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Managing People is Like Herding Cats: Warren Bennis on Leadership Paperback – May 25, 1999

3.8 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Warren Bennis is Distinguished Professor of Business Administration and founding Chairman of The Leadership Institute at the University of Southern California. He has served on the faculties of MIT's Sloan School of Management, Harvard and Boston University, and was executive vice president of State University of New York at Buffalo. For seven years he served as president of the University of Cincinnati. He has been observing and writing about leadership for more than four decades and is the best-selling author of Leader, An Invented Life (nominated for a Pulitzer Prize), and Organizing Genius.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Executive Excellence Publishing (May 25, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 189000961X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1890009618
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 0.6 x 8.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #689,143 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Robert Morris HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 17, 2001
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Apparently another reviewer agrees with Ecclesiastes that there is nothing new under the sun and I agree with both of them. There is nothing new in this book nor does Bennis make that claim. He has observed that this book offers his last and best comments on the subject of leadership. In it, he has assembled his best ideas from a number of previous books he authored or co-authored. Let us all hope that this is not his final contribution to the subject.
Bennis begins with an especially apt quotation of T.S. Eliot's comments on his cat The Rum Tum Tugger: "For he will do as he will do, and there's no doing anything about it. When you let him in, then he wants out; he's always in the wrong side of the door." As an owner of countless cats myself for more than 20 years, I can personally affirm that Eliot's cat is normal. It really makes no difference what you name a cat nor what you say to it. The best advice I can offer is to remember that a dog's idea of God is a human being but that a cat's idea of God is a cat. For thousands of years, the human race has deified certain rulers (e.g. Caesars), many of whom (like cats) saw themselves as deities. Until recently, many corporate CEOs embraced the "command and control" leadership style. Several of them are on record as viewing themselves as omniscient and omnipotent, victims of what I characterize as "The Ozmanias Syndrome" which is inevitably fatal for them and often for their spheres of influence as well.

Back to Bennis and this book. To those who aspire to lead people, here's his advice: "Be humble. Stop trying to `herd cats' and start building trust and mutual respect. Your `cats' will respond. They will sense your purpose, keep your business purring, and even kill your rats.
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By A Customer on December 1, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Initially I was intrigued by the title of this book - what has `cat-herding' to do with managing people? Bennis' statement that `cats can't be herded, but they can be led' makes sense in a quirky way. Much like cats, people are quite resistant to any sort of rules or change that are being forced upon them; they react much better if they are gently led. I think one of the biggest challenges that we all face is leadership - defining leadership, and then defining ourselves within that definition. Managing and leading are not the same thing, and it's the leaders rather than the managers who will be truly successful throughout the next decade, and beyond.
Bennis states that there is a `leadership crisis' in the United States, and offers four contributing factors. The first is the `growing disparity between the rich and the poor'. I wholeheartedly agree - nothing erodes trust in our leadership than seeing CEOs making millions, while John Q. Public has been downsized out of a job, and no longer has health insurance for his kids.
The second factor is what Bennis calls the `inverted trust factor'. This has to do with trust in government, and how that trust has eroded. This book was published in 1999; we've all seen the brief surge in trust that followed the September 11th tragedy; however, as Osama bin Laden continues to elude us, I feel that trust in our government is on the downswing again.
The third factor Bennis calls the `abandoned other half', those who have been laid off and downsized. With a growing population and a shrinking job market, what chance do American workers have of finding a decent job with good wages and benefits?
The last contributor to the `crisis' is the lack of empowerment felt by American workers.
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Format: Paperback
This is the first book that I have read by Bennis, and I didn't find anything earth-shattering in it. The book did have some good chapters, but the majority of it rehashed most of the other books on leadership I have read. I suppose there is nothing all that new under the sun. Although the book isn't very long, some sections of chapters appear to be re-hashes from earlier chapters. It reads as a collection of his essays, with common themes sewn throughout (ex: Managers do things right, Leaders do the right thing). For those that are leaders (or aspiring leaders), the information in Herding Cats will serve to reinforce what you should already know.
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Format: Audio Cassette
I was disappointed in the content of the two tapes. The title suggests that it instructs on the management of unmanageble people, but Bennis spends most of the tape speaking in generalities about leadership (and seems to look down his nose at managers as lacking leadership qualities). The title might better be something along the lines of <<Bennis' Random Thoughts on Leadership>>.
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Format: Paperback
Warren Bennis is very well regarded in the leadership world. I bought the book hoping for some insight and intrigued by the title. I was disappointed.

On a positive note, Bennis is very, very quotable. Sound bites are sprinkled throughout, like, "There isn't a company in America that wouldn't benefit from a little less efficiency and a lot more inspiration."

The problem is, the cutsey quotes don't connect. As stand-alone quotes, they suck you in and make it seem interesting. But there's nothing in between. Same with the catchy titles--"Too Many Chiefs," "Shakes and Quakes," and even "Managing People is Like Herding Cats." It got my attention but never delivered.

In addition, the title indicates that the book might give some insight into managing people. Nope. I was actually insulted to be a manager. The entire book couches leaders as the saviors and managers as the uninspired, uncreative simpletons of the business world. "Management is about systems, controls, procedures, policies, structure. Leadership is about trust--about people."

If you want a book with great quotes you can throw around to seem wise and deep, this book can help. If you want inspiration because you fancy yourself a leader and visionary, this might be interesting. If you want a book with actually helps you with your effectiveness as a leader, forget it.
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