Al Sikes, former chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) from Sikeston, has written a book he hopes will resonate with the next generation of politicos – powerfully inscribed with “Keep pushing back.”
“I really want to talk to the next generation or the generation after that,” Sikes told the Missouri Times. “I took my experience from the power cities that may be helpful and began organizing it.”
Culture Leads Leaders Follow follows Sikes’ career from Southeast Missouri to Jefferson City to Washington and New York, teaching lessons of the technology industry through anecdotes.
Sikes got his start in politics with former U.S. Senator Jack Danforth when Danforth ran for attorney general. After election, the book explains, Sikes was eventually convinced to join Danforth’s office. Later, Sikes ran the Danforth’s unsuccessful campaign for the Governor’s Mansion and Kit Bond’s successful bid. He then served as Missouri Department of Consumer Affairs, Regulation and Licensing director.
From there, the book anecdotally tells Sikes’ journey to Washington, where he worked under President Reagan for the Department of Commerce under Mac Baldrige. He then went back home and to Colorado to start a radio business before, 5 years later, he was appointed by President Bush to serve as chairman of the FCC.
Sikes served as the FCC chairman during the turmoil with Howard Stern’s talk radio show, which he outlines his book as an example of leadership reacting to culture.
“I saw a culture coarsening, and especially at the FCC, saw it with Howard Stern,” said Sikes. “Politics is more likely to reflect the culture, which we are seeing with Donald Trump. Trump is a cultural phenomenon.”
During his tenure at the FCC, Sikes also ushered in high definition digital television and an updated radio spectrum.
“Politics, to a large degree, has become a professional career,” said Sikes. “I think that’s toxic. Often, in business, business people do not care about where they get their next dollar or profit, as long as they keep that dollar.”
Sikes left the FCC, becoming leading Hearst Corporation’s New Media & Technology Group.
Sikes feels that the development of the parts of the media, from news to reality tv, is verging on “voyeurism.”
The book is doing well, ranking in the top 500 in pre-orders on Amazon. Since release on March 1, the book has maintained its spot in the top 100 for its category for Kindle downloads and top 110 for paperback sales, which both Sikes and his publisher find “encouraging.”
Culture Leads Leaders Follow has also garnered respect from many business leaders, including rave reviews from Tom Woodbury, HBO’s global distribution president, and from Neil Warren, founder of eHarmony. He also received a positive review from former U.S. Attorney General Ed Meese.
“Al Sikes has a rare vantage point from which to analyze our current culture and the direction it is heading,” Meese said. “In this fascinating memoir, Culture Leads Leaders Follow, he presents a powerful message and common sense ideas for everyone who is concerned about the future of our society.”
Sikes also authored a book discussing the rush of the technology and how it changed lives called “Fast Forward.” Sikes now lives in Maryland with his wife, whom he praises in his book as having a PhD in Love, where he beekeeps and leads a local annual jazz festival.
Rachael Herndon was the editor at The Missouri Times and also produced This Week in Missouri Politics, published Missouri Times Magazine, and co-hosted the #MoLeg podcast. She joined The Missouri Times in 2014, returning to political reporting after working as a campaign and legislative staffer.
Rachael studied at the University of Missouri – Columbia. She lives in Jefferson City with her husband, Brandon, and their two children.