One of the more compelling sessions at the just-concluded 7x24 Exchange was a talk on leadership, given by AOL’s Mike Manos. After reflecting on his talk, I came to the conclusion that Mike was wrong when he challenged the assembled data center professionals to take ownership of what goes on in their facilities and to be leaders in their enterprises. And I told him so (and one or two others).

I said that as much as we might want, data center staff couldn’t really lead, because in most cases organizations really succeeded or failed based on how their products and services fared in the market. Apple’s data centers wouldn’t save the company from bankruptcy without such widespread consumer enthusiasm for its iPads, iPods, and iPhones. We talked about other examples. I’m afraid I might have even won the debate. It’s a shame because I was wrong.

Mike, data center professionals can exert leadership, and I’ll tell you why using some of your own logic.

We were both thinking too small. Within the enterprise, sure, individual managers and operators don’t really lead they manage. But who says data center leadership has to be constrained by any one single enterprise, by an employer. And this was a point you made in your talk.

Mike, you are leader. Your thoughts and ideas affect people both in and outside of the enterprise you work in. Your brother Steve is a leader. So is Bob Cassiliano, and Dean Nelson and Mark Thiele, and Ken Brill, Frank Frankovsky, and Pitt Turner, Steve Worn and Dan Scarbrough, Mark Monroe, Dave Ohara, Martin McCarthy, Michael Siteman, Chris Johnston, Jack Pouchet. How about Steve Fairfax? Jack Glass, John Jackson, Mark Bramfitt, Joe Kava, and Tom Furlong also come to mind. I’d also like to nominate all the Mission Critical columnists and Board members (Sorry to lump you all together, but I make a point of celebrating your leadership every chance I get. See p. 6 of every issue of the magazine plus our website for more on this distinguished group), as well as publishing confrere Rich Miller.

All these people and others demonstrate the qualities of real leadership. They succeed at work, and then they share broadly within the industry. They do well by doing good. For they remember that when we talk about saving energy, for instance, we are talking about an issue of national and global significance. They are helping lead on a national basis, and their contributions will inevitably affect enterprises everywhere.

I’m bound to get in trouble starting a list like this, but I thought Mike needed a pep talk after talking to me. Because Mike, not only were you right, but you are not alone.

I’d also like to not get flamed for oversights, because I know I didn’t mention everyone. But rather than attack my list, why not add to the list by commenting on this post.