Academic journal article Journal of Applied Management and Entrepreneurship

Leadership and Strategy in a Difficult Telecommunications Environment: An Interview with Qwest's James F. X. Payne

Academic journal article Journal of Applied Management and Entrepreneurship

Leadership and Strategy in a Difficult Telecommunications Environment: An Interview with Qwest's James F. X. Payne

Article excerpt

Executive Summary

James F. X. Payne joined Qwest Communications International Inc. as senior vice president for government markets in August 1999 to direct the company's sales and marketing efforts at the federal level. In addition, Payne oversees the operations that support Qwest's current government customers, which include, Department of Defense (DoD), Department of Energy (DoE), NASA and the U.S. Department of Treasury and its affiliated agencies.

He also has responsibility for providing local telecommunications services to government agencies in the five cities where Qwest has won Metropolitan Area Acquisition contracts: Albuquerque, Boise, Salt Lake City, Salt Lake City, Denver and Minneapolis. In addition, Payne serves on the Industry Executive Subcommittee (IES) of President George W. Bush's National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee (NSTAC), of which Qwest Communications International CEO Joseph P. Nacchio is chairman. His appointment, according to media coverage at the time, "signals the beginning of a significant change in the federal telecommunications market; opening act in the company's plan to attract federal business and become a major player."

A long-time government-marketing executive with Sprint and GTE, Payne's career spans more than 20 years in the communications and information technology marketplace. Prior to his Qwest appointment, he served as assistant vice president for program and strategic marketing in the government systems division for Sprint Corporation, leading a team that won a federal telecommunications contract valued at about $2 billion. He spent four years at GTE before joining Sprint in 1986 as senior federal sales manager. He became director of marketing and communications in 1992 and was named assistant vice president in 1995.

Payne holds an MBA degree in marketing from George Washington University and a BBA in marketing from Georgetown University. He is on the board of directors of Gallaudet University, the University of Rochester and the National Technical Institute for the Deaf. He also served on the President's Commission on Critical Infrastructure Protection and former Vice President Gore's Net Day 1997.

Author: You have been Sr. Vice President for Government markets since August 1999. Prior to Qwest, you have had a very impressive career in the telecommunications industry. What do you contribute to your success as a leader and your company success?

Payne: The things that have contributed to my success as a leader have really remained consistent throughout my career whether in prior companies, in organizations or on boards. A lot is attributed to the skills and value sets I inherited from my parents. I was fortunate to have parents who were strong and had a good work ethic. I was trained around the concepts of loyalty, honesty in both what you say and don't say. Being courageous, and never giving up, are all issues I reflect back on. I rely on the attributes I saw in my parents.

For example, the other day I was transplanting a 65-year old 500-pound azalea and my two sons thought it was a big joke. I told my sons that I could see myself moving this azalea from its current position to this ridge 12 feet above the property line. After a couple of days, I had moved the azalea. This may sound like a silly business story, but it represents what I have learned about business. I focus on the end results in my mind and my planning then I back up. What do I need to do, how do I reverse engineer the whole thing? It's a vision. It is a bit of a mind game, but it is a place to build your strategy.

The strategy is not the straight line, but you always go back to the straight-line position. I don't see things at random. The more experience I have in my career, the more I see that there are no random events. Actually it is pretty interesting. Don't focus on the 500-pound root ball; just figure out how you can it to the top of the hill. …

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