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As part of the Coro Fellows Program in Public Affairs, these 12 Southern California fellows are engaged in a full-time, nine-month, graduate-level leadership training program that prepares individuals for public-affairs leadership.

#Leadership in 140 characters

It's easy to look at the bottom line of the world's top companies and evaluate "delivering results" as the greatest return on investment. But that would be too easy. Biz Stone and Evan Williams have created a communications revolution with Twitter. The project to date seems to baffle some of the business community, however, in its lack of monetizing.

Stone and Williams are leaders in their own right. They are morphing from start-up entrepreneurs to visionaries of a social media phenomenon, the marketing instrument for individuals and companies alike. And while their company still maintains a small San Francisco office, the staff, as well as its user population of an estimated 50 million, continue to grow. Twitter has been at the forefront of current events: the Iranian election, Obama's campaign, even the daily escapades of our favorite celebrities.

As leaders, Biz Stone and Evan Williams have been rewarded for an idea, and demonstrate a back-to-basics attitude. The pair turned a previous video-blogging into a cultural phenomenon. Phenomenal enough for the celebrity world to engage, enough for citizens to use in midst of elections worldwide. They are creating a future in which events are an individual's outlet to inform, entertain, and soon enough-sell. Stone and Williams will push their vision to see that Twitter reaches 100 million users. In the meantime, their creativity and patient vision has pushed the paradigm for the traditional business model. -- Parsa Sobhani

Small business is the best business

This year's best business leader may very well not be in business, but in the Oval Office. President Obama's signing of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) is helping small businesses rebound in this economy. When small businesses, which make up 99% of the economic growth in the U.S., needed support, Obama responded by increasing the maximum of U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) loan programs in October. However, Obama is not my choice.

The best business leader of 2009 demonstrates exemplary leadership in motivating others, delivering results and envisioning a better future. Additionally, they are creating opportunities that enable job growth, sustainability, and the creation and expansion of businesses.

As a Coro Fellow in Public Affairs, I was placed at the Los Angeles District Office of the U.S. SBA for four weeks and interacted with small business owners on a regular basis. This experience leads me to conclude that the best business leader of 2009 cannot be just one leader, but many. In a recovering economy, these businesses were able to sustain and keep their doors open; therefore, collectively keeping each other motivated and moving towards a better future. Small businesses are the backbone of our nation and when small businesses prosper, the nation prospers. -- Clayton Rosa

He's a "shoe"-in

When I had to decide whether to take a five-minute walk to the shoe store down the street or go to Zappos.com to buy new sneakers last week, the answer was easy: Zappos. I surrendered instant gratification and the option to feel and try out new footwear for something greater: a sublime shopping experience. I knew that if I purchased at Zappos, shipping, returns, exchanges would be free and fast, and top-notch customer service would be at my fingertips. In the midst of a consumption meltdown, Zappos is approaching $1 billion in sales. And at least $250 of that will be from repeat sales to me.

Zappos has thrived under the leadership of CEO Tony Hsieh because it has brought loyalty back into the shopping equation. In an age of rampant consumerism, the cheapest price and best deal usually wins. What Zappos proves, though, it that by treating people nicely, they'll keep coming back--even when the economy tanks. -- Sean Holiday

Green Leadership

As climate talks rage in Copenhagen, the need for business executives to integrate environmentally responsible practices into their day-to-day operations and long-term strategies presents itself as the future of American corporate culture. Without proper environmental leadership in the business sector, the chance that the US could lower carbon emissions enough to contribute to any global accord looms, arguably, as a far-fetched possibility.

Peter Darby, CEO of San Francisco-based PG&E, has proven again and again to be a leader in bringing environmentally friendly practices into the sphere of utilities, an industry notoriously struggling to connect with "green" corporate culture. Under Darby's leadership, PG&E has broadened its portfolio with alternative energy sources such as wind power and other renewables. Darby also publicly supports a federal cap on greenhouse gas emissions, making him a standout among utility leaders and earning him recognition of the National Resource Defense Council.

As the world looks to countries such as United States and China to take responsibility for the effects of climate change on a global scale, Darby's environmental leadership within the utility industry has the potential to set an example for not only the rest of the business sector here in the U.S., but for businesses everywhere around the world. -- Neeta Sonalkar

By Coro Fellows

 |  December 15, 2009; 5:59 AM ET
Category:  Leadership personalities Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Please report offensive comments below.

I agree with the first panelist that twitter can makes things go faster, and I like twitter's potential. I'm scared though at how fast it can make things. We could end up with a generation of kids who can't even spell, or think they can say anything they want without support.

Posted by: dogbear75 | December 16, 2009 2:07 AM
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Best Business leader of 2009? I'd give the award to the Developing World, who thanklessly make all of the useless material goods that will lead us out of our consumption recession...

Posted by: Thunderkats09 | December 15, 2009 11:02 PM
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I agree with PS. Leaders pushing Twitter and other social media have the help of the amazing technological advances of the day. I recently got an iPhone and it is safe to say it has changed my daily routine. I have various social media applications at my finger-tips. As the internet becomes more interactive, social media is going to be a great tool for leaders.

Posted by: frankrod | December 15, 2009 9:36 PM
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A challenge for PS: condense your post into 140 characters.

In all seriousness, Stone and Williams pushed a paradigm - but in the right direction? What will the English language look like in 3 years? How much are we compromising thoughtful communication for instantaneous communication?

Posted by: neetaso | December 15, 2009 9:05 PM
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I recently coordinated an online auction for a Church in New England. Not only did I Twitter, with assistance from my daughter, but we also were followed by a vast array of groups using key words, in order to be noticed by those who were watching for them. It was really successful and I know that Twitter was a part of it. CONCISE, CRISP, EASY, FOCUSED - that's why it works!

Posted by: carolineC1 | December 15, 2009 5:26 PM
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