Ask anyone who's been around the business of packaging for awhile what it is that makes this business so exciting and the answer is likely to be new technology. Whether it's glass-coated films exotic shapes for cans liquid crystal polymers new and smarter robots or tougher and more heat-resistant resins there's always something new to learn about and evaluate. A lot of this learning and even more of the evaluating falls in the lap of the director of packaging. Yet when Packaging World editors asked nearly 40 "industry insiders" what they felt were the most important skills the director of packaging might need in the year 2000 knowledge of new technologies didn't always get the emphasis one might expect. If any single skill surfaced most prominently it was leadership. "The future job profiles in packaging won't describe people with a bunch of facts in their heads" says Theron Downes associate director at Michigan State University's School of Packaging. "Rather they'll describe people who can bring together interdisciplinary teams that can make judgments about what's important. This is a fundamental difference in what I see the packaging person of the future needing compared to what once was." What's interesting is how many different interpretations of leadership our interviewees shared with us. Take Clemson University's Bob Testin associate professor of packaging science for example. He states quite emphatically that the one indispensible quality the directors of packaging will require is that they be able to lead a team by being good with people. "Will you need to be a Ph.D. in organic chemistry?" Testin asks rhetorically. "Probably not. But if you are you'd better be a great people person too. Because you'll always be responsible for integrating a team for focusing an effort." John Lowery a consultant affiliated with Quality Search a recruitment company specializing in placement of packaging professionals takes a similar view. "It's what I call a quiet confidence in one's ability to get things done without ramrodding projects through and stepping on toes" says Lowery. This kind of leadership will spring from a blend of technical know-how and effectiveness in creative persuasive communications. Such a blend he says will help the director sell top management on ideas whose importance or significance is primarily technical in nature.