Thursday, January 30, 2020
On Becoming a Leader Essay Example for Free
On Becoming a Leader Essay The book I chose to review is Ã¢â¬Å"On Becoming a LeaderÃ¢â¬ by Warren Bennis. At the crux of this book is a search to understand how leaders are made. Throughout the book, the author tries to prove through polls and observations, that leaders are not born but are made through a combination of nature and nurture. Leaders who excel tend to have similar characteristics which have been developed by a series of experiences in their lives (these include embracing mistakes, taking risks and learning from adversity). Another idea discussed in the book is that of the role of education in making leaders. Bennis notes a number of qualities and abilities that are common amongst the leaders he interacts with. Some of those are relating well to others, trusting others and in turn being trustworthy, the ability to motivate people and to not give up, inspiration and competence in the job. However, he claims that a major problem in business leadership is the Ã¢â¬Å"societal disease of our timeÃ¢â¬ (as said by Norman Lear to him) short term thinking. He highlights throughout the book that this form of thinking is not beneficial to organizations and that a good leader should be able to look further and not give the short term too much importance. At one point he claims that short term thinking is what kills one of the most important attributes a leader must have innovation. The author mentions that leaders are important to an organization since they are of paramount importance to the operational performance, stability and integrity of the organization. To this end, Warren Bennis presents in a systematic manner various attributes that are required of a leader to be able to perform well. The first attribute discussed is the ability to Ã¢â¬Å"Master the contextÃ¢â¬ . In this chapter, the author discusses the fact that a leader must be able to understand the reasons and outcomes of different situations. Only once he has managed this, will he be able to act in the best possible way for his organization. This is in line with what we have learned throughout our course regarding improving oneÃ¢â¬â¢s self-awareness as well as the 4 perspectives of organizational effectiveness. A leader must be able to understand the context of work and respond by being aware that he needs to look after different perspectives of people and systems related to the organization. The second thing discussed is Ã¢â¬Å"understanding the basicsÃ¢â¬ , which is quite similar to mastering the context. In this, Warren Bennis explains that leaders need to understand the underlying concepts at work before making decisions. He lists a series of attributes that can be found in most leaders including self-knowledge, passion, vision and trust. He argues that most of the leaders are not born with these attributes but life experiences and a desire to lead people enables them to develop a good understanding of this. Their drive to acquire and learn are much higher than on average and they actively pursue these drives while taking risks and placing lesser importance on their drive for safety. In this he also discusses the difference between managing people and leading them. We have gone through various topics related directly to this effect in class. According to me, one of the strongest drives an individual has is the drive to safety. An individual would be much more comfortable if they can trust their leader. The ability to understand the thought process of their leader and their belief/trust in him helps shore up their drive for safety. Across cultures, people tend to avoid uncertainty and if a leader is able to, through knowledge and an understanding, provide people with an image of consistency; it goes a long way in settling people and reducing stress. The third lesson is Ã¢â¬Å"knowing yourselfÃ¢â¬ . Warren Bennis argues that in order to lead others, one must fully understand themselves. To be able to trust your decisions/inner feelings is extremely important for leading people and making correct choices. The author goes on to highlight 4 lessons that enable an individual to understand themselves. They are Ã¢â¬Å"you are your own best teacherÃ¢â¬ , Ã¢â¬Å"accept responsibilityÃ¢â¬ , Ã¢â¬Å"you can learn anything you want to learnÃ¢â¬ and Ã¢â¬Å"true understanding comes from reflecting on your own experienceÃ¢â¬ . All these lessons are at the core of organizational behavior as we have learnt. These 4 lessons can apply even to organizations as well as being useful for individuals. Self-concept is an important part of an individualÃ¢â¬â¢s make up and to feed that we must be able to reflect on our past experiences to learn from them. Social learning, learning through reinforcement and learning through experience are discussed as important factors of learning in organizations in our course. I believe this same applies to individuals as they are able to develop their social identity and self-concept through these lessons. Next, the author discusses Ã¢â¬Å"Knowing the worldÃ¢â¬ . This takes a similar route to the previous subject of knowing yourself, while developing a greater scope to the understanding. Cultural understanding is an extremely important attribute in a leader. In an increasingly diverse workforce coupled with increasing globalization, a