On Becoming a Leader
By Warren Bennis (1989)
This book provides many fine insights. Perhaps the key one is that true leaders are not interested in proving themselves; they want above all to be able to express themselves fully. A leader is continually seeking his or her fullest expression, and must be willing to engage in periodic reinvention. Structured education and society often get in the way of leadership. Real learning is the process of remembering what is important to us, and becoming a leader is therefore the act of becoming more and more yourself.
Bennis makes the case that becoming a leader involves: Continuous learning and never-dying curiosity; A compelling vision; leaders first define their reality (what they believe is possible), then set about ‘managing their dream’; Developing the ability to communicate that vision and inspire others to follow it; Tolerating uncertainty and taking on risk – a degree of daring; personal integrity: self-knowledge, candor, maturity, welcoming criticism; taking time off to think and reflect, which brings answers and produces resolutions.
YLD’s Key leadership Takeaways: Personal integrity, a compelling vision and the ability to enjoy risk and uncertainty define leadership – To lead, we have to make a declaration of independence against the estimation of others, the culture, the age. Leaders do not just ‘do well’ by the terms of their culture; they create new contexts, new things, new ways of doing and being.
by Alfred Lansing (1959)
In 1914, explorer Edward Shackleton undertook an expedition to the South Pole. No satellite radio, no GPS, no freeze dried food, no rescue aircraft. Just “guts” and a team of very brave men who trusted and believed in their leader. Although the mission was a
failure, the resulting story of survival in the ice-bound Antarctic seas serves as a guide-post for leaders confronted with adversity.
The book recounts the failure of the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition led by Sir Ernest Shackleton in its attempt to cross the Antarctic continent in 1914 and the subsequent struggle for survival endured by the twenty-eight man crew for almost two years.
YLD Leadership Takeaway: Be Real – No one can fake leadership. And, if they can, it won’t last long. Acknowledging fear and vulnerability are far more valuable leadership skills than being cold or shut-off.