America's Best Leaders is a collaboration between U.S. News & World Report and the Center for Public Leadership at Harvard Kennedy School. The honorees were selected by a committee of academic, government, business, and nonprofit leaders convened by the center. U.S. News did not have a vote.

The panel accepted nominations from a wide range of sources and compiled research on each one. The committee defined a leader simply as a person who "motivates people to work collaboratively to accomplish great things." It selected 18 winners, including two partnerships, from a field of more than 200. The panelists rated the nominees from to 1 to 5 based on how well they met the following criteria:

Sets Direction (25%)

  • By building a shared sense of purpose
  • By setting out to make a positive social impact
  • By implementing innovative strategies

Achieves Results (50%)

  • Of significant breadth or depth
  • That have a positive social impact
  • That are sustainable
  • That exceed expectations

Cultivates a Culture of Growth (25%)

  • By communicating and embodying positive core values
  • By inspiring others to lead

The panel focused on a nominee's recent accomplishments and preferred that the nominee still be doing the work for which he or she was being considered. The panel also determined that while a nominee's work could be global in scope, it should have substantial impact in the United States.

Selection Committee

Cochairs:

Warren Bennis Distinguished professor of business administration, University of Southern California
David Gergen Director, Center for Public Leadership, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University

Members:

John Alexander, Visiting professor of leadership, Elon University School of Law 
Bruce Avolio, Director, Gallup Leadership Institute, University of Nebraska-Lincoln 
Nancy Barry, Founder, Nancy Barry Associates 
Donald Berwick, President and CEO, Institute for Healthcare Improvement 
Geoffrey Canada, President and CEO, Harlem Children's Zone 
Rev. Richard Cizik, Vice president for governmental affairs, National Association of Evangelicals 
Kenneth Duberstein, Chairman and CEO, the Duberstein Group 
Charles Elachi, Director, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology 
Walter Fluker, Coca-Cola professor of leadership studies and executive director, the Leadership Center, Morehouse College 
Bill George, Professor of management practice, Harvard Business School 
Ronald Heifetz, King Hussein bin Talal senior lecturer, Harvard Kennedy School 
Karen Holbrook, former president, Ohio State University 
Shirley Ann Jackson, President, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute 
Donna Kalikow, Executive Director, Center for Public Leadership, Harvard Kennedy School 
Rosabeth Moss Kanter, Ernest L. Arbuckle Professor of Business Administration, Harvard Business School 
Barbara Kellerman, James MacGregor Burns Lecturer in Public Leadership, Harvard Kennedy School 
Alan Khazei, CEO, Be the Change 
Rakesh Khurana, Associate professor of business administration, Harvard Business School 
Jim Yong Kim, François Xavier Bagnoud professor of health and human rights, Harvard School of Public Health 
Roderick Kramer, William R. Kimball professor of organizational behavior, Stanford University 
Roger Mandle, President, Rhode Island School of Design 
Georgette Mosbacher, CEO, Borghese Worldwide 
Larry Moses, President, the Wexner Foundation 
Kenneth Ruscio, President, Washington and Lee University 
Paul Saffo, Roy Amara fellow, Institute for the Future 
Jeanne Shaheen, Former governor, New Hampshire 
Donna Shalala, President, University of Miami 
David Shaw, Chairman and CEO, Ikaria, and managing partner, Black Point Group 
Gen. Eric Shinseki, United States Army (Ret.) 
Bill Shore, Founder and executive director, Share Our Strength 
Tom Tierney, Cofounder, the Bridgespan Group 
Michael Useem, Director, Center for Leadership and Change Management, Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania 
Christine Todd Whitman, former governor, New Jersey 
Maggie Williams, Partner, Griffin Williams LLC