Introduction to the Revised Edition, 2003
- “Bad economic times allow second-rate leaders to exercise power recklessly and with impunity. Good times will come again, and when they do, the leaders who survive and flourish will be those who treat people around them, not as underlings, but as invaluable colleagues and collaborators.”
- “Philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson used to hail friends he had not seen for a long time with the greeting: ‘What’s become clear to you since we last met?’”
- “Everything we learn about creativity suggests that money is more often an obstacle to creative work than an incentive. More modestly paid leaders might be able to concentrate more fully on the intrinsic rewards of doing good work.”
- “I am intrigued by the notion of the organization as a changing, responsive organism, and by Charles Handy’s ideas about the organization as a community. The case for viewing a company or other organization as a community is especially compelling in a world where we spend more and more of our lives in the workplace and grow even hungrier for greater balance between work and personal life.”
- “…in too many organizations, those who speak unwelcome truths are fired or at least marginalized.”
- “…no one is more valuable to the organization than the subordinate willing to speak truth to power.”
- “…authentic leaders embrace those who speak valuable truths, however hard they are to hear.”
- “In order to lead a Great Group, a leader need not possess all the individual skills of the group members. What he or she must have is vision, the ability to rally the others, and integrity. Such leaders also need superb curatorial and coaching skills – an eye for talent, the ability to recognize correct choices, contagious optimism, a gift for bringing out the best in others, the ability to facilitate communication and mediate conflict, a sense of fairness, and, as always, the kind of authenticity and integrity that creates trust.”
- “It is not in the still calm of life or the repose of a pacific station that great characters are formed… The habits of a vigorous mind are formed in contending with difficulty. Great necessities call out great virtues.” – Abigail Adams
- “All leaders have four essential competencies.
- First, they are able to engage others by creating shared meaning.”
- “Second, all authentic leaders have a distinctive voice. By voice, I mean a cluster of things – a purpose, self-confidence, and a sense of self, and the whole gestalt of abilities that, thanks to Daniel Goleman, we now call Emotional Intelligence.”
- “The third quality that all true leaders have is integrity.”
- “But the one competence that I now realize is absolutely essential for leaders – the key competence – is adaptive capacity. Adaptive capacity is what allows leaders to respond quickly and intelligently to relentless change.”
- “As I have watched hundreds of people become leaders over the years, I have been struck again and again by how effectively some people are able to recruit the mentors they need.”
Introduction to the Original Edition, 1989
- “On Becoming a Leader, is based on the assumption that leaders are people who are able to express themselves fully. By this, I mean that they know who they are, what their strengths and weaknesses are, and how to fully deploy their strengths and compensate for their weaknesses. They also know what they want, why they want it, and how to communicate what they want to others, in order to gain their cooperation and support. Finally, they know how to achieve their goals. The key to full self-expression is understanding one’s self and the world, and the key to understanding is learning – from one’s own life and experience.”
- “…leaders are made, not born, and made more by themselves than by any external means. Second, they agree that no leader sets out to be a leader per se, but rather to express him- or herself freely and fully.”
- “Something else they have in common is that each of these individuals has continued to grow and develop throughout life.”
- “…what we need to know gets lost in what we are told we should know. So learning is simply a matter of remembering what is important. As Jung said, psychoanalysis is less a form of healing than a form of learning.”
Questions used when starting leadership dialogues for this book:
- “What do you believe are the qualities of leadership?”
- “What experiences were vital to your development?”
- “What were the turning points in your life?”
- “How do you learn?”
- “Are there people in your life, or in general, whom you particularly admire?”
- “What can organizations do to encourage or stifle leaders?”
- “Too many people are mere products of their context, lacking the will to change, to develop their potential. I also believe, however, that everyone, of whatever age and circumstance, is capable of self-transformation.”
- “It’s not what you don’t know that hurts you, it’s what you know that just ain’t so.” – Satchel Paige
- “At bottom, becoming a leader is synonymous with becoming yourself.”
1 – Mastering the Context
- “Our quality of life depends on the quality of our leaders.”
- “There are three basic reasons why leaders are important.
- First, they are responsible for the effectiveness of organizations.”
- “Second, the change and upheaval of the past years has left us with no place to hide. We need anchors and guides. The very best of our leaders serve in that way. They inspire us and restore our hope.”
