On What it Means to be President

The President of IEEE has to play a triple role: of a volunteer, of a leader, and of someone who understands the mission of the organization that is quite complex, unique and operates on the forefront of the technological progress – because it leads the very progress by pushing the technology’s growth.

About volunteering: I think volunteering for a profession to be a meaningful and gratifying experience. When I am donating my professional skills to a good cause, I demonstrate a commitment to a community that has shaped me as I am. Volunteering also gives me an opportunity to return to the profession that has given me so much. This way I can share my skills and enthusiasm in order to have an impact, and at the same time I can make a difference.

My motivation here is fully altruistic except for one aspect. I derive a personal satisfaction from serving goals that I am passionate about. When volunteering for IEEE, I always feel the trust, collegiality, and professionalism of the organization, and of the people who I work with. It’s probably because we are all motivated by the goals that we all believe in. It feels as though IEEE volunteers share a connected mind as we are all dedicated to working for the common good.

About leadership: Effective leadership is about establishing a shared vision by a leader who can encourage others to follow. This can be done in many ways such as by energizing others to follow great goals and by lowering the barriers to do things while sharing the vision. An important attribute of a leader is effective communication. Communication to be credible, however, must rely on trust and mutual respect and, in my opinion, has to be followed by the leader’s passion and a degree of charisma. Effective communication skills in addition to speaking, writing and presenting includes also effective and active listening.

About leading IEEE: The aspect of volunteering and leading is different from general volunteering because it requires a special set of skills and experience. When I think about how to be a leader of a large organization such as the IEEE, I often think of the special attributes that I feel a leader must have. In my order of priority, a leader must be:

  • passionate and knowledgeable about the organization
  • forward-thinking and ready to take a reasonable risk
  • able to identify and understand critical directions that are vital for the organization’s success
  • ready to propose new initiatives that the organization should pursue
  • able to understand the process and timeline of how to get financial and grass-root support for these initiatives

An important job for a leader of a membership-based organization such as the IEEE is to keep the a balance between the services that our members are expecting to receive from the IEEE and the investment expenditures that the organization requires to succeed in the future. This is akin to balancing the current consumption levels with future investments, a dilemma that most families or businesses face and IEEE is no different.

However, IEEE as an organization that leads the advancement of technology, must constantly operate on its cutting edge. And we can’t champion the technology effectively if our operations are not using the most modern infrastructures available today, at this information age. To use an example: since our strength is in building the intellectual property and advancement of technology, we should plan to deliver to our members and subscribers more knowledge as opposed to providing them with the classic information. The classic information is formatted as traditional papers and it does not answer questions that a reader might have. If we provide our IP users/members with the knowledge and answers to their questions, or if a design or algorithm is recommended, this will be of more value than purely traditional papers. This is akin to what search engines can do today for standard internet content and I believe the IEEE can do so as well through the use of a discovery platform and data analytics.

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