A Matter of Influence

Influence is the most subjective of qualities. It is far easier to know when someone doesn’t have it than when they do. And influence is value-neutral. This is why Time magazine’s “Man (now Person) of the Year” has ranged from presidents and astronauts to Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin. Time’s definition for the distinction is “the individual or group of individuals who have had the biggest effect on the year’s news.”

Every four years, we scour our industry for those individuals who meet a variation of Time’s definition. They are the people who have had the biggest effect on the industry.

This is not a popularity contest. It’s about choosing individuals who, by their words and actions, change an industry. Some shape, some mold, and some blow it up and start over again. Our team, led by special projects editor Megan Headley, assembled a list of nearly 100 who, in our judgment after consultation with numerous thought leaders in the industry, do just that, and these will appear in our upcoming August issue.

Influence, alas, can also be fleeting. Consider this: in 1999, Time magazine named the great scientist and mathematician Albert Einstein as its “Person of the Century.” In the judgment of Time’s editors, no individual had a bigger effect on the news of the entire century.

Quite an accomplishment, right? Just a few weeks ago I stopped in an office supply store to pick up some supplies, including some thumb drives. I was looking for one for myself on which I planned to keep some important back-up documents.

Since I am not always the most organized person, I was looking for one that I would instantly know was mine and would always stand out so I would never give it away. So there, amid the skateboard and Bart Simpson thumb drives, I found mine: Times “Person of the Century,” Albert Einstein.

I am anxious to hear your thoughts about the issue, which should begin arriving next week.