- “Third, there is a pervasive national concern about the integrity of our institutions.”
- “Whenever upward mobility and good citizenship diverge, we have less and less in common, and less and less that is good.”
- “The first step to becoming a leader, then, is to recognize the context for what it is – a breaker, not a maker; a trap, not a launching pad; an end, not a beginning – and declare your independence.”
Surrendering to the Context
- “…it is not enough for a leader to do things right; he must do the right thing. Furthermore, a leader without some vision of where he wants to take his organization is not a leader.”
- “There are four steps in the process behind Norman Lear’s success in mastering the context: (1) becoming self-expressive; (2) listening to the inner voice; (3) learning from the right mentors; and (4) giving oneself over to a guiding vision.”
- “First and foremost, find out what it is you’re about, and be that. Be what you are, and don’t lose it… It’s very hard to be who we are, because it doesn’t seem to be what anyone wants.” – Norman Lear
2 – Understanding the Basics
- “The first basic ingredient of leadership is a guiding vision. The leader has a clear idea of what he or she wants to do – professionally and personally – and the strength to persist in the face of setbacks, even failures.”
- “The second basic ingredient of leadership is passion”
- “The next basic ingredient of leadership is integrity. I think there are three essential parts of integrity: self-knowledge, candor, and maturity.”
- “Integrity is the basis of trust, which is not as much an ingredient of leadership as it is a product.”
- “Two more basic ingredients of leadership are curiosity and daring.”
- “They do not worry about failure, but embrace errors, knowing they will learn from them.”
“The Greeks believed that excellence was based on a perfect balance of eros and logos, or feeling and thought, which together allow us to understand the world on all levels, from ‘the concrete contemplation of the complete facts.’ True understanding derives from engagement and from the full deployment of ourselves.”
Leaders, Not Managers
- “I tend to think of differences between leaders and managers as the differences between those who master the context and those who surrender to it.”
- “The manager administers; the leader innovates.”
- “The manager is a copy; the leader is an original.”
- “The manager maintains; the leader develops.”
- “The manager focuses on systems and structure; the leader focuses on people.”
- “The manager relies on control; the leader inspires trust.”
- “The manager has a short-range view; the leader has a long-range perspective.”
- “The manager asks how and when; the leader asks what and why.”
- “The manager has his or her eye always on the bottom line; the leader’s eye is on the horizon.”
- “The manager imitates; the leader originates.”
- “The manager is the classic good soldier; the leader is his or her own person.”
- “The manager does things right; the leader does the right thing.”
- “Bottom lines have nothing to do with problem-finding. And we need people who know how to find problems, because the ones we face today aren’t always clearly defined, and they aren’t linear.”
- “Codifying one’s thinking is an important step in inventing oneself. The most difficult way to “do it is by thinking about thinking – it helps to speak or write your thoughts. Writing is the most profound way of codifying your thoughts, the best way of learning from yourself who you are and what you believe.”
Once Born, Twice Born
- “A couple of studies underscore the benefits, even the necessity, of self-invention.”
- “Another study indicates that what determines the level of satisfaction in post-middle-aged men is the degree to which they acted upon their youthful dreams. It’s not so much whether they were successful in achieving their dreams as the honest pursuit of them that counts.”
- “When you write your own life, then no matter what happens, you have played the game that way natural for you to play.”
3 – Knowing Yourself
- “self-aware, then, means separating who you are and who you want to be from what the world thinks you are and wants you to be.”
- “…if you go on doing what you’ve always done, you’ll go on getting what you’ve always got – which may be less than you want or deserve.”
4 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
Lesson One: You Are Your Own Best Teacher
- “The managers that Gib Akin interviewed cited two basic motivations for learning. The first was a need to know, which they described, he said, ‘as rather like a thirst or hunger gnawing at them, sometimes dominating their attention until satisfied.’ The second was ‘a sense of role,’ which stems from ‘a person’s perception of the gap between what he or she is, and what he or she should be.’”
- “Major stumbling blocks on the path to self-knowledge are denial and blame.”
Lesson Two: Accept Responsibility. Blame No One.
