Notes from ‘On Becoming A Leader’ by Warren Bennis – Chapter 9

  • Change can’t be seen to the enemy – instead it is the source of both personal growth and organizational salvation.
  • 5 forces working on the world:
  • Technology
  • Global Interdependence
  • Mergers and Acquisitions
  • Deregulation and Regulation
  • Demographics and Values
  • The organization is – or should be – a social architect. This requires its executives to be social architects too. First, they must guarantee their organizations are honest and ethical institutions. Then they must redesign their organizations in order to redesign society along more humane and functional lines (lead not manage).
  • Workers are unique assets NOT interchangeable liabilities. This type of attitude allows the organization to dismiss the potential contributions of all its members and prevents it from fully using its major resource in its effort to remake itself.
  • Vision, like the world itself, is dynamic, not static, and must be renewed, adapted, adjusted. And when it becomes too dim, it must be abandoned and replaced.
  • Just as no great painting has ever been created by a committee, no great vision has ever emerged from the herd.
  • When visionary leadership is combined with sound _____ (IMG_0332, near end) practices, the results can be success that lasts.
  • “We must be the change that we wish to see in the world”. -Ghandi
  • Advice to young executives:
  • Take advantage of every opportunity
  • Aggressively search for meaning
  • Know yourself
  • Give young employees opportunities to lead.
  • If you don’t make mistakes you aren’t trying hard enough.
  • Risk taking must be encouraged.
  • Mistakes must be seen as an integral part of the process, so they are regarded as normal, not abnormal.
  • Corrective action rather than censure must follow.
  • 2 kinds of people: those who are paralyzed by fear, and those who are afraid but go ahead anyways. Life isn’t about limitation, it’s about options. A healthy organizational culture encourages the belief in options.
  • Organizations should serve as mentors for their people.
  • The organization is only half itself; the other half is its expression.
  • The new 3 R’s: retreat, renewal, return. Those moments when nothing is in the way. It’s in such moments that meaning begins to emerge, and understanding, and new questions and fresh challenges.
  • Just as thought should precede action, reflection should follow it, on the organizational as well as the personal level.
  • An organization by definition, should function organically, which means that its purposes should determine its structure, rather than the other way around and that it should function as a community rather than a hierarchy and offer autonomy to its members, along with tests, opportunities and rewards, because ultimately an organization is merely the means, not the end.
  • Since the release and full use of the individual’s potential is the organization’s true task, all organizations must provide for the growth and development of their members and find ways of offering them opportunities for such growth and development.
  • 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.
  • “These are the hard times in which a genius would wish to live… Great necessities call not great virtues.” Abigail Adams
  • Leaders are people who understand the prevailing culture, even though much of the culture is latent, existing only in peoples’ minds and dreams or unconsciousness. The leaders of the future will be those who take the next step – to change the culture.
  • The philosopher, not the tycoon or mandarin (IMG_0334, near top) is king, because history proves that sooner or later ideas take root.
  • The leader knows chaos is the beginning, not the end. Chaos is the source of energy and momentum.
  • 10 characteristics for coping with change, forging a new future, and uniting organizations:
  • Leaders manage the dream- all leaders have the capacity to create a compelling vision, one that takes people to a new place and then translates that vision into reality.
  • Leaders embrace our (IMG_0334): failure is not the crime, aiming too low is!
  • Leaders encourage reflective back talk. (Many leaders are still married to their first spouse, it’s important to have someone you can trust for honest feedback).
  • Leaders encourage dissent.
  • Leaders possess the Nobel factor: optimism, faith and hope.
  • Leaders understand the Pygmalion effect in management. (Behavior is a function of how you are treated not just how you behave) Stretch, don’t strain.

[Mangers treatment and expectations of subordinates largely determine their performance and superior managers create high performance expectations that subordinates fulfill, poor managers do not. And subordinates, more often than not, appear to do what they believe they are expected to do.]

  • Leaders have the “Gretzky Factor”, a certain touch (Don’t worry about where the puck is, but where it will be)( Know where the organization’s culture is going).
  • Leaders are the long view.
  • Leaders understand stakeholder symmetry. They know that they must balance the competing claims of all the groups at stake in the company.
  • Leaders create strategic alliances and partnerships.
  • Next generation of leaders will have certain things in common:
    • Broad education
    • Boundless curiosity
    • Boundless enthusiasm
    • Contagious opinion
    • Belief in people and teamwork
    • Willingness to take risks
    • Devotion to long-term growth rather than short-term profit
    • Commitment to excellence
    • Adaptive capacity
    • Empathy
    • Authenticity
    • Integrity
    • Vision

And as they express themselves, they will make new movies, new industries, and perhaps a new world.

If that sounds like an impossible dream to you, consider this: it’s much easier to express yourself than to deny yourself. And, much more rewarding too.

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