Leading the Transportation Transformation
June 4, 2016|Robert Puentes
It is no secret that transportation in America is changing dramatically. Navigating the industry through those changes requires leaders in transportation to think and act differently to match the challenges of today.
Transportation leaders are often considered those that build new infrastructure, create new industries, draft new policy. While we still need those qualities today, much more attention and emphasis is now given to leaders who can keep our systems from falling into a state of disrepair. Or those that can connect up transportation to broad public policy goals and objectives. Or that can lead departments and agencies as their roles evolve to meet these new demands.
Elizabeth Samet summed up these qualities in her anthology on leadership: “Leaders are responsible, restrained, attentive, focused, concerned, frightened of the consequences, and tempered by real world experiences that have left them compassionate and self aware. These qualities make it possible to be creative, ambitious, and daring when there really is a crisis.”
This is the most underrated and difficult type of leader to be but is profoundly important for the nation today. While they do not often win awards for adequately maintaining the transportation network, or saving money, or keeping employees happy and engaged, they should. They are quickly criticized when things go wrong, but rarely praised when they do not.
Today’s transportation industry is full of the new and the old – Legacy companies and agencies who have been operating successfully for years, and hungry start ups that are eager to bring innovation and disruption to the industry. Our industry is at a crucial crossroads. There is an opportunity to repair our aging systems, utilize new technology, and provide more and better transportation options for all. But we need leaders who can bring all of the pieces together both in the quiet times and during moments of crisis.
This week, Eno is holding its 24th annual Future Leaders Development Conference in Washington DC. Started in 1993, this conference brings some of the best and brightest graduate students in transportation to the nation’s capitol to gain a better understanding of how U.S. transportation policy is crafted. Every university and college with a transportation program is invited to nominate one student each year; Eno’s Board of Regents review the nominations and select each year’s class. Upon completion of the conference, participants become “Eno Fellows”.
Many Eno Fellows are already making an impact on the transportation industry. Paul Lewis, Eno’s Vice President of Policy and Finance (Class of 2011) started out as an Eno Fellow. Patricia Hendren (Class of 1999) now works as Executive Director of the I-95 Corridor Coalition. Greg Cohen (Class of 1999) is now President and CEO of the American Highway Users Alliance. And Tom O’Brien (Class of 2000) now works as the Executive Director of the Center for International Trade and Transportation at California State University Long Beach.
This year’s class of Eno Fellows will join fellow alumni in a transportation industry that is changing rapidly. They and many others have the opportunity to lead our industry back to a state we can be proud of and to integrate innovations that can improve our economy and the lives of many.
Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly listed Patricia Hendren as working with WMATA.