Notes from ‘On Becoming A Leader’ by Warren Bennis – Chapter 3

  • People begin to become leaders at that moment when they decide for themselves how to be.
  • Know thyslef, then, means separating who you are and who you want to be from what the world thinks you are and wants you to be.
  • Self-knowledge/self-invention are lifetime processes.
  • NO ONE can teach you how to become yourself, to take charge, to express yourself, EXECPT YOU!!!
  • 4 Steps:
  1. You are your own best teacher.
  2. Accept responsibility. Blame NO ONE.
  3. You can learn anything you want to learn.
  4. True understanding comes from reflecting on your experience.
  • Learning is experienced as a personal transformation. A person does not gather learnings as possessions but rather becomes a new person. To learn is NOT to have, but to be.
  • Major stumbling blocks on the path to self-knowledge are denial and blame.
  • Create your own university. Try lots of experiences, only by experiencing them will you know which ones are useful and which are dead ends.
  • Full deployment is simply another way of defining learning.
  • Learning is much more than the absorption of a body of knowledge or mastery of a discipline. It’s seeing the world simultaneously as it is AND as it can be, understanding what you see, and acting on your understanding. Don’t just study it, embrace it, absorb it, and thereby understand it.
  • You can’t be afraid if failure to succeed at doing this .
  • Reflecting on experience is a means of having a Socratic dialogue with yourself, asking the right questions at the right time, to discover the truth about yourself and your life. (What really happened? Why did it happen? What did it do to me? What did it mean to me?) Helps in the process of “become the hammer, not the anvil”.
  • To begin to understand great literature is to understand that it’s a race against death. In a way, reflection is asking the questions that provoke self-awareness.
  • Nothing is truly yours until you understand it. Not even yourself. Until we understand why we are happy/angry/anxious, the truth is useless to us.
  • Understanding is the answer. When you understand, then you know what to do.
  • In order to use self-knowledge in practice, it is necessary to understand the effect that childhood experiences, family and peers have had on the person you’ve become.
  • Inner vs. Other- Directed people: Directed from inside or by peers/family/boss/etc.
  • Leaders are self-directed but learning and understand are the keys to self-direction, and it is in our relationships with others that we learn about ourselves.
  • Leaders learn from others, but they are not made by others. This is the distinguishing mark of leaders. The self and the other synthesize through self-invention.
  • In order to respond to the challenges of each cycle of your life appropriately, you have to continually re-examine your defenses and assumptions and in the course of that re-examination, you iron out the way…”Feelings are memories of past behavior. When you sort the out and see what’s current and what’s left over, you can begin to use your thinking process to change your behavior.
  • The unexamined life is NOT worth living (Socrates) (impossible to live successfully).
  • Leaders use their experience rather than be used by it.
  • Habits don’t just rule us, they inhibit us and make fools of us.
  • True learning begins with unlearning.
  • No one can teach you to be yourself/invent yourself. In fact, trying to do so usually accomplishes the opposite.
  • Teaching homogenizes its subjects and objects. Learning liberates. The more we now about ourselves and the world, the freer we are to achieve everything we are capable of.
  • [ (family + school + friends) / you = true you ] NOT    [family + school + friends = you]
  • Self-awareness= self-knowledge= self-possession= self-control= self-expression.
  • You make your life your own by understanding it.

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.

Notes from ‘On Becoming A Leader’ by Warren Bennis – Chapter 1

For quite a while I’ve been meaning to post my notes from ‘On Becoming A Leader’ by Warren Bennis.  I read this years ago and found it to be very valuable because it was written by someone that had actually run a large organization as opposed to someone who studied leadership.  It also focused on the importance of finding your own path and not relying on others to tell you what to do.  Either way I’ll be posting these over the next several weeks or so.  Thanks to Adrienne ( who did a great job on the typing.


  • Master the context
  • Great leaders and followers are always engaged in creative collaboration.
  • 4 competencies:
  1. They are able to engage others by creating shared meaning (AKA have vision)
  2. They have a distinctive voice (Emotional Intelligence)
  3. Integrity (Able to tell a friend “NO”)
  4. Adaptive Capacity (Compass vs. Map)
  • Get good at finding 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 is important.
  • Fame and leadership aren’t the same thing, and skill at achieving one is no guarantee of skill at the other.


Chapter 1

  • Leaders are important because:
  1. They are responsible for the effectiveness of organizations.
  2. Leaders provide much-needed anchors or guiding purposes.
  3. 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:
  1. Technical competence
  2. People skills
  3. Conceptual skills (imagination and creativity)
  4. Judgement and taste
  5. Character
  • Overturn the rules and overcome the context.
  • Steps to mastering the context:
  1. Becoming self-expressive
  2. Listening to the inner voice
  3. Learning from the right mentors
  4. 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 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 restraints. 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.”

  • First step toward change is to refuse to be deployed by others and to choose to be deployed by yourself.


How to Build a Bad Predictive model


  1. Don’t pay attention to data types
    1. Treat anything with numbers as a numeric
    2. Don’t remove infrequently occurring factor levels
  2. Ignore seasonality
    1. When modeling retail data use single months or quarters
    2. Holidays don’t matter
  3. Ignore effects of time when generating error metrics
    1. Mix the same time period in your test / train sets
  4. Don’t use a holdout set to determine model parameters
  5. Don’t do counts of rows / columns
    1. As long as you didn’t get an error message when you run your code everything is ok – no rows or columns were silently removed.
  6. Don’t profile your data before building a model
  7. Assume that unknown’s in the target variable of your classification model are negatives (or positives).
  8. Assume that high scoring models don’t need to be examined
  9. Don’t worry about the time-stamping of your data
  10. Don’t set a seed – no need to reproduce the results

How To Hire Analytics Talent

I went on an interview recently and spent a bunch of time discussing what the potential hiring company’s biggest pain points were.  They were in the web commerce space and expanding very quickly.  The biggest theme was around growing pains.  Specifically, how to maintain the company’s successful culture, avoid redundant work (ie two people on different teams doing the same project without knowing about the other) and hire, especially for middle management.  This got me thinking about two things.  How difficult it can be to scope out projects and how to hire people for analytics work.

I am constantly surprised by how difficult it is to predict project timelines, especially early on before getting my hands on the data.  One of the ways that middle managers in analytics can provide value is by being a middle person between the technical folks doing the work and the end users and business sponsor (the person whose budget this is hitting) to help improve these projections.  Having experience building analytics tools (especially if they’re going into a production environment) makes a huge difference in the quality of timeline projections, the ability to source needed talent and explain processes to non-technical folks.

Frequently, technical folks don’t interact well with business folks as the business folks want their problem solved while the technical folks are in the weeds on technical issues without actually understanding why they’re doing it in the first place.  Often, I’ll see too big of a gap in role and seniority that leads to senior business folks making demands of junior technical folks who are too inexperienced to push back or ask for more information before large amounts of time and resources are expended in the wrong direction.

As far as hiring, things I look for are as follows:

  • Don’t be a jerk
  • Do be detail oriented – ask lots of questions
    1. How many rows of data do we have?
    2. Does this make sense?
    3. Which rows can’t we use? Why?
    4. Is this data timestamped?!?
  • Be good at manipulating data (SQL & Excel !!)
  • Understand some stats (ie how can I tell if a variable is important in a regression model?)

Obviously, there are many other layers but these are pretty good to start with.  Another easy filter (I’ve only had to use once) – don’t ask the admin for a selfie with the company logo…