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On Becoming a Leader - Warren Bennis

Building Leaders in your Organization


MOVING THROUGH CHAOS Jacob Bronowski wrote, in The Ascent of Man, We have to understand that the world can only be grasped by action, not by contemplation... The most powerful drive in the ascent of man is his pleasure in his own skill. He loves to do what he does well and, having done it well, he love to do it better. Leaders learn by leading, and they learn best by leading in the face of obstacles. As weather shapes mountains, so problems make leaders. Difcult bosses, lack of vision and virtue from above in a company, circumstances beyond their control, and their own mistakes have been the leaders curriculum. Jim Burke and Horace Deets were succinct. Burke said, The more experience and the more tests you survive, the more apt you are to be a good leader. In 1817, poet John Keats wrote a letter to his brothers that the basis for real achievement was negative capability... when a man is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason. Theres probably no better denition of a contemporary leader than that. Norman Lear, too, sees obstacles as an integral part of leadership. To be an effective leader, you not only have to get the group of followers on the right path, but you must be able to convince them that whatever obstacle stands in the way ahead, whether its a tree or a building that blocks the view, youre going to get around it. If we think more about failing at what were doing than about doing it, we will not succeed. ORGANIZATIONS CAN HELP OR HINDER Therefore, it is not devices, such as career path planning, or training courses, that are needed, but an organizations commitment to providing its potential leader with opportunities to learn through experience in an environment that permits growth and change. Special projects are an excellent proving ground. Opportunity equals empowerment. Some corporations have devised ingenious ways to tet and season aspiring leaders, according to McCall et al. Among them are 1. Establishing venture capital pools to enable potential leaders to start new entities. 2. Turning small low-margin businesses over to young managers. 3. Hanging on to troubled businesses and giving would-be leaders a shot at turning them around.

On Becoming a Leader - Warren Bennis

The organization itself should serve as a mentor. Its behavior, its tone, and its pace instruct, positively or negatively, and its values, both human and managerial, pervail.