Notes from ‘On Becoming A Leader’ by Warren Bennis – Chapter 2

Chapter 2

  • Leadership traits:
  1. Guiding vision-clear idea of professional and personal goals (in spite of setbacks/failures).
  2. Passion-leader loves what they do and loves doing it (“Hopes are the dreams of the waking man” – Tolstoy).
  3. 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 a leader because leading is NOT simply showing the way or issuing orders. Every leader needs to have experienced and grown through following- learning to be dedicated, observant, capable of working with and learning from others, NEVER SERVILE, always truthful. Having bested these qualities in themselves, leaders can encourage them in others.
  4. Integrity is the basis of trust (earned NOT acquired)(more a product of leadership than an ingredient).
  5. 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 un-made- by their own histories.
  • “[Presidents, Leaders] don’t do great things by dwelling on their limitations, but by focusing on their possibilities.”- Kissinger They leave the past behind and then turn toward the future.
  • Good leaders engage the world; Bad leaders entrap it or try.
  • Be an original, NOT a copy.
  • Leaders master the context; managers surrender to the context.
  • Managers focus on systems and structures. Leaders focus on people.
  • Manager= short-term view, Leader= long-term view.
  • Manager asks, “how” and “when”; Leader asks, “what” and “why”.
  • Manager is a good soldier; Leader is his own person.
  • Manager does things right; Leaders do the right thing.
  • Managers wear square hats and learn from training. Leaders wear sombreros and opt for education.
  • Leaders have nothing but themselves to work with. Good leaders rise to the top in spite of their weaknesses. Bad leaders rise because of their weaknesses. (Lincoln Hitler)
  • “I don’t know what I think until I read what I said.” -Faulkner
  • You learn what you think by codifying your thinking in some way.
  • Codifying one’s thinking is an important step in inventing oneself. The most difficult way to do it is by thinking about thinking. It helps to speak or write your thoughts. Writing is the most profound way of codifying your thoughts, the best way of learning from yourself who you are and what you believe.
  • Listen to everything critically. In the end, trust your gut reaction, value systems are important so you know where you stand, but the values must be yours, NOT someone else’s.
  • People spot phonies quickly. (R.W.E.- “What you are speaks so loudly I cannot hear what you say”)
  • Once/Twice born leaders:
    • Once: Easy transition as they age
    • Twice: Suffer while growing up, feel different, isolated, and thus develop an elaborate inner life (usually more dramatic)
  • Invent yourself, don’t follow the notes you are given!!!
  • To be authentic is literally to be your own author (actual Greek root), to discover your own native energies and desires, and then to find your own way of acting on them.
  • Keep the covenant with your youthful dreams.
  • Goal is NOT worth it without enjoying the journey (lots of little bows, NOT one big one).
  • To become a leader, then, you must become yourself, become the maker of your own life. While there are no rules for doing this, there are some lessons.

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