ON BECOMING A LEADER by Warren Bennis. Addison-Wesley, 1989

PREFACE (pix-x)



Becoming a leader is not easy. But learning to lead is a lot easier than most of us think it is, because each of us contains the capacity for leadership!

The paradigm for this book is LEADERS --- not theories about leaders!

Also, it is about leaders functioning in the real world, rather than in some artificial setting. The examples of good leaders in this book are all thoughtful, articulate, and reflective. They all agree on two things, namely, that leaders are made and not born, since they were all made more by themselves than by any external means, and they agree that no leader sets out to be a leader per se, but rather to express himself or herself freely and fully.

My first book, Leaders, covered the WHAT of leadership and this book covers the HOW of leadership:

How people become leaders, how they lead, and how organizations encourage or stifle potential leaders!

Since leadership cannot, by definition, take place in a vacuum, this book analyzes the myriad forces that conspire against would-be leaders. Before anyone can learn to lead, he or she must learn something about the strange new world leaders must operate in. Anyone who does not master the mercurial context will be mastered by it!

All good leaders have in common a passion for the promises of life and the ability to express themselves fully and freely!

This book is based on the assumption that good leaders are people who know who they are, what their strengths and weaknesses are, and HOW to fully deploy their strengths and compensate for their weaknesses!

They also know what they want, why they want it, and how to communicate what they want to others, in order to gain their cooperation and support

Finally, good leaders know how to achieve their career goals!

The process of becoming a good leader is like the process of becoming an integrated human being!

For the leader, as for any integrated person, life itself is the career. Discussing this process of growth in terms of "leaders" is merely a way of making it concrete. The key to full self-expression is understanding one's self and the world, and the key to understanding is learning --- from one's own life and experience!

However, of all the characteristics that distinguish the good leaders in this book, the most pivotal was a concern with a guiding purpose or overarching vision. Along with the vision or compelling goal is the importance of the metaphor that embodies and implements the vision!

Impediments to achieving the vision can be dissolved by close scrutiny and the right questions at the right time:

    [1] What do you believe are the qualities of leadership?

    [2] What experiences were vital to your development?

    [3] What were the turning points in your life?

    [4] What role has failure played in your life?

    [5] How did you learn?

    [6] Are there people in your life, or in general, whom you particularly admire?

    [7] What can your organization do to encourage or stifle leaders?

Thinking about these questions and answering them led to an exploration of how people become leaders.

Learning is simply a matter of remembering what is important!




4) KNOWING THE WORLD (p73-100)



Letting the "self" emerge is the essential task of leaders!

It is how the good leader takes the step from being to doing in the spirit of "expressing" rather than "proving." (p113)

    [1] Reflection and resolution (p114-120)

    [2] Perspective (p120-122)

    [3] Tests and measures (p122-129)

      The four tests

    [4] Desire (p129-131)

    [5] Mastery (p131-134)

    [6] Strategic thinking (p134-137)

    [7] Synthesis (p137-141)

    Good leaders consciously construct their own lives and the social contexts in which they live and work. Their means of expression are their "steps" to effective leadership: (p141)

      (1) Reflection leading to resolution.

      (2) Resolution leading to perspective.

      (3) Perspective leading to point of view.

      (4) Point of view leading to tests and measures.

      (5) Tests and measures leading to desire.

      (6) Desire leading to mastery.

      (7) Mastery leading to strategic thinking.

      (8) Strategic thinking leading to full self-expression.

      (9) The synthesis of full self-expression = GOOD LEADERSHIP!

    Leadership is first being, then doing! Everything a good leader does reflects what he or she is. (p141)


8) GETTING PEOPLE ON YOUR SIDE --- through the expression of empathy (p155-172)


    [1] OPPORTUNITY = EMPOWERMENT! (p182-185)

    [2] MEANING = ENGAGEMENT! (p185-187)

    [3] LEARNING = LEADING! (p187)

10) FORGING THE FUTURE --- good leaders must understand the prevailing business culture and change it! (p189-202)

      "In a time of drastic change, it is the LEARNERS who inherit the future. The LEARNED find themselves equipped to live in a world that no longer exists!" Quote by Eric Hoffer

    [1] Ten factors for a successful future (p191-202)

    Success attitudes mandated by the chaotic business environment of the 1990s --- by Rosabeth Moss Kanter in the book, When Giants Learn to Dance --- Mastering the Challenge of Strategy, Management, and Careers in the 1990s:

      (1) Think strategically and invest in the future --- but keep the numbers up

      (2) Be entrepreneurial and take risks --- but don't cost the business anything by failing

      (3) Continue to do everything you are doing even better --- and spend more time communicating with employees, serving on teams, and launching new projects

      (4) Know every detail of your business --- but delegate more responsibility to others

      (5) Become passionately dedicated to "visions" and fanatically committed to carrying them out --- but be flexible, responsive, and able to change direction quickly!

      (6) Speak up, be a leader, set the direction --- but be "participative," listen well, cooperate

      (7) Throw yourself wholeheartedly into the entrepreneurial game and the long hours it takes --- and stay fit!

      (8) Succeed, succeed, succeed --- and raise terrific children!

    [2] Ten factors for the future:

    (1) Leaders manage the dream (p192-194)

    (2) Leaders embrace error (p194)

    (3) Leaders encourage reflective backtalk (p194-195)

    (4) Leaders encourage dissent (p195-196)

    (5) Leaders possess the "Nobel Factor" --- optimism, faith and hope (p196-197)

    (6) Leaders understand the "Pygmalion Effect" in management (p197-198)

    (7) Leaders have what I think of as the "Gretzky Factor" --- a certain touch (p199)

    (8) Leaders see the long view (p199-200)

    (9) Leaders understand stakeholder symmetry (p200-201)

    (10) Leaders create strategic alliances and partnerships (p201)

[3] Things the next generation of leaders will have in common:

    Broad education, boundless curiosity, boundless enthusiasm, belief in people and teamwork, willingness to take risks, devotion to long-term growth rather than short term profit, commitment to excellence, readiness, virtue, and vision! (p202)

BIOGRAPHIES (p203-215)

REFERENCES (p217-220)

INDEX (p221-226)

Go to: Achievement Issue at Work
Go to: Change Issue at Work
Go to: Leadership Issue at Work
Go to: Leadership Control Essay
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