- “There was no situation That I could fail to learn from, because everything was new to me, and therefore no matter what it was, however obtuse the person I was meeting with, however stupid the idea, however low powered the agent pitching it, it was a useful encounter because I would be for the first time in that position. “- Marty Kaplan
Lesson Three: You Can Learn Anything You Want to Learn
- “Learning, the kind Marty Kaplan did, the kind I’m talking about here, is much more than the absorption of a body of knowledge or mastery of a discipline. It’s seeing the world simultaneously as it is and as it can be, understanding what you see, and acting on your understanding.”
- “Unless you have the appetite to absorb new and potentially unsettling things, you don’t learn… Part of it is temperament. It’s a kind of fearlessness and optimism and confidence, and you’re not afraid of failure.”
Lesson Four: True Understanding Comes from Reflecting on Your Experience
- “Reflecting upon experience is a means of having a Socratic dialogue with yourself, asking the right questions at the right time, in order to discover the truth of yourself and your life. What really happened? Why did it happen? What did it do to me? What did it mean to me?”
- “Nothing is truly yours until you understand it – not even yourself. Our feelings are raw, unadulterated truth, but until we understand why we are happy or angry or anxious, the truth is useless to us.”
- “…true learning must often be preceded by unlearning, because we are taught by our parents and teachers and friends how to go along, to measure up to their standards, rather than allowed to be ourselves.”
The 8 Stages of Life (by Erik Erikson)
- Trust vs. Mistrust = hope or withdrawal
- Autonomy vs. Shame, Doubt = will or compulsion
- Initiative vs. Guilt = purpose or inhibition
- Industry vs. Inferiority = competence or inertia
- Identity vs. Identity Confusion = fidelity or repudiation
- Intimacy vs. Isolation = love or exclusivity
- Generativity vs. Stagnation = care or rejectivity
- Integrity vs. Despair = wisdom or disdain
- “Feelings are memories of past behavior. When you sort them out and see what’s current and what’s left over, you can literally begin to use your thinking process to change your behavior.”
- “To free ourselves from habit, to resolve the paradoxes, to transcend conflicts, to become the masters rather than the slaves of our own lives, we must first see and remember, and then forget. That is why true learning begins with unlearning – and why unlearning is one of the recurring themes of our story.”
- “Self-awareness = self-knowledge = self-possession = self-control = self-expression. You make your life your own by understanding it.”
4 – Knowing the World
- “The ingredients of leadership cannot be taught, however. They must be learned.”
- “…certain kinds of experiences are especially significant for learning. These experiences include broad and continuing education, idiosyncratic families, extensive travel and/or exile, a rich private life, and key associations with mentors and groups.”
- “The conventional pattern of maintenance/shock learning is inadequate to cope with global complexity and is likely, if unchecked, to lead to… loss of control over events and crises…” – Club of Rome Report
- “What applies on a global basis applies on a personal level, too. Anyone who relies on maintenance and shock learning is bound to be more reactor than an actor in his or her own life.”
- “The principal components of innovative learning are…
- Anticipation: being active and imaginative rather than passive and habitual.
- Learning by listening to others.
- Participation: shaping events, rather than being shaped by them.”
- “’…the shift from… unconscious adaptation to conscious participation,’ we make or recognize new connections, generating useful syntheses, and our understanding deepens.”
- “Innovative learning is the primary means of exercising our autonomy, a means of understanding, and working within the prevailing context in a positive way.”
- “T.H. Huxley said, ‘Sit down before fact as a little child, be prepared to give up every preconceived notion, follow humbly wherever and to whatever abyss nature leads, or you shall learn nothing.”
- “Everything we do depends on the successful transfer of meaning from one group to another.” – Roger Smith
Filling in the Gaps
- “Ambition is the death of thought.” – Wittgenstein
Learning from Adversity
- “It’s self-evident that if we can’t take the risk of saying or doing something wrong, our creativity goes right out the window… The essence of creativity is not the possession of some special talent, it is much more the ability to play.” – John Cleese
- “…it’s essential in leading people toward growth to get them to make decisions, and to make mistakes.”- Jim Burke
- “If you haven’t failed, you haven’t tried very hard.” – Shirley Hufstedler
- “…a compelling vision combined with a unique ability to manage risk is the magic behind successful entrepreneurs.” – Larry Wilson
- Learning from experience means…
- Looking back at your childhood and adolescence and using what happened to you then to enable you to make things happen now, so that you become the master of your own life rather than its servant.
