As we approach the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, one of the records that athletes from around the globe will be trying to beat is in the high jump. Javier Sotomayor from Cuba set the world record in this event in 1993 at 2.45 meters. The image of well-trained competitors striving to propel themselves higher and higher strikes a chord with me as I think about the role of a leader in an organization. Leaders “set the bar” by their level of expectations of themselves and their teams. Inventor Charles Kettering is quoted as saying, “High achievement always takes place in the framework of high expectations.” As leaders, we have the opportunity to create a culture in our companies of high or low expectations. However, we must realize that we have to model and live up to those expectations ourselves.
I recently interviewed Dr. Henry Jones, chief technology officer at Mav6, about his thoughts on leadership — and one of his core tenets is the importance of setting high expectations. He shared that one of the real shaping influences on his life were the expectations set by an elementary teacher, Mrs. Frances Woodson. Jones noted, “Everyone feared having Mrs. Woodson because she was thought of as a tough teacher. The reality is that she had high expectations for all of her students and the demanded the best from us!” Jones has certainly set high expectations for himself over the years. A native of Richton, he graduated from Ole Miss with a degree in engineering. He was a top student and went on to obtain his master’s and Ph.D. from Stanford University in aeronautics and astronautics. Based on this educational background, Jones is literally a “rocket scientist.”
Jones’ experience includes working in Silicon Valley developing unmanned aircraft for the military, and while there he also created a non-profit called LumiMap to develop hand held technology to aid humanitarian relief organizations when responding to disasters. In 2005, Jones returned to Mississippi to work as chief technology officer of SmartSynch where he worked until 2010. His resume also includes being a founder of a quantitative hedge fund, Iron View Capital, and he also is a partner in DataRiver, a mobile application development company. DataRiver actually developed the best-selling mobile hunting application to date, Primos Speak the Language. He currently serves in a dual role as chief technology officer for Mav6 and as the director of the Center for Battlefield Innovation at Mississippi State University. Mav6 is an aerospace and defense technology business headquartered in Vicksburg with offices in Alexandria, Va., and Elizabeth City, N.C.
Jones is passionate about his home state and is actively involved in numerous organizations to promote leadership and development including Leadership Jackson and Leadership Mississippi. He often speaks on leadership topics and one of his core messages is that the path to success is simple: take initiative and be responsible. There is great truth in these principles. I always look to hire people who are constantly looking to be self-starters and look for ways to improve the organization. In addition, we live in a culture of shifting blame and “passing the buck” so if you are a person who takes responsibility then you will stand out from the crowd. Jones believes in the importance of education, and he is a vocal advocate for early childhood education. As a technology industry executive, he also believes that it is critical that we be able to attract and keep world class talent. He noted, “We are competing on a global stage, so it is critical to have globally-competitive talent available here.”
Our communities and institutions in this state were built upon leaders who not only cared about their careers, but also their communities. I am excited to see leaders like Dr. Jones, who care about giving back to their state and trying to help it be the best it can be.