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On Becoming a Leader 4th Edition

3.8 out of 5 stars 91 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0465014088
ISBN-10: 0465014089
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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Warren Bennis is Distinguished Professor of Business Administration at the University of Southern California and a consultant to multinational companies and governments throughout the world. He is the author of dozens of articles and over thirty books on leadership, including Learning to Lead and Organizing Genius. He lives in Santa Monica, California.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; 4 edition (March 3, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465014089
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465014088
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (91 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #24,692 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As the tile indicates, this is a book on leadership development - "the hows: how people become leaders, how they lead, and how organizations encourage or stifle potential leaders." The premise upon which this book is based is best put by Warren himself - "...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."

The book then goes on to further elaborate on each of the areas highlighted above. The key differentiator between this and other leadership books is that this one promotes unleashing leadership from within, rather than describe what a person should strive to be. To me, this is the only way to develop sustainable authentic leaders. Another area of focus is that of experience. Warren stresses the importance of experience as the primary and ultimate development vehicle for leaders. Education is all its forms is important - but does not substitute the need for experience whether successes or failures. The book brings to life all of the aspects discussed through the stories of many successful leaders from a variety of sectors.

A must read in the area of leadership and personal development!
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I simply hated this book. It spends way too much time talking about politics from an obviously partisan perspective. When it does talk about leadership, it is almost exclusively anecdotal. It was neither helpful nor interesting. However, I have heard very good things about the author as a leadership expert. I may try one of his other books.
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Format: Paperback
Like most business books you really only need to read an outline or a list of the maxims to get the point.

Especially the beginning where the author tediously paints a bleak picture of the moral state of the U.S. ostensibly to convince the reader of the leadership vacuum of the current time.

Also, the author simplistically proclaims certain historical figures leaders and other not. For example, he calls JFK a leader, and Clinton not. The difference being Clinton's moral failings. This seems to ignore JFK's record of philandering and opioid dependence.

Using phrases like "new economy" makes the book sounded dated at times.

That aside, I think there are some gems for the patient reader or those who can skim effectively.
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I chose this book based on my reading of The Contrarian's Guide to Leadership by Steve Sample (a great book). Unfortunately, I could barely make it through this book. The few phrases of inspiration needed to be mined from pages of unorganized and misplaced vignettes about "leaders". Mr. Bennis begins with a sound set of leadership attributes, but loses focus along the way by adding more and more of what I would call "bullet points of leadership". I think he needs a good editor to help find a focus and stick with it. It is too bad, I think there is some good stuff in there. Good luck finding it.
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Bennis offers some great, timeless advice on how to be a better leader and the qualities leaders possess. His overall thesis is that true leadership is really about self-expression, and that a leader strives to fully express himself rather than striving simply to be in charge.

The format becomes a bit tedious, and some of the examples he uses are very weak in making his point about leadership. He seems fixated on the idea of reinvention, and that one must reinvent himself in order to truly find himself and thus truly be a leader. He gives the impression that only those who suffered sad, insular childhoods are good leaders because they've developed an inner strength and sense of self upon which to draw. People who have relatively easily assimilated into society and a profession are, in contrast, just living out the desires of their parents and society and so they are not truly expressing themselves or deploying themselves to the fullest. This part of the argument is a bit over the top.

The other part of the book that comes off the rails is when he essentially asserts that any education other than a liberal arts one is devoid of creativity and a waste of your time. But don't worry all you doctors, engineers, scientists...there's hope for you because you can still learn the arts on your own to unlock your true creativity. This is obviously complete nonsense, and I'm surprised it made it through editing. Creating novel, elegant solutions to problems in the fields of science, engineering, and medicine are some of the most creative feats of human history. To cast them aside as useless compared to courses in art history is incredibly myopic.
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