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Reinventing Leadership: Strategies to Empower the Organization
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Reinventing Leadership: Strategies to Empower the Organization

by Warren G. Bennis, Robert Townsend

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Leadership for the 21st Century

The demands of today's workplace call for stronger and more inspiring leadership in order to motivate employees and to achieve the quality results for which successful organizations constantly strive.

In Reinventing Leadership, Warren G. Bennis and Robert Townsend show leaders how to empower their organizations and


Leadership for the 21st Century

The demands of today's workplace call for stronger and more inspiring leadership in order to motivate employees and to achieve the quality results for which successful organizations constantly strive.

In Reinventing Leadership, Warren G. Bennis and Robert Townsend show leaders how to empower their organizations and bring the best out of each employee.

Inside you will find useful leadership strategies that include:

  • Moving away from conventional standards of business practice
  • Building trust
  • How to find a mentor
  • Rewarding accomplishment

These strategies will help transform leadership visions into reality and lead organizations into a future that includes increased employee satisfaction and continued economic growth.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Are organizations better controlled, guided and directed by leadership or by management? The title of this book gives the authors' answer. The distinction between leadership and management is presented in platitudes, e.g., ``The manager maintains: the leader develops.'' Bennis (Why Leaders Can't Lead) and Townsend (Up the Organization) further state that militaristic, command-and-control leadership has become anachronistic, and that the current downsized, flat-management era requires a new leadership style. To help readers develop the desirable new leadership traits, ``dialogue starters'' are suggested at the end of each chapter. The book concludes with a 21-day plan to help readers apply the pithy principles. Perhaps some might benefit from such a plan, but readers should be as skeptical of that laudable goal as they would be of a big weight loss in so short a time. (Dec.)

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Collins Business Essentials Series
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.47(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Reinventing the Leader

Who personifies the leader of today? Being in charge doesn't necessarily have the same connotations of "absolute power" that it used to have. In fact, today's Leaders find themselves benefiting from a more collaborative approach to management. By checking their egos at the door, so to speak, Leaders will find that they can tap into endless sources of potential from the people they lead.

Today's business climate calls for a new definition of what it takes to make an organization ran. With rapidly changing technology, a downsized workforce, and an emphasis on acquiring a broad range of skills, leaders today have to be more flexible than ever in their roles. Taking risks in their approach to management is the only choice left for those who want to have an impact on an increasingly global work force.

This chapter gives you an introduction to some of the basic ideas Robert Townsend and I have regarding the changing role of leadership in today's environment. Understanding some of the initial, broad-based principles every good leader should apply might illuminate for you some of the major mistakes made in the corporation today. As we delve more deeply into the techniques and strategies that constitute effective leadership, you'll begin to get a clearer picture of why leadership must always be a complex blend of art and science.


What's wrong with the old style of leadership?

Townsend: Let me state a basic old form of leadership. This anachronism is the person who in effect says to his organization, "I order all of youinsignificant little people to come to work excited, energetic, and creative and to accomplish impossible tasks, so that I may become rich and famous and live a luxurious life traveling around the world and building a home on the Riviera and playing golf with other important people like myself. By the way, I want you to park in the outer lot and slog through the snow past the empty parking space with my name on it, and I also want you to pay for your coffee while I get mine free, served on fine china."

That was the old model, and it worked. Some great companies were built, and they prospered with that kind of leader. But now we're a long way past that.

Bennis: You have to wonder why it worked, when it worked, and why it doesn't work today. In a marvelous old movie called Twelve O'Clock High, the command-and-control model of leadership is represented by Gregory Peck taking over this demoralized battalion and revitalizing it. It's a continuation of the myth of the great man.

But we've got to go from macho to maestro, from someone who thinks he has all the answers and gets all the perks to someone who can conduct his staff to find its own answers. The old style is just not going to work anymore. It probably worked for a little while because it embodies bureaucracy and one-person control. That notion of bureaucracy was perfect for an environment that was predictable and orderly. The reason leaders of this type succeeded was because they could forecast what was going to happen in two years.

Townsend: just a minute, Warren. Calling people "staff" isn't much better than calling them subordinates or employees. By now we ought to be better at thinking of people as associates or colleagues or partners, and calling them that. But why don't you think command-and-control will work today?

Bennis: Because today we live in an environment in which technology is changing the way we think. Today, demography is destiny and the world gives us vertigo every day as we read the newspaper. With globalization and a whole new world order, I don't see how the old type of leadership could work today.

Townsend: Come on, get specific. Why won't it work?

Bennis: Here's why, Bob. The key to competitive advantage in the 1990s and beyond will be the capacity of leadership to create a social architecture capable of generating intellectual capital. The key words in that dense sentence are the last two. Intellectual capital means ideas, know-how, innovation, knowledge, and expertise. That's what's going to make the difference. Restructuring and reengineering can Lake you only so far; you cannot restructure or reengineer your company into prosperity. That takes ideas and reinvention. And reinvention takes, as I said, brains and ideas and knowledge. You're not going to attract or retain a work force like that under silly and obsolete forms of bureaucratic, command-and-control leadership. You can't release the brainpower of any organization by using whips and chains. You get the best out of people by empowering them, by supporting them, by getting out of their way. As author Max De Pree said, you've got to abandon your ego to the talents of others. That's why.

Townsend: Great leaders are like great presidents. A number of years ago, I asked this question of Robert Sobel, a history teacher and author: "When are we going to get great leaders in this country?" Sobel looked me straight in the eye and replied, "Hopefully not in my lifetime. Great leaders inevitably take the United States over the precipice. "

Bennis: I think a great president, like any other great leader, has to have at least three things. First, a strong set of convictions. Second, a devoted constituency. Third, the capacity to use his position as a bully pulpit to muster broad support for his goals. These criteria are what leaders need at the national level, and this vision is what organizations need at the local level.

Bureaucracies, on the other hand, really don't encourage leadership. The best institutions are those that grow leaders, and that requires a totally different view of what organizations should be like...

Meet the Author

Warren G. Bennis is university professor and founding chairman of the Leadership Institute at the University of Southern California. He is also chairman of the Center for Public Leadership at Harvard's Kennedy School and Distinguished Research Fellow at the Harvard Business School. He has written more than twenty-five books on leadership, change, and creative collaboration including Leaders, which was recently designated by the Financial Times as one of the top 50 business books of all time. His most recent book is Geeks & Geezers.

Robert Townsend was a former director of American Express, and was the author of the New York Times best seller Up the Organization.

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