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Thoughts on Leadership in an IoT-driven World

Greg Kahn

I am not convinced that every CEO sets out—with intention—to become a leader. I am convinced, however, that those with passion, a clear vision and the ability to inspire, inform and initiate action eventually and naturally reach a gratifying summit.

Prior to founding the Internet of Things Consortium (IoTC), I spent about 20 years in media—film, television, digital advertising and digital publishing—an industry for which I still have a deep passion. Over the course of those two decades, I had my fair share of challenges, particularly in the early days where I took more than a few brutal punches. But I had tremendous opportunities and recognition. I was named one of the top influencers in the independent film industry globally, and I was on one of the main stages at the Cannes Film Festival. During my time in the advertising world at Optimedia, I had the privilege of working with many dream clients, including Disney, T-Mobile, BBC America and Pizza Hut to name a few. I also received the Media Maven Award from Advertising Age and was selected as a 2010 Media All-Star by AdweekMedia—the only executive of those named to Media Mavens or All-Stars in 2010 to be honored by both leading trade publications in the same year. My last corporate position was running revenue for a division of the American media conglomerate Meredith Corporation.

Having successes and failures in my chosen field may have given me the confidence to launch the IoTC, but it was not the pursuit of success that drove me to insert myself smack in the center of the IoT world. It was the notion of doing something I felt was meaningful, impactful and for the greater good.

I have always believed in the potential of technology to make the world a better place, not just a more distracted place or a more luxurious place, but a place all people will want to live in—and thrive. To this date, I still feel there is so much more we could be doing with technology to connect people and counteract some of the unintended consequences of creating a hyper-industrialized world.

Back in late 2015, when I was asked by a number of companies from a Meetup group in Silicon Valley to form a trade association, I jumped at the opportunity even though I had never done anything like that before in my life. Today, IoTC is a pre-eminent business development association that serves dozens of companies within and outside of the IoT space and covers five core areas of IoT including smart cities, smart homes, wearables, mobility and retail, with a renowned roster of members including Verizon, Comcast, T-Mobile, Mastercard, Ericsson, Procter & Gamble, Nestle, ADT Security, LG Electronics, Cox, Whirlpool, Bank of America, SwissRe and over 30 startups.

Because I was not formally trained as an engineer, I had no preconceived notions about how things should unfold, and as a consortium, my team and I didn’t have any sort of rules we thought we had to follow. We could invite all types of companies—inside and outside of the IoT (or M2M) industry—as members. I think that’s what’s helped us scale so rapidly. So many companies want to participate in the IoT ecosystem but don’t see a clear path in.  We provided them with that path.

I also wasn’t afraid of becoming an entrepreneur. Yet, I knew if I really wanted to leave a legacy and do something meaningful, I needed to roll up my sleeves and build that ecosystem one relationship at a time. And I knew it would not be easy.

In 2019, we ambitiously launched our first major summit IoTC NEXT in New York City, bringing together hundreds of top executives from Google, Comcast, Verizon, Warner Media, IBM, Procter & Gamble, Mastercard, Samsung, Bose, Ericsson, Nestle, Avis Budget, ADT, Cox and New York Times among others. It was very challenging to pull off, but the seeds had been planted the previous four years—one relationship at a time.

There are infinite opportunities moving ahead. We at IoTC are excited to build on the foundation we developed in 2019, now bringing ethics, diversity and inclusion front and center in the dialog. I am committed to supporting those businesses that are determined to create an ethical connected future and leading the industry in that regard. I also anticipate the IoTC playing a greater role in Washington, DC, pushing the DIGIT Act forward and bringing CEOs, CIOs and CMOs together to advance our mission to ignite the growth of the IoT in our five key verticals.

In today’s evolving global economy, there are no longer clearly defined educational or career paths to the C-Suite. What’s more important for a leader to possess is a mindset to continually learn and grow, to collaborate with others (even competitors), and the mentality to pivot quickly when needed. Leadership also requires the ability to scale and build genuine relationships that stand the test of time, to demonstrate authenticity, strong brand-building and selling skills, discipline and calculated risk-taking—placing big bets when there are many nay-sayers.

Additionally, today’s leaders must have a strong handle on work/life balance. In an ever-increasing world of artificial intelligence, I never lose sight of the fact that we are still very human and need a very human approach to solving our greatest challenges.

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Greg Kahn
Greg Kahn is president and CEO of the Internet of Things Consortium (IoTC) and one of the most connected and engaged members of the Internet of Things (IoT) community. At the helm of IoTC NEXT: The Connected Future Summit, a first-of-its-kind industry event launched in 2019 in New York City, he is uniting foremost brand executives, leading technologists, investors and top media to address the challenges of a connected world. Greg Kahn is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine. He can be found on Linkedin.