On Becoming A Leader – Warren Bennis

I’m going thru some old notes I took on the book – “On Becoming a Leader” by Warren Bennis and decided to load them here so I’d have a more permanent and easily accessible version.   You can get a copy here.

  • Pg 1
  • Intro
    • Master the context
    • Great leaders and followers are always engaged in creative collaboration
    • 4 concepts
      • They are able to engage others by creating shared memories (aka have vision)
      • They have a distinctive voice (Emotional Intelligence)
      • Integrity (able to tell a friend “NO”)
      • Adaptive capacity (Map vs Compass)
    • Get good at finding good mentors!!
    • Discover and cultivate the authentic self
    • Leaders have in common a passion for the promises of life and the ability to express themselves fully and freely
    • Leaders are made, NOT born
    • No leader sets out to be a leader but rather to express themselves fully and freely. They are interested in expressing themselves NOT proving themselves
    • Adult learning is a huge part of leadership
    • Learning is best achieved when the learner takes charge of the process. This is all part of becoming an integrated person.
    • Learning is a process of remembering what’s important
    • Fame and leadership are NOT the same thing and skill at achieving one is NO guarantee of skill at the other
  • Chapter 1
    • Leaders are important because:
      • They are responsible for the effectiveness of organizations
      • Leaders provide much needed anchors or guiding purposes
      • They determine the integrity of institutions
    • Recognize the “context” for what it is – a breaker, NOT a maker, a trap, NOT a launching pad, an end, NOT a beginning – and declare your independence.
    • Thank people and give compliments
    • Be careful who you choose as a role model
    • At some point, vision and character become important
    • 5 areas to look at:
      • Technical competence
      • People skills
      • Conceptual skills (imagination and creativity)
      • Judgement and taste
      • Character
    • Overcome the rules and overcome the context
    • Steps to mastering the context:
      • Becoming self-expressive
      • Listening to the inner voice
      • Learning from the right mentors
      • Giving oneself over to a guiding vision
    • “When I’ve been most effective, I’ve listened to that inner voice”
    • Find out what it is that you’re about and be that. Be what you are and don’t lose it.  It’s very hard to be who we are, because it doesn’t seem to be what anyone wants.
    • “I have little tolerance for institutional constraints. Institutions should serve people but unfortunately it’s often the other way around.  People give their allegiance to an institution and they become prisoners of habits, practices, and rules that ultimately make them ineffectual.
    • The first step toward change is to refuse to be deployed by others and to choose to be deployed by yourself.
  • Chapter 2
    • Leadership traits:
      • Guiding vision – clear idea of professional and personal goals (in spite of setbacks / failures)
      • Passion – leader loves what they do and love doing it ( Tolstoy – “Hopes are the dreams of the waking man”)
      • Integrity = self knowledge + candor + maturity; when you know what you consist of and what you want to make of it, then you can invent yourself. (Trimming your principles or even ideas to please others is a sign of a lack of integrity). Maturity is important to leadership because leading is NOT simply showing the way or issuing orders. Every leader needs to have experienced and grown thru following – learning to be dedicated, observant, capable of working with and learning from others, NEVER SERVILE, always truthful.  Having located these qualities in themselves, leaders can encourage them in others.
      • Integrity is the basis of trust (earned NOT acquired)(more of a product of leadership than an ingredient)
      • Curiosity and daring – leaders wonder about everything, want to learn as much as they can, are willing to take risks, experiment, try new things. They do NOT worry about failure, but embrace errors, knowing they will learn from them.  Learning from adversity.
    • True leaders are NOT born, but made, and usually self made.
    • Developing character and vision is the way leaders invent themselves
    • As presidents, Johnson, Nixon and Carter were all more driven than driving and each seemed trapped in his own shadows. They were haunted men, shaped more by their early deprivations than by their later successes.  They did not, then, invent themselves.  They were made and unmade by their own histories.

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