The Issue of Leadership is Not an Academic Question

By Joe Sweeney

We’re proud to introduce Ingram’s Leadership Academy, with an eye to the region’s most pressing business needs.

I studied business, journalism and education while at Mizzou and at the time I may have enjoyed education coursework the most. I considered pursuing a career in the field but always vowed to include the principles of education regardless the direction I navigated. I was particularly fortunate to know Marketing Education department chair Dr. John Elias—the greatest mentor of all time. With 26,000 undergrads on campus and being on my own for the first time, the structure I found with his coaching enabled me to excel and enjoy diversified coursework. 

Fast forward to 1997, when our team at Ingram’s developed one of the most respected 40 Under Forty programs in the nation—the first class was named in April 1998. It included names like Barth, Copaken, Dunn, Baum, Hall, Kemper, Graves. You get the picture. Our biggest regret is that this recognition program, though unique and with very high selection standards, did not offer a leadership training component. Granted, most honorees were already known for their achievements, but none of these young leaders were yet in the roles they serve in today. 

In 2008 we developed the 20 in Their Twenties program. While some of these folks in their twenties have achieved some success, most candidates are still finding their way, and even the best will jump not only between companies but onto different career paths. Often times we’re in a challenging situation to select some honorees based on potential, rather than demonstrated accomplishments.

We’re blessed to know hundreds of extra-ordinary leaders throughout the region in a variety of industries and organizations. Among them are 700 friends from our 40 Under Forty program, as well as some emerging leaders from our 20 in Their Twenties initiative. Publishing Ingram’s for 19 years has availed many unique opportunities, and I have no regrets about having taken on this challenge at the ripe age of 38. I wish, however, I’d had more real-world training outside of publishing to better prepare me. This background may offer an appropriate segue into an exciting new venture we’re developing.

Ingram’s Leadership Academy

We have been exploring a number of ways to enhance our programming at Ingram’s and to improve upon initiatives that help better educate the regional business community. In 2016 we’re excited to announce Ingram’s Leadership Academy. This unique initiative enables us to serve as the steward of a program designed to better prepare high-potential candidates and help train them to become extraordinary leaders.

“Ingram’s Leadership Academy will provide experiential programming bringing the best of personal development, professional growth, leadership exposure and civic outreach through discovery sessions, guest thought leaders and CEOs. Our mission is to create the best program we can to help develop a well-rounded leader.”

We’re aligning with a few strategic partners and are in the process of engaging talented trainers and guest thought leaders to assist. Consider the consolidation of several extraordinary leaders throughout the region in addition to internationally renowned authorities under the supervision of strong facilitators along with 45 aspiring young leaders. This is the chemistry of assets that will soon align as we roll out Ingram’s Leadership Academy. 

We view the Academy as a complement to university, chamber and other leadership programs. Our focus will be to primarily train young Gen Xers and the older Millennials—ages 30 to 40, in particular. Both of these generations are radically different than the Baby Boomers who are rapidly exiting the corner office. Seats are prized and few in the Academy, and we will not dedicate an ongoing chair to a corporation. The selection committee will be made up of strategic partners and will review and select participants. We’re confident that the $4,995 enrollment fee will be a very small price to pay for the wisdom they’ll absorb and the life-long friendships that participants will foster.

I wish Dr. Elias were here today, as he would be right there with us developing the curriculum of the Academy. We’ll roll out the plan in full detail in next month’s issue, but I hope you’re inspired to consider investing in your best emerging talent to participate in this unique program. 

This edition, by the way, includes extraordinarily passionate leaders in both education and health care, as we present our annual Icons of Education and Heroes in Healthcare. These individuals, like the future graduates of the Academy, represent the best of what it means to be a leader. We need many more of their kind. 

About the author


Joe Sweeney

Editor-In-Chief & Publisher