- Consciously seeking the kinds of experiences in the present that will improve and enlarge you.
- Taking risks as a matter of course, with the knowledge that failure is as vital as it is inevitable.
- Seeing the future – yours and the world’s – as an opportunity to do all those things you have not done and those things that need to be done, rather than as a trial or a test.
5 – Operating on Instinct
- “Growth requires curiosity to experience both the difference and the synchrony, to explore and immerse yourself in new surroundings, to be able to contemplate your experiences and get something out of them.” – Mathilde Krim
- “I first look for character, whether the individual can inspire trust. Then I look for imagination and perseverance, steadfastness of purpose.” – Alfred Gottschalk
- “No leader sets out to be a leader. People set out to live their lives, expressing themselves fully. When that expression is of value, they become leaders.”
6 – Deploying Yourself: Strike Hard, Try Everything
Reflection and Resolution
- “…what we do is a direct result of not only what and how we think, but what and how we feel as well.” – Jim Burke
- “It’s how you feel about things that dictates how you behave.” – Roger Gould
- “When you’re down, think of the things you have to look forward to. When you are no longer in the grip of the mishap, then you are ready to reflect on it.”
- “The point is not to be the victims of our feelings, jerked this way and that by unresolved emotions, not to be used by our experiences, but to use them and to use them creatively.”
- “Erik Erikson sees our development as a series of resolved conflicts, one for each stage of life. He further postulates that until each conflict is resolved positively, we cannot move to the next stage of conflict.”
- Conflicts: Resolutions (Erik Erikson Reframed)
- Blind trust vs. Suspicion: Hope
- Independence vs. Dependence: Autonomy
- Initiative vs. Imitation: Purpose
- Industry vs. Inferiority: Competence
- Identity vs. Confusion: Integrity
- Intimacy vs. Isolation: Empathy
- Generosity vs. Selfishness: Maturity
- Illusion vs. Delusion: Wisdom
Questions to give you an idea of someone’s leadership perspective:
- When you consider a new project, do think first of its cost or benefits?
- Do you rank profit or progress first?
- Would you rather be rich or famous?
- If offered a promotion that required you to move to another city, would you discuss it with your family before accepting it?
- Would you rather be a small fish in a big pond, a big fish in a small pond?
- “…anyone who wants to express him- or herself fully and truly must have a point of view. Leadership without perspective and point of view isn’t leadership – and of course, it must be your own perspective, your own point of view. You cannot borrow a point of view any more than you can borrow someone else’s eyes.”
Tests and Measures
- “Jamie Raskin told me, ‘One of my heroes is a professor at Harvard Law School named Derek Bell. He told me that it’s important not to have any specific ambitions or desires. It’s more important to have ambitions in terms of the way you want to live your life, and then the other things will flow out of that.”
- “The first test is knowing what you want, knowing your abilities and capacities, and recognizing the difference between the two.”
- “The second test is knowing what drives you, knowing what gives you satisfaction, and knowing the difference between the two.”
- “The third test is knowing what your values and priorities are, knowing what the values and priorities of your organization are, and measuring the difference between the two.”
- “Too often you come into a new job on a wave of fresh energy and, not by design, you tend to debunk what’s been previously done. That’s very hard on the people who’ve been with the organization for a while. It’s better to try to put yourself in their shoes and acknowledge the good things that have been done and reinforce those things, before going forward with your own plans. If the existing personnel feel supported and are made to feel a part of the new plans, they’re thrilled.”
- “The fourth test is – having measured the differences between what you want and what you’re able to do, and between what drives you and what satisfies you, and between what your values are and what the organization’s values are – are you able and willing to overcome those differences?”
- “The greatest opportunity for growth lies in overcoming things you’re afraid of.” – Brooke Knapp
- “You can’t make being a leader your principal goal, any more than you can make being happy your goal. In both cases, it has to be the result, not the cause.” – Gloria Anderson
- “Mastery, absolute competence, is mandatory for a leader. But it’s also more fun than anything else you’ll ever do. Jim Burke said, ‘it should be fun, the process ought to be exciting and fun. The person who’s not having any fun is doing something wrong. Either his environment is stultifying or he’s off base himself.” – Barbara Corday
- Basic steps in the strategic thinking process:
- “First, whether you’re planning a novel or a corporate reorganization, you have to know where you’re going to end up.”
