In a world where newspapers regularly carry accounts of corrupt, arrogant, or greedy leaders and authority figures, I find myself especially cheered when I come across the genuine thing — a leader who serves the common good with strength, vision, and compassion. I'd like to introduce Nancy Berg, executive director and general manager of the Society of Manufacturing Engineers.
I interviewed Nancy in the early 1990s regarding her position at the time as one of the few femaledirectors of large associations. (She was with SME.) In 2000, we ran a profile of her after she was asked to take the helm at SME — again breaking new ground. Not only was Nancy one of a handful of women heading up a large association, she was relatively young (46), and, atypically, her background was in not manufacturing. That she was able to gracefully and competently turn around the tradition-bound SME, restoring financial soundness and re-envisioning its purpose, is a really terrific accomplishment. (Not that you would hear any self-accolades from Nancy.)
Listening to her presentation at ECEF this spring, I was struck particularly by her statement that “strategy by committee doesn't work” — too often it's too hard for people to see beyond their own biases/concerns. To be able to gather all views and then to have the courage and intelligence to establish and implement what really is in the best long-term interest of the organization, is to me a true hallmark of leadership.
Turn to page 16 for the full story of SME's turnaround. And if you know of any other noteworthy leaders out there, let us know. I would love to shine the spotlight on people who deserve it.
PS: Speaking of shining the spotlight, hats off to AM for recently winning the top national award from the American Society of Business Press Editors for best illustrated cover (“The Far Side: Exploring the World of Unconventional Meetings,” August 2004). We also won ASBPE's top award in the Northeast region for best feature series. “Talking About Waste” appeared in our February and April issues. Way to go, team!