leader must have the ability to and desire to understand various cultures and behaviors. Values and behavior are very different for different cultures, and a lot of organizations have failed due to the incompatible understanding of their leaders. The HP-Compaq merger was a major case where while it was beneficial financially and operationally for the companies to merge, their leaders were not able to fully adapt the two companyÃ¢â¬â¢s cultures properly, causing the merger to have not performed anywhere near expectations. One point that I found particularly interesting and felt that was very important was the need for a person to find a mentor who can help them enhance and shape their cultural understanding. The social learning aspect discusses similar concepts, where a person learns from someone whom they aspire to be. Being able to find a mentor who has an in depth understanding of cultures, or at least has a desire to learn cultural differences can help an individual become a more complete leader. The next thought discussed by the author is Ã¢â¬Å"Operating on instinctÃ¢â¬ . This discussion focuses on the fact that a good leader should be able to believe in himself and should be able to take decisions from his gut feeling. More often than not a leader and even individuals will have to make decisions without knowing all the details they would like to know. The presence of incomplete information should not make the leader less likely to make a decision. A good leader will have developed enough self-awareness and through self-evaluation and verification be able to rely on his instinct to make the right choice. This enables the leader to be able to quickly and decisively contemplate and decide issues. The next discussion is based on Ã¢â¬ Deploying yourselfÃ¢â¬ . In this the author talks about the fact that a successful leader is a person who is willing to take on challenges even though he might have failed in earlier challenges. The drive to learn and acquire are, I feel, major contributors to this topic. A good leader will be able to reflect on his past experiences and learn from them; and this gives them confidence to continually drive for newer challenges and tasks. Another topic discussed is Ã¢â¬Å"Moving through chaosÃ¢â¬ . In this chapter, Warren Bennis describes the difference between all individuals and leaders. He points out that everyone faces problems and issues in their career, but that leaders analyze these problems and tend to learn from these. Conflict resolution can take many forms through third-party conflict resolution or negotiation. Leaders reflect on their conflicts and develop an understanding of how to overcome those challenges. Ã¢â¬Å"Getting people on your sideÃ¢â¬ is the next topic covered. The main point of this discussion, and a very important learning for me personally, is the ability of the leader to be trustworthy. To be trusted, a leader must display consistency in his actions, congruity meaning what they say, reliable to their followers and have a strong integrity. This once again gravitates towards the drive for safety individuals have. To be lead by someone, an individual must trust them to act on their behalf and be able to predict to a certain extent what their leaders will do for them. The concept of romanticizing leadership is down to this ability of leaders. If a leader is able to bring their employees/followers on their side, the leaderÃ¢â¬â¢s ability to work through tasks and challenges is increased. Even mistakes made by them will be viewed in a positive light, enabling them to continue taking risks. Ã¢â¬Å"Organizations can help or hinderÃ¢â¬ is the next topic that is discussed. This focuses on the fact different organizations will have different expectations from their leaders. The culture at an organization will dictate how well a leader will be able to lead the organization. A good leader will be able to understand the context of the organization and will try to devise strategies he can implement to make changes. The author also mentions that the leader should try and develop organizational characteristics that are in line with their culture. This also transposes into the last discussion of Ã¢â¬Å"Forging the futureÃ¢â¬ . The impediments faced by leaders in an organization can be very hard, but a good leader will be able to develop his own culture and characteristics to move the organization forward. One major issue I had with this book was that while the author continually refers to short term thinking as a Ã¢â¬Å"societal diseaseÃ¢â¬ ; he himself to a certain extent subscribes to that notion. His interaction with the leaders seems comparatively very short term. Throughout the statements made in the book, it felt that the interviews were more about successful past rather than forward looking. I understand that one of the major attributes is to learn from experiences but the IÃ¢â¬â¢d prefer if the author also focused equally on the leaderÃ¢â¬â¢s thoughts about the future. Secondly I felt that there was quite a bit of political commentary in the book. I knew that it was going to have some after reading the reviews while selecting the book, but the political leadership aspect seemed to be a comparatively one sided. I feel that the author could have refrained from making this political and focused instead on the corporate leadership aspect.