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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.

A Disturbing Silence

My Nobel Prize for Leadership would recognize individuals who have unquestionable moral authority. That's the litmus test: moral authority. Not achievement broadly defined, or abstract qualities that can be attributed to leaders, but clear and undeniable moral authority. It may be the quality least in supply these days.

A few years ago, I gave a talk to a CEO and his group of top managers. At the end of my talk, which focused on leadership and change in business, the CEO asked his team, "Who in America today do you think has moral authority? In business, in government, or in the non-profit world?" There was a five-minute silence. No one offered a single name.

Today, when I talk in front of a group and try to describe the dramatic changes the world is undergoing and the challenges that face America and the rest of the globe, I ask them to suggest a leader with moral authority from any sector in America. The silence still lasts at least five minutes.

We need to cultivate leaders who can stand that test, leaders whose commitment to doing the right thing and standing for the right principles shines so brightly and so clearly that they deserve our support and recognition. We need to establish the idea that moral authority is not an abstract good, but an actual and practical way to lead--that individuals who exude moral authority are the people we not only respect, but ultimately revere.

Now that I've suggested the criterion, rather than having me suggest a nominee, let me ask the question the CEO asked his team: Who do you think has moral authority in America today? Who would you nominate for the Noble Prize in Leadership?

By Alan M. Webber

 |  October 12, 2009; 10:35 PM ET
Category:  Leadership personalities Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Since you have been asking CEOs of corporations that are more than likely Republican in inclination, there is no wonder they could not answer. However, do any of these CEOs have any religious leanings? Surely, they could mention someone like Rick Warren of Saddleback Church, Dan Yeary of North Phoenix Baptist Church, or their own favorite pastor or religious mentor. How sad that there is such a dearth of leadership in the ranks of these CEOs. No wonder that there is such a greed complex running rampant in our corporations.

Posted by: EarlC | October 14, 2009 11:03 AM
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I would immediately state that President Obama has the leadership qualities that you identify. I am also quick to add Billy Graham, even though he is not out and about much these days.

Posted by: EarlC | October 14, 2009 10:59 AM
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