- “Second, you flesh out those routes, elaborate them, revise them, make a kind of map of them, complete with possible pitfalls and traps as well as rewards.”
- “Third, you examine this map objectively, as if you were not its maker, locate all its soft spots, and eliminate them or change them.”
- “Finally, when you have finished all that, you set out to climb your mountain.”
- “Leaders differ from others in their constant appetite for knowledge and experience, and as their worlds widen and become more complex, so too do their means of understanding.”
- “Leadership without mutual trust is a contradiction in terms. Trust resides squarely between faith and doubt. Leaders always have faith in themselves, their abilities, their co-workers, and their mutual possibilities. But leaders also have sufficient doubt to question, challenge, probe, and thereby progress. In the same way, his or her co-workers must believe in the leader, themselves, and their combined strength, but they must feel sufficiently confident to question, challenge, probe, and test, too.”
- “An Irish proverb is pertinent: ‘You’ve got to do your own growing, no matter how tall your grandfather is.’”
- The means of expression are the steps to leadership:
- Reflection leading to resolution.
- Resolution leading to perspective.
- Perspective leading to point of view.
- Point of view leading to tests and measures.
- Tests and measures leading to desire.
- Desire leading to mastery.
- Mastery leading to strategic thinking.
- Strategic thinking leading to full self-expression.
- The synthesis of full self-expression = leadership.
7 – Moving Through Chaos
- “…oddly enough, the more willing you seem to be to let people participate, the less need they have to force participation. It’s the threat of being left out that exacerbates their ego problems and creates clashes.”
- “Jacob Bronowski wrote, in The Ascent of Man, ‘We have to understand that the world can only be grasped by action, not by contemplation… The most powerful drive in the ascent of man is his pleasure in his own skill. He loves to do what he does well and, having done it well, he loves to do it better.”
- “As weather shapes mountains, so problems make leaders.”
- “I think getting up in the morning is more exciting when you’re nervous. If you’re not nervous, you’re dead… It’s time to change your life or your work the moment you stop having butterflies in your stomach.” – Barbara Corday
- “Ernest Hemingway said that the world breaks all of us, and we grow stronger in the broken places.”
8 – Getting People on Your Side
- “I think one of the biggest turn-ons is for people to know that their peers and particularly their bosses not only know they’re there but know pretty intimately what they’re doing and are involved with them on almost a daily basis, that it’s a partnership, that you’re really trying to run this thing well together, that if something goes wrong it’s our goal to fix it, not see who we can nail.” – Don Ritchey
Four Ingredients to Generate and Sustain Trust:
- Constancy. Whatever surprises leaders themselves may face; they don’t create any for the group. Leaders are all of a piece; they stay the course.
- Congruity. Leaders walk their talk. In true leaders, there is no gap between the theories they espouse and the life they practice.
- Reliability. Leaders are there when it counts; they are ready to support their co-workers in the moments that matter.
- Integrity. Leaders honor their commitments and promises.
- “Competence, or knowledge, without vision and virtue, breeds technocrats. Virtue, without vision and knowledge, breeds ideologues. Vision, without virtue and knowledge, breeds demagogues.”
- “As Peter Drucker has pointed out, the chief object of leadership is the creation of a human community held together by the work bond for a common purpose.”
9 – Organizations Can Help – or Hinder
- “In Thriving on Chaos, Tom Peters says that organizations that succeed over time will have certain characteristics in common:
- A flatter, less hierarchical structure.
- More autonomous units.
- An orientation towards high-value-added goods and services.
- Quality controls.
- Service controls.
- Innovative speed.
- Highly trained and skilled workers who use their minds as well as their hands.
- Leaders at all levels, rather than managers.”
- “These leaders will take on new tasks within their organizations, tasks unimagined a generation ago, but vital now. They include…
- Defining the organization’s mission, so as to frame its activities and inform its workforce.
