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On Becoming a Leader Paperback – March 2, 1990


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 226 pages
  • Publisher: Perseus Books (March 2, 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0201550873
  • ISBN-13: 978-0201550870
  • Product Dimensions: 8.1 x 5.3 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #806,225 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Bennis here deplores what he considers a dearth of leadership in the world. "Although he provides solid, practical guidance on how to fill this vacuum, his philosophically and psychologically rich volume seeks primarily to define leadership--which, in his view, requires self-knowledge and clear personal goals," reported PW.
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Bennis, author of the popular Leaders: The Strategies of Taking Charge (LJ 4/1/85) and also co-author of The Unreality Industry , reviewed in this issue, p. 00.-- Ed. , has interviewed hundreds of leaders over time, and he uses 30 of them to illustrate his points. He does this by quoting them, as appropriate, in the various chapters of the book--"Understand The Basics," "Operating on Instinct," "Knowing Yourself," etc. He still sees vision as an essential ingredient for leadership, but in this work stresses how to find the vision. "The point is to become yourself, to use yourself completely--all your skills, gifts, and energies--in order to make your vision manifest." Recommended for all business collections.
- Michael D. Kathman, St. John's Univ., Collegeville, Minn.
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Warren Bennis (Los Angeles, CA), born in 1925, is an American scholar, organizational consultant and author, who is widely regarded as the pioneer of the contemporary field of leadership. He is University Professor and Distinguished Professor of Business Administration at the University of Southern California. In the past decade, he served as chairman of the Advisory Board of the Center for Public Leadership at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government, working with David Gergen.
Bennis has consulted for many Fortune 500 companies and served as adviser to four U.S. presidents. He has served on the faculty of MIT's Sloan School of Management and was Chairman of the Organizational Studies Department. He is a former faculty member of Boston University, former Provost and Executive Vice President of State University of New York at Buffalo and President of the University of Cincinnati. His global experience includes teaching at the Indian Institute of Management-Calcutta, INSEAD, the London Business School, and IMEDE (now IMD). In 2007, Business Week called him one of ten business school professors who have had the greatest influence on business thinking. He has received 20 honorary degrees and has served on numerous boards of advisors.
Bennis has written or edited 30 books, which have been translated into 21 languages, and many articles on three of his passions-leadership, organizational change, and creative collaboration. The Financial Times recently named Leaders as one of the top 50 business books of all time.
Bennis is proud of the four years he served in the U.S. Army, 1943-1947. At the age of 19 he was one of the youngest infantry commanders in Germany and was awarded the Purple Heart and Bronze Star. His dream remains: to write a terrific one-act play.

Customer Reviews

Provides great background information on leadership.
Dee Dee
The book is easy to read, and you'll finish it rather quickly the first time through.
Brian Minton
This book is a good tool for aspiring school administrators.
Kristi Floyd

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

49 of 51 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 25, 1999
Format: Paperback
Charles Smith Submitted 2/18/99
Bennis, W. (1989). On Becoming A Leader. Reading, Massachusetts: Perseus Books
This book deals with leadership, how one becomes a leader, and the many people the author knows with leadership qualities. It is written in an easy to understand format that uses many formulas which people have used to obtain strong leadership qualities. Bennis points out three reasons for the importance of effective leadership. Leaders are responsible for organizational effectiveness, leaders must also provide stability to an organization and the need for integrity within an organization. Norman Lear, writer and director, is often referenced by Bennis. He believes that society is suffering from what he calls a "societal disease" of short-term thinking. This can be a stumbling block in the pursuit of total leadership. One of Bennis' premises is that that the context of leadership is a breaker not a maker and that most people fail to realize the difference. To be an effective leader one must see it as an end result, not a beginning. Learning from failure is also an important theme in the book. The author points out a person fictitiously called Ed and how he never really understood what it took to be an effective leader. While he had wonderful management skills, he was not trusted because he was unable to make people feel willing to follow. He had followers but they were not always willing followers. Norman Lear again provides insight to what he calls mastering the context of leadership. A leader must be self-expressive, listen to the inner voice, learn from the right mentors and give oneself over to a guiding vision. Bennis defines three ingredients that encompass leadership.
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Dr. W. G. Covington, Jr. on June 28, 2003
Format: Paperback
While I don't agree with all of Bennis' role models, he makes some very valid points about achievement, leadership, and human relationships. Like John Maxwell and others who have paid their dues, he mentions the importance of learning from failure. One of the many useful quotes Bennis provides is "it is not enough for a leader to do things right, he must do the right thing." Also like other writers in this genre, he says one of the fundamentals of leadership is to have a guiding vision. As a communicator, Bennis encourages potential leaders to codify their thoughts through writing. Writing eliminates ambiguity and helps one to focus. Leadership is viewed as a process in the sense that goal-accomplishment involves several incremental phases. He writes "the goal isn't worth arriving at unless you enjoy the journey." A process of self-reflection is outlined and discussed in the middle section of the book. This is followed by some advice on how to investigate the world at large. Travel, reading, and involvement are three keys to learning the environment in which one is to contribute. Bennis has some ideas worthy of followup. His book is worth reading.
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47 of 57 people found the following review helpful By M. D. Thomas on August 18, 2004
Format: Paperback
When the author sticks to discussing leadership, I found this book very readable and easy to understand. The book is written in a very easy to follow format and he explores the personal side of leadership. He presents some very altruistic ideas the sound very good, however, aren't always practical in the real world. This book would have received a higher rating for me also if Mr. Bennis would have refrained from all the political commentary throughout the beginning of his book. His repeated support for a former president while being less than flattering of the current president put too much of a political overtone in the beginning and really turned me off. It wouldn't matter if I agreed with Mr. Bennis or not, it simply didn't have a place in what would have otherwise been a very good book.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Mark Twain on October 29, 2005
Format: Paperback
The book On Becoming a Leader by Warren Bennis was originally published in 1989, however over the years it was credited with being one of the best books on the topic of leadership, so the author has added a new introduction in an attempt to make the book just as valuable in 2005's world as it did in the world of the late 1980's.

The New Introduction does help make the reader have a feeling that the book is current but after only a few chapters and a review of the front cover of the book it is easily noticeable which other parts of the book are almost fifteen to twenty years out of date. For instance the front cover highlights that the book is "Recommended by Vice President Al Gore to All His Advisers", yet in the New Introduction Bennis goes on the chastise President Clinton over his lack of the third leg of the tripod of legacy, integrity.

The book also goes on to question the presidency of George H.W. Bush, when most American's are not only aware of his presidency, but are living in his son, George W. Bush's, presidency.

Despite the elementary contradictions offered by Bennis it is important to note the many benefits of the book that outweigh the trivial timeframe aspects. This book is filled with many important suggestions to the reader on how to become a leader. The most important of which is recognizing that neither any textbook nor any author can ever teach anyone to be the "perfect" leader. W. Bennis begins the book by highlighting the importance of the presence of leaders in an attempt to show the reader that it is needed for them to take the initiative and develop themselves into a leader.
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