There is a leadership void in today's society, according to first-time author William Ihlenfeldt.
The former Chippewa Valley Technical College president took a year to write the book "Visionary Leadership: A Proven Pathway to Visionary Change," which came out in early 2011. Ihlenfeldt, who continues to live in Eau Claire since retiring and winters in Florida, hopes young people in particular benefit from the 104-page, first-person tome.
Luminaries such as Franklin Roosevelt, Ronald Reagan, John Kennedy, Steven Spielberg and Lee Iacocca are described as visionary leaders in the book. An early passage aptly summarizes its contents: "This book utilizes my experience as college president to lead you through the process of becoming the visionary leader in a way you may not have thought possible."
The six steps - divided into chapters - are: Determining Where You Can Add Value, The Guiding Principles of Risk Taking, The Magic Within Your Crystal Ball-Data, Making Your Vision Real-Modeling the Plan, Developing an Agile Leadership Team, and Partnerships: The Glue for Your Visionary Plan.
Mickey Judkins worked with Ihlenfeldt when she was president of the Eau Claire Area Economic Development Corp. and more recently when she served in the Wisconsin Commerce Department. Ihlenfeldt's book "describes his method of using research and data analysis to assess the regional and national workforce needs and create training programs in high-demand career opportunities for his students," she said.
"In order to accomplish this, he made courageous and difficult choices necessary to reposition the college for the 21st century," said Judkins, who owns Details, an Eau Claire apparel retailer. "He used the business principles of accountability and quick response to the marketplace in a public institution.
"His method of solving problems and taking calculated risks using intensive research and careful data analysis is an important skill that future leaders should master."
Recurrent themes in the book include the need for leaders to be hands-on, the critical role of communication, adaptable planning to accommodate external influences, and using data to ensure accountability and credibility and spur risk-taking. Too many people today don't want to create waves, "not only in education, but in politics, business and all sectors," Ihlenfeldt says in the book.
Excerpts from the book that illustrate Ihlenfeldt's leadership philosophies also include:
n "Perception is reality, and visionary leadership changes perceptions by adding value."
n "Criticism allows you to review your values and motives through introspection, and that is a necessary part of visionary leadership."
n "Egos have no place in visionary leadership. Not realizing that has led to the early demise of many who came to the job with a lot of talent."
n "We need to ensure that innovation, creativity and enterprise remain the backbone of our economy and our country."
n "Too many times in organizations, we talk things to death and never act. If you are going to be a visionary leader worth your salt, speed-to-market needs to become a part of your vocabulary and thus a part of your systems."
Ihlenfeldt spends considerable time emphasizing the importance of partnerships. "Remember," he writes, "an idea that cannot be actualized will never become a vision, and actualization can only be accomplished through others."
Such partnerships were key in two developments at CVTC that Ihlenfeldt cites as successful examples of his six-step approach to leadership: the expansion and modernization of the school's Health Education Center and the formation of the NanoRite Innovation Center and a nanotechnology program.
Response to his first foray into book writing has been positive both locally and in the national education community, said Ihlenfeldt, who said "Visionary Leadership" led to a speaking engagement at a conference in Phoenix last year. He also continues to play a role in local economic development efforts with organizations such as Momentum West.
Although Ihlenfeldt's examples mostly are drawn from his 42 years in higher-education leadership, the strategies he's developed can be applied to any organization in any industry.
"When you really get down to it, higher education is a business," Ihlenfeldt said. "It's not an easy road, but more and more in education are taking on that tone."
"Visionary Leadership" also may not be Ihlenfeldt's first and last work. While the current book addresses present issues, he may author a more forward-looking second book.
"There will be a new type of leadership in the future," he said, "and that will bring some new challenges."