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​10 Internal Audit Thought Leaders of 2020

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​This time last year, I shared my personal views on the "10 Internal Audit Thought Leaders of the Decade." I honestly wasn't prepared for the tremendous reaction, and I quickly realized that I am not the only internal auditor who is looking for new sources of insight and advice on our profession.

As we near the end of an extraordinary year, I couldn't help but reflect on which thought leaders I believe have contributed immeasurably to the advancement of our profession over the past 12 months.

As I started compiling this year's list, I reached out via social media for ideas. I was amazed at the response. More than 40 names were offered from around the world. I suddenly felt an awesome responsibility to evaluate each one with an open mind. As I noted last year, the danger in compiling such a list is not in who gets included, but who might be offended by being left off. So, let me offer my apologies in advance.

As with my thought leaders of the decade, the 2020 list is intended to acknowledge active contributions to advancing the profession through lectures, articles, publications, and social media during one of the most disruptive years many of us have ever experienced. Some of those on my list are well known globally, while others may focus more on advancing the profession within their own regions of the world. 

I want to reiterate that this year's list represents my personal point of view, not that of The IIA. And, as with last year's list, I have excluded current IIA staff and board members from consideration. However, though they weren't included, these professionals have my enduring gratitude for their passion, enthusiasm, and profound contributions to internal auditing.

I am proud of the diversity on this year's list. The thought leaders come from five continents and reflect the global character of the internal audit profession. So, with all of the disclaimers out of the way, here they are in alphabetical order.

Alaba Awolaja – Nigeria. Alaba is a name that may not be familiar around the world, but he is widely admired and respected in his home country of Nigeria. He is a shining example of a bright young thought leader who is motivating and inspiring fellow internal auditors every day. His name was among those most suggested in my call for nominations. Twitter: @alabaawolaja

Todd Davies - Australia. Todd partnered with his colleague, Tom McLeod, to generate timely and insightful videos and other thought leadership focused on internal audit's role in navigating the COVID-19 pandemic. I was so inspired by their video series that I launched my own, called "Insights & Advice." And among the first guests I interviewed were Todd and Tom. I am always inspired by Todd's insightful articles and social media posts. Twitter: @ToddDavies

Hal Garyn – USA. I noted last year that I fully anticipated Hal to be on a future list. It didn't take long. Hal has emerged as a thoughtful and powerful voice in our profession. In 2020, he has been extolling the virtue of relevance and the challenge for internal auditors to remain relevant in a virtual environment. I recently invited him to join me on "Insights & Advice" to speak more directly to this topic. 

Mike Jacka – USA. Mike is the dean of The IIA's bloggers. His posts continue to offer an often light-hearted look at the challenges we face and the world around us. He already has published more than 60 posts this year as part of his Internal Auditor magazine blog, From the Mind of Jacka. Twitter: @figre

Dr. Rainer Lenz – Germany. An undeniable thought leader, Rainer continues to be provocative but always thoughtful in his point of view. He has been an invaluable resource to me as I prepare my upcoming book, Agents of Change: Internal Auditors in an Era of Disruption, to be published in March 2021. Twitter: @Rainer_Lenz

Norman Marks – USA. As I said last year, "if I were ranking the list, Norman would be at or near the top." He is a passionate thought leader, whether speaking at internal audit conferences, authoring books, writing blogs, or simply sharing his views on social media. When I launched "Insights & Advice" soon after COVID-19 started sweeping the globe, Norman also was among the first guests I booked. Twitter: @normanmarks

Tom McLeod – Australia. As I noted above, Tom and his Australian colleague, Todd Davies, have been informative and inspiring voices for the profession amid the pressures brought on by the pandemic. I will be eternally grateful to the two of them for seizing the opportunity to coach others at such a critical time. Twitter: @tom_mcleod

Hock-Chye Ong – Malaysia. Hock-Chye is one of the most respected and admired public sector auditors in the world. He was instrumental in founding and nurturing "Audit Without Walls," where he is dedicating much of his energy in the wake of his recent retirement as Auditor General of the Asian Development Bank. Twitter: @HockChyeOng

Susan (Sue) Paul – USA. My call for nominations elicited multiple suggestions for several people on this list, but none received more than Sue. Her expertise is IT audit, and she is a prolific technology thought leader for the profession. A quick review of her LinkedIn posts will affirm why she is so widely admired.   

Sandy Pundmann – USA. Sandy's voice in the internal audit profession has been prominent in 2020. Her white papers, podcasts, and videos have driven home the importance of agility to the resiliency of internal audit functions. I invited her to join me for a conversation on "Insights & Advice," and the response from viewers indicated just how important her message is. Twitter: @sandypundmann

I welcome your thoughts on this list, and again I apologize to the dozens of deserving men and women around the world who are not included. I am already thinking ahead to future lists, and I encourage you to be on the lookout for those who should be recognized. Please also alert me to any insightful and timely pieces of thought leadership that are published.

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