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Marshall Goldsmith
Executive Coach/Author

Marshall Goldsmith

Marshall Goldsmith is an executive educator, speaker, coach and best-selling author. His most recent book is Mojo.

Columnist Tom Friedman

My nominee for 2008's best leader is Thomas Friedman. Unlike traditional organizational or political leaders, Tom Friedman is a thought leader. His books and New York Times op-ed pieces have impacted the thoughts and deeds of many influential leaders around the world.

Another sign of his leadership is reflected in his independent thinking. Rather than responding to issues in a canned 'liberal' or 'conservative' voice, he actually thinks! For example, I believe that his view on increasing the gas tax is good for both our country and the world - even though it would not get him elected to public office.

Tom Friedman represents a rare combination of courage, creativity and communication skills that are hard to match.

By Marshall Goldsmith

 |  December 30, 2008; 9:58 AM ET
Category:  Leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Readers - It looks like my nomination of Tom Friedman produced a strong reaction. Although his nomination produced many negative comments - he also was tied for second in the postive vote among all nominees. He seems to be both deeply admired and despised. Although I did not support the Iraq war, the huge majority of Americans did (when it started). Most liberal Democrats intially supported the war. He has been quite critical of the way that the war has been handled. To me, this speaks to his disappointment - and is not 'phony' - as some might suggest. I love his position on the gas tax - and do not think that it is 'foolhardy'. If we want to decrease oil consumption - we need to penalize 'gas guzzlers' and reward those who use less gas. Your comments are appreciated.

Posted by: MarshallGoldsmith | January 5, 2009 4:14 PM
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Thomas Friedman, cheerleader for the tragic and useless Iraq War, has not had the courage or the grace to so much as mention his wrongheaded mistake there. Now he is unhappy about the busted and broken-down world his Iraq War cheerleading helped to create. Does nothing but coin supposedly clever combinations of words that explain nothing. He is a moral midget and not fit to lead anything but a crowd of lemmings -- the mentally challenged who still enjoy reading him -- into the sea.

Posted by: chaszzzzz | January 1, 2009 11:33 PM
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I was very interested in reading his book(The World is Flat) when it came out, but I found it to be pretty disappointing, and frankly don't think it really is that profound in light of present events. Why did this dude win THREE Pulitzer prizes? I haven't read him lately, but his book left me flat...

Posted by: squirebass | January 1, 2009 11:30 PM
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Tom Friedman? Is this Jan. 1st or April 1st?

Tom Friedman was a cheerleader for the most disastrous policy decision made by this country in decades or, maybe, ever: the Iraq War . Even worse, he wanted to invade a country -- which made it inevitable that tens of thousands of innocent men, women and children would die -- under the delusional notion that starting a war was an appropriate way to build a "decent society."

This insanity disqualifies him -- permanently -- for any accolades.

Posted by: KC11 | January 1, 2009 9:40 PM
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Friedman?
Friedman??!!

Marshall Goldsmith's theories on Executive Morality have been favorites for the Enron gang and the criminals that represent Wall Street...quite the crop of ethical business leaders you inspired, eh Marshall?
Try this read of Friedman if he actually had the courage to tell the truth...

http://www.nytimes-se.com/2009/07/04/the-end-of-the-experts/

Posted by: munkle | January 1, 2009 8:40 PM
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Leader of what? Being a thinker and a talker and a writer makes not one a 'leader'of anything, whether he is right, wrong coherent or not. This media mutual admiration society is a thing to behold. How many times was Friedman a guest on "Meet the Press"? Excuse me, he IS the press. Wasn't the purpose of the show for REAL, or up-and-coming, leaders to 'meet the press'?

Posted by: chatard | January 1, 2009 6:47 PM
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F*&^%$#@! friedman? You gotta be joking. This idiot pioneered the term Friedman Unit. I would accept his nomination in, oh, about another 207 Friedman Units.

Posted by: ascer8 | January 1, 2009 5:44 PM
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Freidman is making people do what leaders are supposed to do - think.

Does he get it right all the time? Noleader does.

His importance is in raising the questions this 21st Century world needs to address.

Equally important, he realizes the day of the nation state is over - we are all intertwined in ways no one forsaw 30 years ago.

Personally, I'd like to see Freidman in the Obama Administration as roving ambassador or something.

He has a better understanding of what's really going on in the world that most of the DC crowd.

Posted by: stephenrhymer | January 1, 2009 1:21 PM
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Tom's books and columns are a wonderful read because the reflect the craziness of our times. His columns after 9/11 were earnest attempts to solve the problem. His books on globalization provided insight into the opportunities of a wired world.

