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POSTED AT 8:33 PM ET, 03/13/2011

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POSTED AT 7:13 PM ET, 01/ 6/2011

Five companies that will lead in 2011

A few weeks ago, we shared our list of five companies that really surprised us in 2010. At this point, it makes sense to shift our gaze forward and explore organizations that are poised to lead their respective industries in 2011. While you've definitely heard of one, chances are that there are a few surprises among our shortlist. So without further ado:

1. Dropbox
So here's an increasingly common dilemma: you have a smartphone, iPad, home and work computer, and at various times you work on the same file with each. In the past, you would have to carry around a thumb drive or constantly email the document to yourself, but Dropbox has created a much simpler solution. The start-up has given its users a virtual 2-gigabyte hard drive, which can be used to store and access files in a secure folder housed in a Dropbox account. Any web-enabled device can connect to the info, and any time you modify the file, changes are automatically replicated through all devices connected to the Dropbox account. Dropbox is seen as a huge boon to smartphone users, whose devices lack a file storage system. An ancillary benefit to the service is that it provides a handy backup for all your important documents. Dropbox reports having more than 4 million users, and as we all become more connected to the Web with our various devices, this number is certain to grow.

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BY Joe Frontiera and Dan Leidl

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POSTED AT 2:51 PM ET, 12/20/2010

Five of the best profiles published in 2010

We're fortunate that our jobs bring us into contact with a lot of good reading material, and over the course of 2010, we've happened upon a few fantastic articles. As we continue with the holiday spirit, we wanted to share five of the best profiles of leaders that we've read this year.

1. The Courage of Jill Costello, by Chris Ballard
Although this article will break your heart, you shouldn't miss it. In 2009, Jill Costello was finishing her junior year at UC Berkeley and anticipating her senior season as coxswain on the women's crew team. As a young and seemingly healthy athlete, she was floored when she was diagnosed with lung cancer shortly before heading home for the summer.

While many receive a cancer diagnosis, very few react like Jill. She stayed in school, was active in her treatment, and even managed to remain on the crew team for her final year. This is a story about how a leader can lift a team, and how the team can return the favor. It's a story about resilience, perseverance, selflessness and a positive attitude; and, ultimately, it's a story of hope. While Jill passed away shortly after the conclusion of her senior year, she left a legacy that anyone would be proud of.

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BY Joe Frontiera and Dan Leidl

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POSTED AT 1:54 PM ET, 12/14/2010

Five standout companies of 2010

While many assume that American businesses are struggling based on the high unemployment rate, the 18-month long Great Recession officially ended in June. The third quarter of 2010 brought higher profits for American businesses than any other quarter in recorded history. In this perplexing year that was good for business but bad for the American worker, we wanted to highlight five business organizations that have not only had good years financially, but have also made efforts to either take care of their employees, the environment or their local communities.

1. Honest Tea
While HonestTea hit a marketing bonanza in 2009 when President Obama revealed that he was stocking the White House with the brew, it was also going through an internal identity struggle. Coca-Cola had purchased a 40 percent stake in HonestTea early in 2008, and many felt it was a mismatch. After all, HonestTea had positioned itself as the healthy alternative to Coke's high-fructosy offerings. But despite major pressure from the world's No. 1 beverage company, HonestTea has remained true to its roots and rebuffed many of Coke's suggestions. They continue to produce a healthy and tasty drink--but, more importantly, they continue to do it their way, focusing on quality, their people and minimizing their impact on the planet.

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BY Joe Frontiera and Dan Leidl

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POSTED AT 1:34 PM ET, 12/ 7/2010

Five surprising leaders of 2010

As the year winds down, we're going to stay with our "Best of 2010" series. And this week, we're making the herculean effort of trying to distill all the great leaders who have surfaced in 2010 down to a meager five. While our selections might surprise you, each of these individuals has managed to cut against the grain, been true to his or her unique vision, and somehow galvanized resources to make a positive impact. And some have managed to set the stage for large-scale change that will last well into the foreseeable future.

1. Shaun White
In a World Cup and Winter Olympics year when dozens of athletes floored us with their skill, power and off-field generosity, it's hard to narrow the field down to just one showstopper. From Drew Brees's community-first approach to leading an NFL team to Lindsey Vonn's gutsy gold-medal quest, 2010 showcased plenty of memorable and inspiring performances. But one effort seems to stand out. In a world where stopping the other guys means winning, leadership in sport is often without the innovative grit that true leaders are remembered for. For us, one can't be an innovator without being a leader, and snowboarder Shaun White set the bar in 2010 for creative and inspiring competitiveness.

Creating something from scratch is difficult, unveiling it to the world during Olympic competition is mind numbing, and if White had pulled out as inventive a play in the World Series, NBA finals or Wimbledon, he would be celebrated as one of the greatest athletes of all time. While representing more of a fringe sport, White dazzled for gold on a multinational stage, unleashing the awe-inspiring Double McTwist 1260, and cementing himself as the greatest snowboarder of all time. White's artistry, tenacity and gumption make him an athlete for the ages; and as leaders go, he's yanking his sport to a whole new stratosphere.

