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George Reed
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George Reed

A retired U.S. Army Colonel, George Reed is an associate professor in the Department of Leadership Studies within the School of Leadership and Education Sciences at the University of San Diego.

The Quiet Leaders

I submit that the best leader of 2008 is not necessarily the same thing as the most well-known leader. I celebrate the great public figures like President-Elect Obama and General Petraeus, while recognizing that some of the best leaders toil in relative obscurity; known only to those who admire and attempt to emulate them. They are in every walk of life including classrooms, corporate offices, government bureaucracies, and in uniform. My personal list of best leaders has not garnered many headlines. If the spotlight did shine on them they would likely be embarrassed by the attention and deflect the credit for their success to those who follow them.

This question begs a larger and more important one. What are the criteria by which we should evaluate leadership? I will suggest some elements and ask that others continue the work by posting their thoughts to this site. The best leaders not only get the job done in terms of short-term objectives, but they also foster the long-term health of their organizations and the people in them. Good leaders add value and obtain motivation and commitment by aligning individual and organizational goals. We can see that leadership is effective when the organization and its members achieve, grow, develop, and thrive.

Leadership begins with a choice--the choice to lead. It is certainly not a job for the faint hearted. It is much easier to sit on the sidelines and criticize while leaders take on responsibilities and roles that place them at great personal and professional risk. It therefore requires a sense of optimism, loads of energy, and a belief that great things can be accomplished.

So this New Year I will raise my glass to all those who:

Have the temerity to take on the risks and challenges of leadership,

accomplish the mission while also taking care of people,

do the right things for the right reasons,

subordinate their personal desires for the benefit of the organization, and

set an example that inspires and motivates others.

By George Reed

 |  December 30, 2008; 4:03 PM ET
Category:  Leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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This was my favorite answer to the question and I salute your astute observation into the leaders that build the structure of this country.

You are right, leadership is a choice. And when I see people at every turn in my life stand up and make that decision, it is hard to not see the hope that they bring to their respective organizations.

In tough times, the decision to stand can be harder and much riskier, but those who do, at all levels of life, make all the difference.

Posted by: Icarusflown | January 5, 2009 4:06 AM
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