AN INVENTED LIFE by Warren Bennis


Meditations on Leadership and Change
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 If the text at hand were an art show, it would be described as a retrospective. Here, Bennis (On Becoming a Leader, 1989, etc.) has assembled an immensely appealing collection of three decades' worth of essays (a few originals but most reprints from magazines like Harvard Business Review, etc.) that hit the high points of a productive career informed largely by a principled absorption with organizational leadership. Among the insights that the author (Business Administration/USC) has gained during his many years as an academic administrator and business consultant is that managers do things right while leaders do the right thing. In the autobiographical title piece, which opens the book, Bennis weighs how WW II, a liberal education (on the GI Bill) at Antioch, postgraduate study at MIT, a seven-year stint as president of the University of Cincinnati, and other formative experiences shaped his thinking on personal as well as professional matters. With pardonable pride, he includes prescient commentaries (which first appeared in the mid- 60's) on the transnational triumph of democracy and the eclipse of institutional bureaucracy, closing with a contemporary appraisal of ``Our Federalist Future.'' The author also offers short-take value judgments on the stewardship of company directors; change as the Global Village's most exacting constant; the challenge of dealing with the modern world's information overload; ethical standards in the public as well as private sector; the challenge of knowing when to resign; and what an ex-President referred to as ``the vision thing.'' There's also an instructive critique of the search committee that led Bennis to believe he was a short-list candidate to head Northwestern University, plus a cautionary explanation of why assertiveness training may not pay off for women bent on cracking corporate America's glass ceiling. A sort of intellectual memoir that delivers an engaging sampler of an important business scholar's past and present work.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-201-63212-8
Page count: 272pp
Publisher: Addison-Wesley
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 1993