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BY Joe Frontiera and Dan Leidl

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POSTED AT 10:49 AM ET, 11/30/2010

Leadership wish list: Five sites to check this season

As the year unwinds, we thought it would be fun to spend the next couple of weeks reviewing some 2010 highlights. The Leadership Playlist has brought us down a winding and intriguing path, and who better to celebrate our experiences with than all of you. To kick things off, this week we put together a list of the top sites our writing and research has introduced us to. Enjoy and, as always, sling over your thoughts, comments and additions.

1. Christine Henseler - Select Papers & JenX67.com
With all the work we've put in to exploring generations, the essays at Christine Henseler's personal site have managed to stand out. While there are certainly other tidbits worth poking around at (such as The Hybrid Story Spaces Project), Henseler's focus on Gen X is a "must explore." Raw and experimental, her efforts speak to the generational challenges that Xers continue to face. Her multimedia approach is laudable and suitable for the sentiments she strives to capture, and her uplifting overtones will prove warm and fuzzy for any Xer out in the cold. Academic in tone, Henseler raises a number of captivating concepts and ideas, and will take you down a critical road of nostalgia and sentimentality.

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BY Joe Frontiera and Dan Leidl

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POSTED AT 12:32 PM ET, 11/18/2010

Curing mid-level syndrome

Over the past few weeks, we've explored our disillusionment with the workplace and other longstanding societal issues, and framed the conversation largely in generational terms. While we believe that we've made incredibly astute points, we received the following comment from robjdisc: To move forward, let's have meaningful, civil conversations between generations and recognize who the new leaders / managers will be, and help them do the best they can.

Robjdisc makes a good point, and we agree that the next generation of leaders should have help in doing the best they can. To start, rather than helping these future leaders tackle the larger issues that affect our country (e.g., multiple wars, educational reform, dearth of good movies, etc.), we'll address an issue that is common to younger managers in today's workplace: how can those in mid-level positions continue to grow at work, even when there's no sign of a promotion on the near, or distant, horizon?

1. Seek out someone to mentor

On the surface, this seems counter-intuitive. After all, why would you help someone else grow when that's your objective? Well, three reasons. First, when a mid-level manager is focused on mentoring someone else, she is not focused on her own problems. Second, helping someone else can actually make you happier. Researcher Carolyn Schwartz of the University of Massachusetts Medical School has uncovered an intriguing trend: those who help others are significantly happier and less depressed themselves. Finally, assisting someone can add further purpose to your life. Michael Steger at the University of Louisville, Kentucky, has demonstrated that the more people participate in meaningful activities, the more purposeful their own lives are.

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BY Joe Frontiera and Dan Leidl

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POSTED AT 10:13 AM ET, 11/11/2010

The disillusionment of Generation X

While individual views of leadership are shaped by deeply personal experiences, the events common to a generation also subtly contribute. In thinking more recently about the themes common to Generation X, we've started examining the ideals and values of our youth that have yielded to a harsher reality as we aged. We've "creatively" labeled this the Gen-X Disillusionment, and to follow are four examples of unrealized social campaigns that have played out through our lifetime, leaving us to wonder about their impact on leadership decisions, desires and methods.

1. Give peace a chance
Although we came of age during the vague but ever-present threat of nuclear fallout brought on by the Cold War, we were raised in a remarkably peaceful time. We learned from the echoes of the baby boomer's call for peace, understanding their collective recoil from Vietnam. We grew up in a world that avoided confrontation, recognizing the Cold War as an effort by two super powers to avoid conflict. But then, shortly after we entered adulthood, Iraq invaded Kuwait City in the summer of 1990 and our generation experienced its first war, one that could easily be justified because we were protecting tiny Kuwait from its neighboring bully, Iraq. Ten years later, the September 11 attacks occurred, and we rightfully sent our military into Afghanistan.

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BY Joe Frontiera and Dan Leidl

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POSTED AT 3:02 PM ET, 11/ 1/2010

Gen X in the workplace: Stuck in the middle

As we all know, Generation X is stuck in the middle of the two largest generations in history (the baby boomers and the millennials). At the "Rally to Restore Sanity" this past weekend, Jon Stewart used the example of cars merging into the Lincoln Tunnel as proof that people make compromises every day in order to get things done. He highlighted a "you go, and then I go" philosophy that enables us to navigate through our lives. Just as with Stewart's congested tunnel, the modern workplace is jammed with three generations cramming to move forward, but sometimes it feels like there's simply too much in the way of our meager little Xer generation to merge.

