Taking the Lead

By Joe Sweeney

Say hello to a new crop of young leaders.

Traditions are a terrific thing, and you’re holding perhaps Ingram’s most valued annual recognition program. It’s hard to believe this is the 23rd year of 40 Under Forty and The Leadership Edition. I vividly remember in 1998 when we selected the first class, wondering if this program could perpetuate. We actually did not publish 40 Under Forty in 1999 as we felt at that time we could not field as strong of a group of honorees year-over-year. We significantly underestimated the interest in this program and the importance of 40 Under Forty to the business community.

We always have a very large number of nominations and the largest number to date exceeds 800 nominations in a given year. It’s easy to dissuade patrons by not selecting a particular applicant and each year, there are many candidates who have already turned 39, but we’re unable to include. That’s unfortunate, because many of them are highly qualified, and we hope they feel honored simply to have been nominated.

I want to thank the business community at large and the 40 Under Forty alumni in particular for submitting such a large number of strong nominations. We require nominees to submit their applications and to respond in their words, to be considered. This is not a PR or marketing department project, and despite the snark you might hear, nobody gets in because their company “bought an ad.” No chance of that happening. Ever.

Since that April issue 23 years ago, 920 people have been designated as 40 Under Forty honorees and we applaud each of them for the contributions they’ve made in advance of their recognition and especially after such.

It’s a monumental project to read and further research hundreds of applicants each year and I’m surprised at the level of achievement that nominees have produced at a young age. I like to believe I work hard and generally am on full throttle most of the time, but after reviewing many of the profiles of this year’s honorees, I remain in awe of their achievements.

The Virtues of Leadership

So the questions comes, as it does every year: Why? What’s the value of 40 Under Forty?

Well, it’s not far removed from the value we believe is rooted in every awards and recognition program we execute here at Ingram’s. You’ve probably heard me say it before, but excellence matters. It’s what drives businesses forward, and that business growth helps drive communities forward.

But 40 Under Forty has a special place within our awards line-up. While most every other program is focused on individuals or companies performing at exceptional levels, this one was designed from that very first class to focus on the young people who are making a fundamental difference in the quality of life in the greater Kansas City area.

Many of our past honorees have gone on to become CEOs and fill other C-suite roles. They have gone on to Congress and the respective statehouses in Missouri and Kansas. They have assumed the leadership ranks on city councils, school boards and the boards of the non-profit organizations that are so vital in meeting the needs of those who, for whatever reason, haven’t been a part of that kind of success or the American Dream.

Almost to a man or woman, applicants for 40 Under Forty have extensive records of such engagement, and they’re doing so at a time in their life when family is taking precedence. They have little ones at home, or on the way, and they want to make this a better place to live, a better place to leave to their children. That’s worth recognizing, too, because we know at the end of the day, they’re as tired as the rest of us, but something motivates them to make that fundamental difference.

Making It Work

Programs like 40 Under Forty don’t work without participation from a great many people who understand what success, leadership and balanced lives really mean. That’s why we value  the input of past honorees and many other business leaders in nominating each new crop of candidates. And the more nominations, the stronger the final field.

Did we miss someone? Let us know. There’s always room for more to be considered for the 24th Class
of 40 Under Forty in 2022.


About the author


Joe Sweeney

Editor-In-Chief & Publisher


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