Leader Spotlight

Hurd_PhotoJoseph K. Hurd III (Young Leader 2008)

President, Young Leaders Alumni Council

What do you like most about Switzerland?

Multiple languages, multiple cultures.  I can still remember my first trip to St. Gallen in 1992 and meeting college students my age who could speak four languages – fluently.  The Swiss approach has led to centuries of democracy absent war.  Truly amazing.

What do you like most about the U.S.? 

The optimism and “can-do” spirit.  There is something true about the old adage, “if you believe it, you can achieve it.”  The spirit of innovation is alive and well in the United States, and more importantly, the support structures (education, finance, government policy) that enable small business owners to constantly create new things.

What defines your leadership style?  

I try to be very clear about our goals and timetable, and then let people go do their work.  I try to have people on the team who are better (hungrier, smarter, etc.) than I am – if I have to “lead by doing”, then something has gone very wrong.

Who inspires you? 

Anyone who has stepped outside of their comfort zone in pursuit of a goal.  My father, who left everything that he knew in Colorado to attend Harvard and become the first in his family to graduate college.  My wife, who did the same (California to Tufts).  Turning one’s back on the known in pursuit of the unknown is hard – and doesn’t always lead to success.  But I believe that “fail” really means “First Attempt In Learning,” and I respect those who try.

What is your greatest achievement? 

Every day, I look into three sets of eyes: those of my wife and two children.  Being the best husband and father I can be will long outlive any professional achievement I can hope to accomplish.

Do you have any weaknesses? 

How long do you want this profile to be?  Let’s just say that lots of bad things happen when you succumb to insecurity and self-doubt.

Where do you live?  

In God’s country: Northern California.  The best feeling in the world is walking outside my front door in the early morning to pick up the paper: It’s completely still, except for the birds calling out to one another. The eucalyptus trees have this pungent smell – not as strong as cough drops, but distinctive nonetheless.  The sun peeks over the treetops, and the temperature is not too hot, not too cold, all year round.  It’s heaven.

What is your favorite place in the world?

Despite living in NorCal, I don’t truly feel “home” until I return to my hometown – Boston, Massachusetts.  I  was fortunate enough to spend my summers on an island off the coast of Cape Cod – Martha’s Vineyard.  I don’t truly relax – and sleep well – until I am in the hammock in our front yard, listening to the chickadees (and swatting mosquitoes).

What is the best book you ever read?

I particularly enjoy biographies – I like reading about the great (and not so great) and learning about what made them tick.  I enjoy the “realness” of biography and history, much as I enjoy the “realness” of photography as an art form.  One of the best biographies I have ever read is Robert Caro’s The Path to Power.

What is your goal in life? 

I think that if I can make it to age 90, healthy and happy, having seen my children marry and reproduce, with a wife who still loves me, with ample opportunity to have seen a few things, do a few things and teach a few things, I’ll have accomplished what I set out to do.  A lot of people don’t get a second chance.  I’ve had more than my fair share of chances, and for that I’m grateful.



About Joseph Hurd

Joe Hurd is an entrepreneur who advises digital media start up companies and a former Obama Administration official based in Los Altos, California.  His favorite meal is Geschnetzeltes mit Rosti.

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