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The Handy Guide to the Gurus of Management
Charles Handy was, for many years, a professor at the London Business School. He is now an independent writer and broadcaster. He describes himself, these days, as a social philosopher.
Episode 5: Warren Bennis

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Warren's work on leadership is in his book 'Leaders', which he wrote with his colleague Burt Nanus in 1985. For this book he interviewed 90 leaders in America from business organizations and non-profit organizations.

It was encouraging to find that there is no one right way to lead, that we each have to find our own best style, but Warren did suggest some common characteristics or competencies:

- the Management of Attention - the need for a vision to focus minds
- the Management of Meaning - the need to communicate the vision
- the Management of Trust - the need to be consistent and honest
- the Management of Self - the need to be aware of one's weaknesses

Leaders also need to be strong enough to accept criticism when it is valid, to know when to change and when to plough on regardless.

In 'Organizing Genius' published in the nineties, Bennis examined great groups and concluded that evey great group needed:

- a shared dream
- members ready to sacrifice their personal egos for the dream
- young members prepared to work long hours
- protection from the 'suits'

Leaders constantly remind people of why their work is important, they create an atmosphere of trust so that people can disagree and argue but still work together, they encourage curiosity, experiment and risk-taking. Finally, leaders create hope, because without hope it can be difficult to go on when everything seems to be going wrong.

After studying these great groups Bennis began to worry that he had concentrated too much on the role of the individual leader. Leadership, he now believes, is increasingly a shared task and he talks now of partnership rather than leadership.

Next week we discuss the ideas of Sumantra Ghoshal , who adds an Indian dimension to the study of organizations.

Read Warren Bennis' biography

Some useful business words:

the position of leader

someone who works in the same place as someone else

causing feelings of courage, hope and confidence


wise understanding of how the future will be

direct the attention of

following a regular pattern

to have knowledge or understanding

to plough on regardless
to continue in spite of difficulties

to sacrifice their personal egos
to forget about their own interests to achieve a common goal

to work long hours
to work more than the usual working hours

people who wear a suit - jacket and trousers or skirt - here, investors

to help someone to remember

actions which may lead to loss or defeat

shared task
responsibility of more than one person

organizations where members share risks and profits

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