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Robert Goodwin

Robert Goodwin

Robert J. Goodwin is CEO and co-founder of Executives Without Borders; former deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force and appointee at USAID, the State Department and the White House.

Everyday Servant Leaders

Before the recent politicization of the Nobel Prize, I appreciated that they were given to recognize individual accomplishments, the overcoming of extreme adversity and for lasting contribution to the world. Many times the prize is given to people who otherwise would be unknown outside of their respective fields. Why else would biology students from around the world remember Watson and Crick, who discovered the double helix structure of our DNA?

If there were a Nobel Prize for leadership, I would look for the best example of servant leadership. Servant leaders make huge sacrifices and risk their lives for the benefit of humanity. They put the benefits of others above their own needs.

Let me give you some examples of servant leaders:

• The first missionaries and health workers who went to Africa, whose supplies were shipped in pine coffins because their life expectancy averaged one to two years.

• The Iraqis who protected hospitals and clinics from looting and who are risking their lives now to rebuild their system.

• The nonprofit worker and social entrepreneur who have sacrificed their fortunes and comforts for a higher purpose. Not in an arrogant and imperialistic way, but in a way that understands local needs and empowers people. I admire leaders like Kathy Tschiegg, the founder of the Central American Medical Outreach. She overcame three bouts of cancer to build an organization that supports 100,000 people in Honduras.

• The single moms who work two (or more) jobs to provide for their children.

• Those standing up against injustice when few others answer the call. The military member, the civilian and those who support them--these people are there cleaning up the world's messes.

• The Rosa Parks of the world who catalyze societal change by saying "no more" or by standing in front of a tank.

There are so many amazing stories that happen on a daily basis that it would be difficult to give an award like this only once a year. Maybe by looking for examples of this kind of leadership on a daily basis, and championing what these people do, we could have role models we can relate to and who can shape our behavior.

By Robert Goodwin

 |  October 15, 2009; 4:29 PM ET
Category:  Leadership personalities Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: Idea Creation, Not Message Broadcast | Next: Nominee: Fred Adams of Utah

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