wisdom to win

 Wisdom to Win
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Warren Bennis and Burt Nanus, Leaders (1985)Warren Bennis and Burt Nanus, Leaders (1985)


Bennis was an American professor, leadership expert (pictured right) and adviser to four America presidents including:

Bennis died in 2014.Warren Bennis and Burt Nanus, Leaders (1985)

Nanus (pictured right below Kennedy) is a professor at the University of Southern California.  


See also...

Warren Bennis in the Management Gurus section. Warren Bennis and Burt Nanus, Leaders (1985)


Book summary


How leaders can inspire people

Successful leaders are “transformative”.

In other words, they inspire people to transform their performance by doing four things:

 Warren Bennis and Burt Nanus, Leaders (1985)

1. Attention through vision

Defining a vision (a future ideal for the organization) and achieving it through:

  • corporate culture (ensuring employees share the same values).
  • organizational restructuring.
  • effective communication (see point 2).



2. Meaning through communication

Effectively communicating the vision – but successful leaders don’t have to be liked.

 Warren Bennis and Burt Nanus, Leaders (1985)

 3. Trust through positioning (or empowerment)

Empowerment (taking responsibility for excellent performance) requires:


a) sigificance

Feeling you're making a difference


b) competence

Ability to do the job.

 Warren Bennis and Burt Nanus, Leaders (1985)

c) community

Co-operation and teamwork to achieve a common purpose (helped by a belief in the leader’s vision and mutual trust).


d) enjoyment

Having fun at work.


4. Positive self-management

Leaders maximizing performance through:

 Warren Bennis and Burt Nanus, Leaders (1985)

a) continual learning

  • creation of a learning organization 
  • trying to succeed,
  • listening.
  • accepting the possibility of failure.

 Warren Bennis and Burt Nanus, Leaders (1985)

b) self-knowledge and challenging aims

  • knowing your strengths and weaknesses.
  • stretching yourself to fully exploit strengths and overcome weaknesses.


c) persistence and risk taking

 Warren Bennis and Burt Nanus, Leaders (1985)

d) positive thinking 

The “Wallenda factor” - never accepting the possibility of failure.


e) contacts with other people


The five myths of leadership


1. Leadership is a rare skill.


2. Leaders are born, not made.Warren Bennis and Burt Nanus, Leaders (1985)


3. Leaders have to be charismatic.


4. Leadership exists only at the top of the organization (groups and business units also need it).


5. The leader controls and manipulates (empowerment is much more important).


Key quotes on leadership and management

Managers are the people who do things right and leaders are people who do the right thing.

The new leader...is one who commits people to action, who converts followers into leaders.

Leading is a responsibility, and the effectiveness of this responsibility is reflected in the attitudes of the led.

The role of the leader is much like that of the conductor of an orchestra.


Key quote on the learning orgainization

Leadership creates a commonwealth of learning, and that, in turn is what effective organizations are.


Key quote on human resource management

The real work of the organization is done by the people in it, just as the music is produced only by the members of the orchestra.


Key quote on empowerment

Trust is the lubrication that makes it possible for organizations to work.

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