LEADERS: The Strategies of Taking Charge by Warren & Burt Nanus Bennis

LEADERS: The Strategies of Taking Charge

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Ostensibly aimed at those who play any sort of leadership role in a hierarchic organization, this cant-ridden brief is based on interviews with 90 senior executives from predominantly commercial enterprises. A top-heavy corporate bias apart, the authors' seemingly random sample features some decidedly eccentric choices, including est's Werner Erhard, two symphony conductors, one union president, and some heads of academic institutions or foundations. Bennis (sometime professor at MIT's Sloan School of Management) and Nanus (director of USC's Center for Futures Research) do have challenging points to make: ""Managers are people who do things tight, and leaders are people who do the right thing."" A generally overlooked element in the leadership equation, they contend, is power, the capacity to ""translate intention into reality and sustain it,"" mainly by developing attainable goals that subordinates can understand and support with enthusiasm. Unfortunately, Bennis and Nanus undermine themselves with a surfeit of pedantry and related sins of commission. In a lengthy appreciation of positioning (contingency planning, right?), the authors have devised a method dubbed QUEST (for Quick Environmental Scanning Technique). Suffice it to say this approach, basically brainstorming sessions, involves prodding participants to produce so-called cross-impact matrices (essentially, series of what-if scenarios) that can be combined to establish priorities among strategic options. Beyond message-muddling bafflegab, Bennis and Nanus manage some tasteless slips (they liken a great idea that's been through the bureaucratic mill to ""a thalidomide child with no parents."") They also tend to treat conventional wisdom as revelatory, e.g., ""Trust is the emotional glue that binds followers and leaders together."" Nor are their sketchy case studies particularly enlightening; it's not news that those running AT&T must change the stripped-down version from a service-based to marketing-oriented venture. Or that Lee Iacocca rescued Chrysler by, in large measure, becoming the personification of its comeback. In sum, a consequential thesis in need of substance and synthesis.

Pub Date: May 29th, 1985
Publisher: Harper & Row