Leadership : Thoughts on Leadership, from Warren Bennis

jim Jim Murray is CEO of Optimal Solutions International, a company that specializes in helping organizations reach their full potential. 

Amongst many other things, Jim offers the program “Smart Leaders: Thinking and Innovation Skills for the 21st Century”.

For details, see www.smartleaders.ca

Effective Leader

Warren Bennis has interviewed hundreds of business leaders over the years and served as adviser to four US presidents. Here Dr. Bennis shares his insights on what separates good leaders from bad ones -- and how ordinary managers can become extraordinary leaders.

What does it take to be an effective leader today? The essence of leadership is still character. The essence of character is integrity, passion, curiosity, daring and a guiding vision, without which a leader doesn't know what he wants to do or where he wants to go. Unlike the old command-and- control style, those who want to be leaders in the 21st century will have to be highly flexible and have a broad range of skills. In order to lead and keep great people, leaders must be articulate, energetic and empowering. They must be willing to inspire a collaborative approach that lets them tap into the endless source of ideas, innovation, know-how and knowledge of the people they lead.

Leaders or manager

What distinguishes leaders from managers? Leaders are interested in direction, vision, goals, objectives, effectiveness and purpose. Managers are interested in efficiency, both day-to-day and short-run. But any manager can become a leader by setting hi her sights higher. Managers administer while leaders innovate. Managers focus on systems and structure; leaders focus on people. Managers rely on control; leaders inspire trust. Managers have their eye on the bottom line; leaders have their eye on the horizon. The best leaders care about both the small and big pictures. They sweat the details -- but they also have the ability to make people feel valued ... to inspire and energize them, to nurture their creativity and to encourage them to take risks and learn from their mistakes.     

Becoming a Leader

What can one do to become a super leader? First, be your own best teacher. No one can teach you how to become yourself, to take charge, to express yourself. Except you. Don't stand on the sidelines. Get involved in new projects, new ideas and challenging assignments. Get up to bat as often as you can, and practice your skills as much as possible. Take responsibility for your failures.
True leaders blame no one but themselves. Leaders learn through reflective experience. Some experiences were negative, such as being demoted or fired. The key is to learn from such setbacks. Crisis has a way of revealing who we really are.


What is the biggest mistake a leader can make? Taking too much credit. In fact, a good leader never takes credit. Leaders gain trust, loyalty, excitement and energy when they pass on the credit to those who have really done the work. An ego should not be so big that you lose your associates' respect. Good leaders are good followers. Leaders and followers share some important characteristics, particularly the ability to collaborate and the ability to listen. Leaders ask great questions. They want to know what and why. That's how they stayed on the leading edge of change.      


How does a leader gain trust? There is no such thing as instant trust. Trust has to be earned. A leader can't be phony because people can easily detect phoniness. One of the ways we generate and sustain trust is by caring about the fate of others, by being on their side. Always be true to your word and keeping confidences.

When leaders say one thing and do another, they quickly lose trust.

Copyright 1997 Jim Murray

blog comments powered by Disqus