While often attributed to Jack Welch, my tagline for the ‘Leadership and Management’ part of my blog – “Leaders do the right things; Managers do things right” – actually comes from leadership pioneer Warren Bennis. In many respects, my investigations here stand on his shoulders. Despite the breadth of my source material for various entries, I only recently read the seminal work, On Becoming a Leader, where he coined that phrase.
I appreciated and applauded was his own powerful testimonial for embracing failure (the other subject of my blog). He has a sub-chapter on ‘Learning from Adversity’ as welll as ‘Reflection and Resolution.’ He offered up so much good material that I am going to explore them separately in my subsequent entries. One of his core messages is that for him ‘embracing’ failure means dwelling on it, reflecting on it and thoroughly examining it. It is only after this sort of consideration can the fruits of failure be harvested.
Bennis addresses the age old question of whether Leadership can be taught with a deft and insightful response. Leadership cannot be ‘taught’ in a classroom sense, but it can be ‘developed’ or perhaps more accurately ‘realized’. One of the most critical catalysts is embracing life’s rich experiences especially the adversities.
Other big areas that he explores and holds up as crucial to leadership is ‘context’ and ‘expressing oneself’. With his focus on ‘experience’ and ‘expression’ and ‘impulse’, he very often injects an undertone of Zen into his perspectives.
Despite my eager anticipation to explore the richer substance behind his pithy phrase, I must confess I am of two minds on the book. Bennis likes lists, but I often found them to lack structure or coherence. He lists phases of leadership development (borrowing from Erik Erikson), he lists attributes and he rattles off a catalogue of loosely bound quotes. Despite adopting one of his Leader/Manager distinctions as my tagline, I disagree strongly with virtually all of his other distinctions between the two (the subject of the next entry). Nonetheless, his book stands as compelling read to any student of Leadership with great examples and an inspiring tone.