Notes from ‘On Becoming A Leader’ by Warren Bennis – Chapter 6 & 7

  • What we do is a direct result of not only what and how we think, but what and how we feel as well. It’s how you feel about things that dictate how you behave. Most people don’t process their feelings, because thinking is hard work. And, abstract thinking doesn’t usually lead to a behavior change. It leads to a conflict about change.
  • Most people only reflect when there is a big negative event in their lives. It’s important to make reflection a constant habit so it goes on when other things are going well also and things can be learned from both positive and negative experiences.
  • Try to reflect on negative events AFTER you have gotten over it.
  • Resolution:
  • A course of action decided upon
  • An explanation or solution
  • The time to reflect is in tranquility- then it’s time to resolve.
  • The point is not to be the victims of our feelings, jerked this way and that by unresolved emotions, not to be used by our experiences, but to use them and to use them creatively. “Any sorrow can be born (IMG_0326, near bottom) if we can put it in a story.”
  • Too much intellectualizing tends to paralyze us. But true reflection inspires, informs, and ultimately demands resolution.
  • The opposite of a great truth is another great truth.
  • Once you have learned to reflect on your experiences until the resolution of your conflicts arises from within you, then you begin to develop your own perspective.
  • If you know what you think and what you want, you have a very real advantage.
  • Anyone who wants to express himself fully and truly MUST have a point of view. However, it can’t be borrowed or copied, it must be your own, original and authentic.
  • How can you best express yourself? The first test is knowing what you want, knowing your abilities and capacities and recognizing the difference between the two. The second test is knowing what drives you, knowing what gives you satisfaction, and knowing the difference between the two. The third test is knowing what your values and priorities are, knowing what the values and priorities of your organization are and measuring the difference between the two. The fourth test: are you able and willing to overcome those differences?
  • Being in sync with your organization is almost as important as being in sync with yourself.
  • Whatever it is you want to do you shouldn’t let fear get in your way. Fear, for most leaders, is less a crippler than a motivator.
  • The greatest opportunities for growth lies in overcoming things you’re afraid of.
  • It is entirely possible to succeed and satisfy yourself simultaneously,  but only if you are wise enough and honest enough to admit what you want and recognize what you need.
  • The difference between desire and drive is the difference between expressing yourself and proving yourself.
  • If you hold your ground and make your convictions known, people will come around.
  • You can’t make “being a leader” or “happiness” goals. They are the result, not the cause.
  • First step of leadership is mastery of the task at hand!! Such mastery requires absolute concentration, the full deployment of oneself.
  • There are some people who are so obviously “on” that they give us a lift just by walking into the room, they can demonstrate mastery just by the way they stand.
  • They path of mastery is built on unrelenting practice, but it’s also a place of adventure… Those we call masters are shamelessly enthusiastic about their calling, the genius has the ability to give everything and hold nothing back.
  • It’s important to have a desire to create something in spite of whether others agree, good ideas borne of personal vision are good regardless of others opinion.
  • “It [the process of mastery] should be fun, the process ought to be exciting and fun. The person who’s not having any fun is doing something wrong. Either his environment is stultifying or he’s off base himself.”
  • Thoughts teach something that can’t be broken down into smaller, repeatable steps that are always executed the same way. But with something art on leadership you reinvent the wheel every single time you apply the principle. Leaders aren’t technicians.
  • First, you must know where you are going, what’s the goal. Second, make a map of highly probable paths, flush them out, elaborate them, revise them, make a kind of map of them, complete with possible pitfalls and traps as well as rewards. Third, examine the map as if you weren’t the creator, locate its soft spots and change or eliminate them. Finally, get into action.
  • The basic difference between an ordinary man and a warrior is that a warrior takes everything as a challenge, while an ordinary man takes everything as a blessing or a curse.
  • Unless you are willing to take risks, you will suffer paralyzing inhibition, and you will never do what you are capable of doing. Mistakes- missteps- are necessary for actualizing your vision, and necessary steps towards success.
  • When young we lose track of ourselves due to all the stuff going on around us, as we age, this goes away allowing for more creativity.
  • Leaders differ from others in their constant appetite for knowledge and experience and as their worlds widen and become more complex, so do their means of understanding.
  • First you have to figure out how to organize your job, the management of time, what your responsibilities are. Second, you have to learn to lead, not contain. Third, you have to have a clear sense of who you are and a sense of mission, a clear sense of who you are and a sense of mission, a clear understanding of it, and you must be sure that your principles are congruent with the organization’s principles. Fourth, you have to demonstrate your behavior all the things you believe a leader and a follower should do. Fifth, you need a great sense of freedom and scope so that you can free the people who work with you to live up to their potential. If you believe in the team approach, you must believe in people and then potential. And you must demand a great deal of them but be consistent.
  • Leading is about guiding and providing vision and inspiration rather than supervision.
  • How you attract and motivate people determine how successful you’ll be as a leader.
  • Leaders always have faith in themselves, their abilities, their co-workers and their mutual possibilities. But leaders also have sufficient doubt to question, challenge, probe, and thereby progress. In the same way his/her coworkers must believe in the leader, themselves, and their combined strength, but they must feel sufficiently confident to question, challenge, probe and test too.
  • Vision, inspiration, empathy, trustworthiness are manifestations of a leader’s judgement and character.
  • You’ve got to do your own growing, no matter how tall your grandfather is.
  • Leaders consciously construct their own lives and the contexts in which they live and work. They are not just actors, but playwright, hammer and anvil and each in their own way is altering the larger context.
  • Leadership is first being, then doing. Everything the leader does reflects what they are.
  • If you want to truly understand something, try to change it. Leaders = innovators.
  • Good judgement comes from experience, which comes from “getting kicked around a bit”.
  • Experience is the best tracker.
  • Learning to lead is learning to manage change. However, unless the leader continues to evolve, to adapt and adjust to external change, the organization will sooner or later stall.
  • The world can only be grasped by action, not contemplation… The next 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 loves to do it better.
  • Leaders know the fundamental problems of life are insoluble but persists anyway and continues to learn.
  • I think getting up in the morning is more exciting when you’re nervous. If you’re not nervous, you’re dead… It’s time to change your life or your work the moment you stop having butterflies in your stomach.
  • Screwing up teaches you that mistakes aren’t the end of the world. Adversity has a great deal to do with the development of leaders. Either it knocks you out or you become a bigger and better person.
  • Adversity instructs, successful executives ask endless questions, they surpass their less successful compatriots primarily because they learn more from their experiences, and that they learn early in their careers to be comfortable with ambiguity.
  • Everywhere you trip is where the treasure lies. That’s learning from surprise, as well as adversity.
  • The difference between a difficult boss and a bad boss is that a bad boss teaches you what not to do.
  • Difficult bosses really test your beliefs and you learn all the things you don’t want to do or stand for.
  • If we think more about failing at what we’re doing than about doing it, we will not succeed.
  • Leaders transform experience into wisdom and in turn transform the cultures of their organizations. In this way society as a whole is transformed.
  • There is magic in experience as well as wisdom. And more magic in stress, challenge and adversity and more wisdom. Crisis is so often the crucible in which leaders are formed.

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