Books on Leadership – Warren Bennis


warrenbennisWarren Bennis is a renowned leadership expert. A scholar, organizational consultant, professor, writer, author, he is a Distinguished Research Fellow at the Harvard Business School and is the chairman of the Leadership Institute at the University of Southern California and the Center for Public Leadership at Harvard’s Kennedy School. And he has worked as adviser to four U.S. Presidents – John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan. He also worked as consultant for the Fortune 500 companies such as GE, Ford and Starbucks.

Bennis has authored more than 25 books on leadership, organizational change and creative collaboration and which has been translated into 21 languages.

Acclaim for Warren Bennis:
In 1993, The Wall Street Journal named him one of the top ten speakers on management.
In 1996, Forbes magazine referred to him as the “Dean of Leadership Gurus”
In 2000, The Financial Times named him “the professor who established leadership as a respectable academic field”
In 2007, Business week ranked him “one of the top ten thought leaders in business”

In this article, we will discuss three of his best leadership books that helps small business owners in leading their business effectively.

1. On Becoming A Leader: This is an outstanding book written by Warren Bennis in 1989. Today, the revised edition is available. This book mainly deals with leadership – how one can obtain strong leadership qualities to become a leader. Here author gives you the basic ideas of leadership and its methods of implementation.

This book is divided into 10 chapters as follows:

  1. Mastering the context: The author says that there are four steps in mastering the context – becoming self-expressive, listening to the inner voice, learning from the right mentors and giving oneself over to a guiding vision.
  2. Understanding the basics: Basic ingredients of leadership are guiding vision, passion, self-knowledge, candor, maturity, trust, curiosity, and daring. Author says that we are not born with them but they must develop – Leaders are not born; they are made.
  3. Knowing yourself: Outlines on four lessons of self-knowledge – You are your own best teacher, accept responsibility, blame no one, you can learn anything you want to learn. True understanding comes from reflecting on your experience. Knowing yourself builds confidence and helps to lead people.
  4. Knowing the world: Know the world through learning. Author talks about maintenance learning, shock learning, innovative learning. He also says, it is important to understand the principles of human behavior to lead people.
  5. Operating on instinct: Leaders make right decision even with limited information and set the direction to people. Bennis calls this ‘a guiding vision’.
  6. Deploying yourself: Strike hard, try everything: Steps of leadership – reflection leads to resolution, resolution leads to perspective, perspective leads to point of view, point of view leads to tests and measures, test and measures lead to desire, desire leads to mastery, mastery leads to strategic thinking, strategic thinking leads to self-expression, the synthesis of self-expression is equal to leadership.
  7. Moving through chaos: The author says leaders learn by leading challenges – that is, problems make leaders. Also, leaders transform their experience into wisdom, which in turn changes the culture of the organization where they are working.
  8. Getting people on your side: There are mainly four ingredients a leader should possess to gain the trust of the followers – constancy, congruity, reliability and integrity.
  9. Organizations can help or hinder: Organizations’ vision work at three levels – strategic: organization’s running philosophy, tactical: putting the philosophy into action, and personal: how the philosophy is presented in the behavior of employees. Leaders must communicate, encourage and praise their followers.
  10. Forging the future: According to Bennis, there are 10 factors for forging the future such as leaders manages the dream, embrace errors, encourage reflective backtalk, encourage dissent, posses noble factors – optimism, faith and hope, develops understanding, possessing the touch, sees the long view, understand the stake holders and creates strategic alliance and partnerships.

Prominent reviews on this book:

  • “Clearly Bennis’s best work in a long line of impressive, significant contributions.” – Business Forum
  • “This is Warren Bennis’s most important book.” – Peter Drucker
  • “The lessons here are crisp and persuasive.” – Fortune

This book is available in Paperback and Kindle Edition.

2. The Future of Leadership: Today’s Top Leadership Thinkers Speak to Tomorrow’s Leaders
The Future of Leadership is a collection of essays by renowned leadership gurus. These essays were first presented at a special event celebrated at Marshall School of Business to honor Warren Bennis. The organizers labeled him as a “Festschrift (a German term for a volume of essays contributed by colleagues as a tribute to a scholar). At the event, Bennis was questioned on – what makes him awake at night and challenge his intellect and curiosity. He replied with a series of challenging issues that the tomorrow’s leaders have to understand and resolve if they wanted to succeed. These challenging issues are presented in the first chapter of the book – disparity of talent, demographic changes between young and old and balancing the demands of work and home and many others.

This is one of the most recommended books by leadership experts. Charles Handy, Tom Peters, Edward Lawler, Jim Kouzes, Barry Posner as well as other Silicon Valley entrepreneurs offer their valuable insights on challenges that the leaders of new million confront.

This book is divided into six parts:

  • Part 1: Setting the Stage for the Future
  • Part 2: The Organization of the Future
  • Part 3: The Leader of the Future
  • Part 4: How Leaders Stay on Top of Their Game
  • Part 5: Insights from Young Leaders
  • Part 6: Some Closing Thoughts

This book is available in paperback, hardcover and kindle.

3. The Essential Bennis: The Essentials of Bennis is a curated book with remarkable collection of Bennis’s experience in his life and career of more than fifty years – issues, challenges, achievements, and how these experiences influenced his ideas on leadership. In this book, you can see many aspects of leadership such as how organizations build or oppose leaders, what it means to become a leader, leadership is a performing art, how to cultivate leadership qualities in others, how media describes a leader.

This book is divided into six parts:

  • Part 1: My life as a leader
  • Part 2: How organizations create or thwart leaders
  • Part 3: On becoming a leader
  • Part 4: Leadership as performance
  • Part 5: Cultivating leadership in others
  • Part 6: Leadership and media

In order to enhance readers’ experience, each essay of this book is illuminated with the comments of Bennis’s collaborators and friends such as Charles Handy, Rosabeth Moss Kanter, Glenn Close, Steven Sample, Frances Hesselbein, Howard Gardener and Bill George.

Prominent Reviews on this book:

  • “…anticipated the flourishing of collaborative efforts that laid down the architecture for open sourcing and information–sharing on a grand scale…” ( Financial Times)
  • “It is brilliantly curated…and a fine collection of [Warren Bennis’s] best thinking. I am thrilled to have it and I am sure the world will be as well.” — Howard Gardner, Hobbs Professor of Cognition and Education, Harvard Graduate School of Education