His recent columns are the best. It's like he's pissed! His attempts to help us understand the world have been upended by the financial crisis.

"To reverse the damage caused by this generation of greedy adults..."

"Someone is already developing an alternative to Detroit’s business model. I don’t know if it will work, but I do know that it can be done and Detroit isn’t doing it."

"After a near total breakdown of responsibility at every link in our financial chain, now we either bail out the people who brought us here or risk a systemic crash. These are the wages of our sins."

This is good stuff. Our American exceptionalism and idealism is suddenly shredded. His thoughtful outrage reflects my own. The last 10 years have been an emotional and intellectual roller coaster. His work helps me understand it all. Thanks Tom; and thanks to Marshall for highlighting it.

Posted by: Neal3 | January 1, 2009 1:16 PM
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When I began reading his column in the NYT I thought Friedman was rather impressive. It took me a while to realize that he is, in fact, merely a self-important blowhard who uses his column to promote his books, written on themes already pioneered by others.

Blind ambition, large dollaps of chutzpah and the willingness to follow any course that feeds one's sense of self-importance are not qualities that I would be looking for in a 'leader'.

I have to hand this much to Mr Goldsmith, though. Friedman is commonly quoted by the talking heads and in this sense would seem, for reasons that I do not profess to understand, to be 'influential'.

Posted by: yo22er | January 1, 2009 12:53 PM
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I nearly gagged when I saw his name as "Best Leader". Friedman is a pseudo-intellectual with no moral backbone. Pseudo-intellectual because he devices 'theories' based primarily on anecdotal evidence which a few months later is invariably wrong. Second he has no moral backbone because he proclaims himself to be a liberal and then cheerleads a war that he acknowledges is a 'war of choice' and blithely glosses over the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocents. Then when he is proved wrong does he have the courage to say 'I was wrong'? Of course not. Leader my a__. This moral midget deserves no accolades at all.

Posted by: aardman | January 1, 2009 12:36 PM
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Tom Friedman the Iraq war cheerleader a good leader? Give me a break! Does he still believe in the Iraq war or has he recanted? And who is this Goldsmith guy who believes in him?

Posted by: qualquan | January 1, 2009 12:24 PM
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Like cjmat7 I would like to run into Friedman. When I do, I hope I'm driving a truck. That idiot is no better than any of the liars and self-deceivers in the White House. Friedman is one of the special few who can take an obvious topic and be completely wrong about it.

Hey, Tom, . . let's get together and compare notes.

Posted by: gkam | January 1, 2009 11:50 AM
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TOM, I LOVED YOUR COMMENTS ABOUT THE AUTO INDUSTRY. THEY ARE GOOD AT TWO THINGS: LOBBYING CONGRESS AND CREATING AUTOMOBILE ADS. MR. BUSH #2 WAS GOOD AT A FEW THINGS TO: BUYING OIL @ $147 A BARREL AND TRYING TO INVEST SOCIAL SECURITY IN THE STOCK MARKET.THE AMERICAN PEOPLE ARE VERY FORGETFUL TO: MR. BUSH #1 DID NOT GET A SECOND TERM BECAUSE WE WERE IN A RECESSION.
MR.BUSH #2 JUST MADE A SECOND TERM BEFORE WE WENT INTO A DEPRESSION. CAN'T WAIT FOR MR. BUSH #3 (JEB). THE REPUBLICANS NEED TO GIVE US BETTER LEADERSHIP.

Posted by: Hx6MkxhW | January 1, 2009 11:37 AM
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Please. Friedman was a huge advocate of the Iraq War and stood aside in a most cowardly manner after things went south.

What is brave about pushing for foolhardy taxes? What was Friedman risking?

Posted by: bobmoses | December 31, 2008 8:12 PM
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In his first book Tom Friedman made the statement that no two countries with McDonalds had ever fought. This came after the US, in the Bosnian action, had bombed Bucharest, which had a McDonalds.

Many of us now speak in Friedman units (six months) based upon his many claims that in just six more months all would be well in Iraq.

Unfortunately Friedman has had influence on thinking about world events, but his continual mistakes make that influence unacceptably bad.

Please, not this man as a leader.

Posted by: charlessmith8 | December 31, 2008 6:18 PM
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Tom Friedman is "Jack Armstrong, the ALL AMERICAN". I had hoped NBC would have him host "MEET THE PRESS". He is #1 on my list of 100 people to meet before I die.

Posted by: cjmat7 | December 31, 2008 4:20 PM
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