Leaders, by Warren Bennis and Burt Nanus, was written after the two went through extensive studies, interviews, and observations to come to the conclusions found in this book. Knowing the average leader’s troubles with constant demands in everyday life, Bennis and Nanus came up with four strategies for leading organizations effectively in these complex times. The authors discuss these four strategies from two perspectives.
Initially they consider the issue from the view of the leader as an individual, with certain attributes that make him an effective leader, and then from the point of view of implementing these strategies to build an effective organization. Burt Nanus and Warren Bennis are both known for their expertise in leadership training and management techniques. A popular speaker on leadership and change, Nanus helps organizations find new visions to position their strategies for the coming decade.
Bennis has been an advisor to four presidents of the United States, written over twenty books on leadership, and is currently at the University of Southern California where he is has founded the University’s Leadership Institute in Los Angeles. This book was written in 1985, a time described by the authors as one that was in desperate need for drastic change by all leaders of major corporations. One of the main points that were constantly being referenced was the concept of the new leader. The new leader is one who commits people to action, converts followers into leaders, and who may convert leaders into agents of change. This is referred to as ‘transformational leadership. ’” After observing and interviewing ninety outstanding leaders, the authors identified four areas of skill that seemed to incorporate this new and effective leadership behavior, which they call the four strategies. The first strategy is entitled, “Attention through Vision. ” The leaders the authors interviewed showed a paralleled concern with results.
They were extremely result-oriented and passionate about their ideas and completely focused on what they were doing. This consistency of purpose drew other people to them, grabbing their attention and inspiring them to adopt the leader’s agenda themselves. In addition to getting the attention of his followers with his vision and his sense of purpose, the leader must in turn pay attention to his followers, getting them to commit to his vision. This search for commitment requires a direct focus on communication. Meaning through Communication,” the second strategy, explains that the management of meaning and the mastery of communication are essential for effective leadership.
The type of meaning that is being addressed in this book is explained as analogous to thinking, and has more to do with problem finding. It involves thinking creatively, challenging conventional wisdom, and enabling the organization’s associates to line up their individual direction with the goals of the organization. The authors call this mechanism through which vision is communicated “social architecture. This generates a commitment to the vision of the company and also acts as a control mechanism. The leader designs and manages the social architecture of the organization. Strategy number three is called, “Trust through Positioning. ” Leaders who make their positions known, and keep to them, are trusted by their followers. The authors emphasize the importance of position, knowing what is right and/or necessary, and its role in engendering trust. While vision is “thought,” positioning is “action” necessary for implementing the vision.
Positioning is a result of the things the leader does, constantly and predictably, to establish trust and make his vision clear to the followers. The behavior of an effective leader exemplifies his vision. The last of the strategies is, “The Development of Self through Positive Self-regard. ” This positive self-regard means that effective leaders have the ability to recognize their strengths and compensate for their weaknesses. These leaders posses the ability to nurture their skills in a disciplined manner and to discern the fit between those skills and the requirements of the job.
Successful leaders take on only those challenges that they think they have the capacity to handle. While I was reading this book, I found that the concepts line up almost perfectly with everything we have been discussing in class. In the first chapter of Leaders, the main point that was emphasized was the concept of transformational leadership. In our text, one of the highlighted quotes is the same definition for transformational leadership that I quoted above, also stated by Warren Bennis. This is, in my opinion, one of the most important topics we covered in class this semester.
In my daily life at work or at school, I am constantly encountering a leadership role in one-way or another. After reading this book, the importance of converting and teaching followers how to be excellent leaders has been brought into a new light. Another point that possessed a strong parallel with our textbook is the concept of problem-finding thinking, which corresponds to Bennis and Nanus’ third strategy. The textbook states that in order to become a creative thinker, a leader needs to adopt a problem-finding perspective, learn to tolerate failure, and focus collective attention on innovation.
This concept follows the same thought process that the authors were touching on in “Meaning through Communication. ” Thinking critically and creatively is essential for a leader to make the goals of the organization known and able to be upheld. This aspect of leadership has shown to be difficult for me. I tend to be more simple minded and generally try to avoid conflict. However, God has been allowing trials to occur in my life to help me focus on these skills and better my leadership abilities in this category. In the last chapter of Leaders, the authors reference a tightrope walker named Wallenda.
He spent the last few days before a major event focusing on the fact that he might fall rather than focusing on the fact that he’d get across just fine, like any other performance. When he was half way across the rope, he fell to his death. The moral of this story, pointed out in both the textbook and Leaders, is focusing on what can go wrong will almost always end in failure. Successful leaders display an ability to focus on positive goals. They think of winning instead of the alternative. However when they do fail, they take it as an opportunity to learn instead of something to dwell on and regret.
This topic also directly applies to the trials I have been facing. There have been quite a few things coming up in my life that have not been turning out in the most ideal ways. Instead of looking at these things as failures or dwelling on the bad that has happened, I have been trying to concentrate on what I could learn and how I can benefit from the unfortunate events that have occurred. Reading this book has reminded me of this once again. The concept of the four strategies in Leaders appears to be a well thought-out and researched concept conducted by Bennis and Nanus.
The authors concluded the book by listing the characteristics of leaders who are likely to succeed in the future. In the words of the authors, these leaders will be the ones who are best able to provide direction in uncertain times, manage change and provide exceptional customer service and quality, build successful relationships with new constituencies, make use of diversity on a global scale, inspire their followers, and be a leader of leaders. I recommend this book to those looking for guidance on how to better their organization by being a more effective leader.