On Leadership
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Exploring Leadership in the News with Steven Pearlstein and Raju Narisetti

Ben Bradlee and Steve Pearlstein
Hosts, "On Leadership"

Ben Bradlee and Steve Pearlstein

Ben Bradlee is vice-president and former executive editor of The Washington Post. Steve Pearlstein is The Post's Pulitzer Prize-winning business and economics columnist.

About On Leadership

Leadership is one of those magic things that's hard to define but pretty easy to identify when you see it. And in recent years, it seems to have been in short supply. Now, with the United States engulfed by a serious economic crisis and struggling with two overseas wars against terrorism, there is an even greater yearning for leaders who have the character and the vision and the ability to inspire us to overcome these challenges.

At the Washington Post, our hope is that On Leadership will serve as an open and lively forum for an discussion of what makes for great leadership. Over the years, there have been many books written on the subject, and there are now a good number of academic programs and consulting firms that have sprung up to study it and try to teach it. The world is also full of successful leaders who have developed their own sense of what works and what doesn't. Our aim is to tap into that knowledge, understanding and experience and apply it, in real time, to an online conversation about real world developments.

Discussions about leadership most often are conducted in the context of specific fields of endeavor -- government and politics, business, the arts, education, the non-profit sector, sports and the military. At On Leadership, our mission is to break down the walls between silos by getting experts and readers with varying backgrounds and perspectives to address the same topics at the same time and at the same place.

Each week, we pose a question about some recent development that has attracted attention and ask a distinguished panel of nearly 100 leaders and leadership experts to offer their answers and comments. It's an impressive and articulate group, drawn from diverse fields, with very different notions of what leadership is about. We hope readers will join in the conversation with their own comments and reactions to what the panelists have to say. Readers and panelists are also invited to email topics for future discussion.

Each week, we also feature a video interview with a leader or leadership expert that can be viewed in short clips or in its entirety. Rather than talk abstractly about leadership, we ask our guests to share success and failures from their own experiences and wrestle with the tradeoffs that get to the heart of what leadership is often about.

And we publish a Leadership Playlist at least once a week, in which we highlight recent articles, essays, books, blog postings and videos that make a contribution to the literature on leadership and should be of interest to leaders and aspiring leaders. (We invite panel members and readers to suggest what might be included in this feature.)

Launched in December, 2008, On Leadership is very much a work in progress. Let us know what you think of and how you think it can be improved. Our hope is that you find it sufficiently enlightening, engaging, challenging and unpredictable enough to become a regular stop in your routine.

By Ben Bradlee and Steve Pearlstein

 |  December 7, 2008; 12:00 AM ET Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Next: Our Panelists


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I hope you'll talk about followership as well as leadership. Followers make good leaders. Our "short supply" of leaders is as much the failure of followers to demand more their leaders. We need leaders who know how to form leader/follower partnerships around common goals for the public good.

Posted by: tom@leadingtoserve.com | December 14, 2008 6:02 PM
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Good leadership is setting the example, the primary virtue being able to nurture loyalty.....up and down the command chain.

Posted by: Anthony L. Vydra | December 12, 2008 3:16 PM
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I find it interesting that you would accentuate your column about leadership with a picture of a leader who in the early days of his company, when on the edge of bankrupcy, literally went to a casino and bet his remaining funds and won the money to make payroll. Or, maybe you were not aware of that story ?

Posted by: bhutton3@yahoo.com | December 12, 2008 2:55 PM
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Do we really reward leadership in this country or just talk about it? Read Steve Pearlstein's last two articles on the topic and the question leaps out.

Twenty four years of public service left me sadly convinced that management of process and care and feeding of senior appointees (never mind the party) are far more valued than "doing the right thing" or taking care of people. In the private sector, rewards seem to have gone to alpha dog instead of leadership behaviors.

Which leaves me wondering: What would good leadership look like now? We recognize its absence from the past, what do we want today? I, for one, would begin by asking the recipients of taxpayer bail-out funds what three actions they are taking to make their transactions more transparent, ten things they will do to help those Americans struggling the most, and one, just one vision of the future that justifies further public investment.

In government, I'd like to see career people respectfully negotiate with in-coming appointees the attitude and resources for the culture of leadership necessary to turn visions of positive change into reality.

As to the rest of us, let's see if we can initiate a public discussion about the leadership behaviors we have the right to expect.

Posted by: Prudence Bushnell | December 12, 2008 9:31 AM
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Very interesting talk about leadership role, and also getting information on the quality of the leadership here,
Anticipating the comments and experiences form emerging leaders in the world..
Best of luck

Posted by: Laxna | December 10, 2008 8:09 AM
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Leadership is not management. I have worked for several Fortune 500 companies my entire career, such as CitiGroup, JP Morgan/Chase, Merrill Lynch, and SunTrust. All were well managed, but a couple were poorly led and failed to serve its customers and employees well.

Great leaders share two characteristic. First they have a dependable vision of the future and secondly those who must help in getting there believe the leader really cares about them personally.

Leadership is far more about values, moral courage, integrity, and character than about experience and personal skills. It is about how you view yourself, others, and the larger world. Can you see "outside the box".

My first formal leadership training was in the Army as both an enlisted man and then an officer.

My second training came from study of history and the bible.

My third came from being a husband and father.

Lastly, it came from various jobs in business.

Leadership training in a class room or from a book, while useful, is not effective unless we are held accountable in a work setting for implementing sound leadership principles. I have never worked for an organization where you are graded on your leadership with the same weight given to your on the job performance.

A final thought. At the core of what is wrong with American business today is that managers of today don't have or ignore what our fathers learned in WWII or Vietnam about the value of the man in the fox hole with you. It is too bad we no longer have the draft.

Hal Dunning - Johnson City, TN

Posted by: Hal | December 10, 2008 12:49 AM
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Thank you! I look forward to following On Leadership interviews.

Posted by: EvelynGM | December 9, 2008 8:11 PM
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