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Alan M. Webber

Alan M. Webber

Alan Webber, a founding editor of Fast Company magazine, is an award-winning editor, author, and columnist. His most recent book is Rules of Thumb: 52 Truths for Winning at Business Without Losing Yourself.

No one

A couple of years ago Time magazine made a big splash when it named as its "person of the year" a new kind of winner: "You." The idea was that things had changed so much in the world of technology and on the web in particular that we were all the person of the year.

In that same spirit, I'd nominate as my "leader of the year" a special kind of winner: No one. Let's face it: 2008 was a year of utter leader-less-ness. Is there a CEO worthy of selection of best leader? Maybe someone on Wall Street deserves the nod? On second thought, that's probably not a good idea, since most of them have either been fired, acquired, or are waiting to find out if they're going to be investigated. Auto industry CEOs? Just kidding. Airline? Retail? Phones? Computers? Entertainment industry? Newspapers and communications? How about the advertising industry?

All right, perhaps the private sector in 2008 is the wrong place to look for leadership. How about the public sector? Anyone in Washington, D.C., deserve the "best leader" award? Maybe someone at the SEC? Or the Fed? Someone in the Congress who saw the whole economy unraveling and rallied the nation? It didn't happen, you say?

OK, let's not look in Washington, D.C. If it's not in our nation's capitol, how about state capitols? Say, Alaska? Or Illinois? New York State? We're coming up empty on the public sector quest for leadership, it appears. Non-profit leadership? Well, there are people who are probably worthy -- but we don't know their names. It's hard to nominate someone you don't know.

So perhaps we should move on. Say to the religious sector? Is there a leader of a world religion who has distinguished himself this year, made peace, reached across the boundary of faith to build a bridge of understanding? Maybe in the Middle East? Or maybe not.

The truth is, 2008 was a year marked by a lack of leadership at the highest levels. Perhaps there were great leaders at the grassroots level. Perhaps "you" were a great leader in 2008. And perhaps in 2009, because the need is so great, we will find that we have, at last, the leaders we need.

By Alan M. Webber

 |  December 31, 2008; 10:19 AM ET
Category:  Leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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