- Creating a flexible environment in which people are not only valued, but encouraged to develop to their full potential, and treated as equals rather than subordinates.
- Reshaping the corporate culture so that creativity, autonomy, and continuous learning replaces conformity, obedience, and rote; and long-term growth, not short-term profit, is the goal.
- Transforming the organization from a rigid pyramid to a fluid circle, or an ever-evolving network of autonomous units.
- Encouraging innovation, experimentation, and risk-taking.
- Anticipating the future by reading the present.
- Making new connections within the organizations, and new relationships within the workforce.
- Making new alliances outside the organization.
- Constantly studying the organization from the outside as well as the inside.
- Identifying weak links in the chain and repairing them.
- Thinking globally, rather than nationally or locally.
- Identifying and responding to new and unprecedented needs in the workforce.
- Being proactive rather than reactive, comfortable with ambiguity and uncertainty.”
- “…when they (McCall, Lombardo, and Morrison) asked top executives what advice they would give to younger executives, there were three basic themes:
- Take advantage of every opportunity.
- Aggressively search for meaning.
- Know yourself.”
Opportunity = Empowerment
- “There are two kinds of people: those who are paralyzed by fear, and those who are afraid but go ahead anyway. Life isn’t about limitation, it’s about options.” Brooke Knapp
Meaning = Engagement
- “Corporate vision operates on three levels: strategic, which is the organization’s overriding philosophy; tactical, which is that philosophy in action; and personal, which is that philosophy made manifest in the behavior of each employee.”
10 – Forging the Future
- “Rosabeth Moss Kanter described some of the attitudes mandated by the current chaotic environment in When Giants Learn to Dance: Mastering the Challenge of Strategy, Management, and Careers in the 1990s:
- Think strategically and invest in the future – but keep the numbers up.
- Be entrepreneurial and take risks – but don’t cost the business anything by failing.
- Continue to do everything you’re currently doing ever better – and spend more time communicating with employees, serving on teams, and launching new projects.
- Know every detail of your business – but delegate more responsibility to others.
- Become passionately dedicated to ‘visions’ and fanatically committed to carrying them out – but be flexible, responsive, and able to change direction quickly.
- Speak up, be a leader, set the direction – but be participative, listen well, cooperate.
- Throw yourself wholeheartedly into the entrepreneurial game and the long hours it takes – and stay fit.
- Succeed, succeed, succeed – and raise terrific children.”
Ten Factors for the Future
- Leaders manage the Dream
- Leaders embrace error
- Leaders encourage reflective backtalk
- “Leaders tend to come in two sizes: those who hire reflectors, clones who will mirror the leader’s opinions and desires, and those who hire compensators, people who have complementary views of the organization and the society.”
- Leaders encourage dissent
- Leaders possess the Nobel Factor: optimism, faith and hope
- Leaders understand the Pygmalion effect in management
- “J. Sterling Livingston applied the Pygmalion effect to management thusly:
- What managers expect of their subordinates and the way they treat them largely determines their performance and career progress.
- A unique characteristic of superior managers is the ability to create high performance expectations that subordinates fulfill.
- Less effective managers fail to develop similar expectations, and as a consequence, the productivity of their subordinates suffers.
- Subordinates, more often than not, appear to do what they believe they are expected to do.”
- “J. Sterling Livingston applied the Pygmalion effect to management thusly:
- Leaders have what I think of as the Gretzky Factor; a certain touch
- Leaders see the long view
- Leaders understand stakeholder symmetry
- Leaders create strategic alliances and partnerships
The Next Generation of Leaders Will Have Certain Things in Common:
- Boundless education
- Boundless curiosity
- Boundless enthusiasm
- Contagious optimism
- Belief in people and teamwork
- Willingness to take risks
- Devotion to long-term growth rather than short-term profit
- Commitment to excellence
- Adaptive capacity
Epilogue to the Twentieth-Anniversary Edition
- “Great leaders do not try to impose an ideological template, right- or left-leaning, on problems. First-rate leaders know that every problem is thorny in its own way and inclusively and collaboratively find solutions that reflect the unique realities at hand.”
- “History has shown over and over again that experience per se is no substitute for good judgment in determining the quality of a leader.”
- “…an even temperament characterized many of our best presidents.” – Doris Kearns Goodwin