1. X Sandwich
A few weeks ago a column out of Richmond, VA, captured the generational debate: youngsters want the ol' fogeys out of the way, while the boomers want to keep on working, taking offense at the mention of yielding to their children. Between these perspectives are Gen-Xers. Boomers are staying put--either exercising their own sense of entitlement by indifferently coasting in tenured and senior positions without fears of being fired, or legitimately hustling through the onset of their golden years to squirrel away enough cash to retire. While the Government Accountability Office reported in 2006 the expectation that many boomers would work beyond the retirement age, few could have anticipated that scores of boomers would face the end of their careers without enough money to exit.

On the flip side, millennials seem impatient to advance up the corporate ladder, occasionally being slammed for their own sense of entitlement. As both groups jockey for position, Gen-Xers are left to alternately fend off overeager newbies and patiently wait to earn a rare opening at the top. Either way it's a battlefield, and no-man's land is an uncomfortable place to be.

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BY Joe Frontiera and Dan Leidl

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POSTED AT 1:01 PM ET, 10/26/2010

Back atcha Boomers: The tribute list

Okay, okay. So last week's piece got us a lot of flak for railing on the Baby Boomers and some of their breaches in trust. But it's a new week and, well let's face it, we really aren't here to demonize an entire generation. As Gen Xers we do have an interest, though, in exploring the challenges that we (and Gens Y and Z, for that matter) will inherit as the Baby Boomers begin to exit the workforce. And we're looking forward to further exploring how generations can come together to find solutions to today's concerns.

But first: time to make amends. Here are some of the most well known, most successful, most predictable Baby Boomers (and one movie) to ever grace a five-point list. We're kicking this homage off with the big-name icons, and we'll give you our take on why they're trusted by younger generations. Then you can take over in the comments section with your shout-outs to all the other, more surprising Boomers you grew up respecting--and whose honest and energetic ways you value.

1. Oprah Winfrey, the American Woman

That's right, we're starting with Oprah.

Forbes named Winfrey the most powerful celebrity four times, most recently in 2010, and she is the only person to be included in all eight issues of the Time 100, a yearly catalogue of the world's 100 most influential people. A star-powered symbol of the Baby Boomer's early efforts to advance civil rights and gender equity, Oprah is...Oh let's just say it: she's the contemporary personification of the American Dream.

Born to unwed teenage parents in rural Mississippi, she was so poor throughout her childhood that she occasionally substituted potato sacks for clothing. Through the years, her daytime show has continually evolved, first highlighting the dysfunctional and then shifting to a more solution-focused approach with an emphasis on spirituality, uplifting stories and solving modern day issues. Oprah has reached millions of people through television, film, publications and more, and the billionaire has continually provided an honest glimpse of herself by publicly discussing her struggles with weight and romance. While Oprah's 24-year run as the queen of daytime talk will end this year (she decided to call it quits late in 2009), we can't help admitting that we'll be following her next move.

2. Bruce Springsteen, the Lyricist; and Bono, the Activist

We grouped Springsteen and Bono together because, in different ways, they both illustrate the power of music. While Springsteen speaks through his art, Bono has transcended the concert hall, making his voice heard in the worlds of politics and social activism. Springsteen is gritty and real, capturing the common concerns of our everyday lives. Bono is electric and effervescent, proving that pop can have substance. From Live Aid to Band Aid, reflecting the anguish of contemporary catastrophe or speaking out against social ills, Springsteen and Bono have led the way in using their celebrity influence and talent to make a difference. Throughout their careers they have inspired creativity and awareness with innovation and passion, and for that we'll tune in.

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BY Joe Frontiera and Dan Leidl

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POSTED AT 12:36 PM ET, 10/19/2010

Don't get fooled again: The Baby Boomers' leadership failure

In 1971, Pete Townshend of The Who pleaded, I'll get on my knees and pray; We don't get fooled again, railing against the "jaded and compliant" leaders of the day. Now, Townshend's Baby Boomers are the generation that's taken over, and they seem to be doing some fooling of their own.

In the words of David Gergen, CNN analyst and former White House adviser, "The Baby Boomer generation is not working out very well, or as well as we hoped." Gergen made this proclamation two weeks ago at the World Business Forum, and also suggested that of paramount importance to any leader/follower relationship is trust. With that said, where's the trust between Baby Boom leaders and the generations they've been tasked to lead? Let's take a look at how Boomer leaders have butchered trust in four key areas...

1. Environment
Despite the overwhelming scientific evidence supporting the pending fall-out of climate change, influential baby boomers like the billionaire Koch brothers have stated that man-made climate change is a farce. Also part of this anti-science crusade, the Republican Party is the only major political party in the developed world that is dismissive of climate science. In fact, of the 20 GOP Senate challengers that have taken a position on climate change, 19 believe that the climate science is inconclusive or just plain wrong. Their stance is reminiscent of when the Church found Galileo "suspect of heresy" after he asserted, and proved, that our planet was round and orbited the sun.

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BY Joe Frontiera and Dan Leidl

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