David Lebow ’83, executive vice president and general manager for AOL Media Networks, will give a presentation titled, “Effective Leadership: Managing for Results” at 7:30 tonight in Emerson Suites as part of the Sigma Iota Epsilon Distinguished Management Speaker Series. Staff Writer Kathy Laluk spoke with Lebow about his career, the world of business and the future of the Internet.
Kathy Laluk: Why did you decide to come back to the college?
David Lebow: [Senior] Mike Potter, [vice president and chair of the Sigma Iota Epsilon External Relations Committee], contacted me. … He was part of a group of [Roy H. Park School of Communications] students who had done some integrated work with us. He asked me to … come and do a little more of an in-depth workshop.
KL: Could you summarize the main points of your presentation?
DL: The presentation revolves around the concept of leadership and what it suggests is leadership is a prerequisite in business, certainly, but also in every aspect of life …. What we’ll really focus on is what the key aspects of leadership are. Leadership is exhibited on a global scale with politicians, like Ronald Reagan. I use him in my presentation, and … some of the world’s greatest leaders, [as well as] business leaders like Jack Welch, Steve Jobs and people that continue to get large groups of people to move in harmony. … There are leadership qualities that are practiced that are really the fabric of how change and progress are made.
KL: What do you do at AOL?
DL: I oversee a few large businesses that AOL owns, the commerce businesses, which is transacting on the web. I oversee the local businesses, anything having to do with finding things and MapQuest, which [the company] owns. So all told, there are different consumer products of AOL, which reach large amounts of Americans each month. So basically I make Web products and run businesses that reach tremendous numbers of people. It’s a big aspect of what AOL does.
KL: What sparked your interest in the Web and media?
DL: I’d really have to [credit] that to Ithaca. … To me, media have always been about engaging a consumer, and then [making] money by it through some sort of advertising. Through the years, the web has created a more relevant form for advertising …. The Web is mainstream media today. So what radio and TV were back then, the Web is for us today. … What the Park School and the [School of Business] try to emphasize is that you’re not in radio or TV — you’re in media. When you look at the world through those parameters, that really allows one to make a connection between being in radio back then and being in the Internet today. The very same leadership principles you learn as part of a team of people, at Ithaca, can [be expressed] on a wider campus, on a wider scale.
KL: Where do you see the Web going in the future?
DL: The Internet is growing in ways that are really unparalleled by any other form of media ever because of the ubiquity of it. The Internet is not just on your PC or your Mac, but it’s on your mobile phone. If you look at other countries, their mobile phone use is way beyond that of the United States. So the individual’s ability to be connected is always on. So what that allows is for portals or specialist Web sites to be concentrating communication with consumers, which allows people to have more access to things they want when they want it. … If you research a subject … you can condense what might have taken hundreds of hours before to an hour today.