later became city attorney for New Orleans and was responsible for about 100 employees. Regardless of their position in the city government, he said he treated them all the way he “would want to be treated”: with dignity and respect.
Shoop serves in the Army Signal Corps. His military assignments include, among others, science advisor to the director and chief scientist of the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization. Maintaining strong moral values are important to Shoop, as well as the Army’s ability to defeat enemies, foreign and domestic.
“Being honorable is probably the most important trait of a good leader,” he said. “You’ve heard things like transparency, honor, high moral character. Effective leaders have high moral character. So do your assessment. Make sure you’re on the right path.
“Trust and respect are earned. You’re not leading yourself. You’re leading a team. Participate in the team.”
Kindness, compassion and genuine concern about others makes people feel better and can help you advance in your career.
“Leaders in your organization,” Rice said, “will watch how you treat everyone … from the administrative assistants to the janitors. And believe it or not, how you treat the lowest people in the organization can play a role in you getting that next promotion.
“The boss’ administrative assistant always has his ear, and has a level of influence that you would never believe. And more importantly, I can guarantee you he values that administrative assistant’s opinion.”
Upcoming IEEE-USA Leadership Events
IEEE-USA is planning a Future Leaders Workshop in 2017, and another Future Leaders Forum in 2018. So, tell your Aunt Geraldine you can’t make her next birthday party. Get yourself to one or both of these events. You’ll be glad you did.
“It’s great that we taped our speakers and posted video on Facebook and Periscope,” IEEE-USA President Pete Eckstein said. “But the greater value of events that we sponsor is the networking opportunities. You never know who you’re going to meet. Someone with a job might be looking for someone like you.
“I hope to see a lot of these people, and a whole bunch of new ones, in the next couple years.”
Chris McManes (mick-maynz) is IEEE-USA’s public relations manager.