ACT-IAC CEO discusses leadership challenges during the presidential election

This week on Leaders and Legends in Government, Dave Wennergren, CEO of ACT-IAC joins host Aileen Black to talk about leadership and the challenges of leadershi...

ACT-IAC CEO Dave Wennergren joined Aileen Black on this week’s Leaders and Legends to talk about leadership and the challenges of leadership during the upcoming presidential election. Wennergren provided insightful, sage advice for leaders regardless of the election outcome.

Interview Highlights:

  • Wennergren shared his perspective that the level of a success a leader can achieve really lies in the “power of the team”. He stressed you need to hire the best and galvanize them with a sense of urgency.
  • Wennergren shared some of his most challenging leadership experiences including leading the charge during the Pentagon’s adoption of the smart CAC card. He stressed that you need to know your audience and use “business judo”. A judo-mindset reveals compelling strategic advantages normally ignored. With the right team and the right approach he said anything can be accomplished.
  • An avid reader of leadership books, Wennergren mentioned several great books but one he quoted was by Peter Drucker called “The Effective Executive.” He said the book makes the case that the unique purpose of any organization is to make to make strength productive. “It cannot, of course, overcome the weaknesses with which each of us is abundantly endowed. But it can make them irrelevant,” Wennergeren said.
  • When asked about leadership vs. management and which skill he felt was most important? Wennergren shared that people spend too much time on management skills to achieve great things. People need to have a compelling vision that takes solid leadership skills. Great leaders he said lead the team to feel “compelled to act and have a sense of urgency, and “leaders empower their teams and give them the tools to act and encourage innovations”.
  • When asked about the challenges leaders will face with the upcoming presidential election, Wennergren says either way there is going to be a “huge” change in leadership. His advice to those coming in is, “Don’t pay attention to the name of the initiative. Look at the nature of the idea of the work.” He reminds the senior officials that maybe acting during the approval process that it might take a long time to fill those seats. “ It is important to keep the mission going”. During each Presidential election cycle, ACT-IAC identifies important issues and recommendations to improve government services and operations. Here is a link:
  • Wennergren closed the show with his advice for the next generations. He said “Step boldly into opportunities, don’t be afraid to break all the rules,” and stressed that you need to “understand yourself”. You spend a good deal of your time with the people you work with, make sure you are aligned.

David M. Wennergren is the CEO of ACT-IAC, the national non-profit public-private partnership dedicated to advancing the business of government through the application of technology. He has extensive leadership experience in information technology and change management and has served in a number of senior positions, most recently in the private sector as a managing director at Deloitte Consulting LLP, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer at the Professional Services Council and a vice president at CACI International Inc. During his career in government, he served as the Department of the Navy chief information officer, vice chair of the U.S. Government’s Federal CIO Council, deputy assistant secretary of Defense for Information Management, Integration and Technology/deputy chief information officer and Department of Defense (DoD) assistant deputy chief management officer.

Mr. Wennergren is a Fellow of the National Academy of Public Administration and a CIO- SAGE at the Partnership for Public Service. He received his B.A. in Communications/Public Relations from Mansfield University, and received the University’s Alumni Citation Award in 2012. He was a recipient of a Secretary of the Navy Civilian Fellowship in Financial Management, culminating in a Master of Public Policy (MPP) from the University of Maryland’s School of Public Affairs.

His awards include the Department of Defense Distinguished Civilian Service Award, the Department of the Navy Distinguished, Superior and Meritorious Civilian Service Awards, the Secretary of Defense Meritorious Civilian Service Award, and the Office of the Secretary of Defense Exceptional Civilian Service Award. Other honors include the: 2012 Roger W. Jones Award for Executive Leadership (American University), TechAmerica Terman Award 2010 Government Technology Executive of the Year, Federal CIO Council 2008 Azimuth Award winner, Federal Computer Week 2006 Eagle Award (Government Leader of the Year), 2006 John J. Franke Jr. Award from the American Council for Technology, Government Computer News 2005 Defense Executive of the Year, three Federal Computer Week Fed 100 Awards, Computerworld Premier 100 Award, and 2008 General James M. Rockwell AFCEAN of the Year. A huge believer in the “power of team,” he is also honored to have worked in two organizations that were awarded the Department of the Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation.

You can follow Wennergren on Twitter: @davewennergren or on LinkedIn:

Learn more about ACT-IAC at

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