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On Becoming a Leader

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  3,961 Ratings  ·  104 Reviews
With a new introduction by the authorWarren Bennis's formative years, in the 1930s and '40s, were characterized by severe economic hardship and a world war that showcased the extreme depths and heights to which leaders could drive their followers. Today's environment is similarly chaotic, turbulent, and uncertain. On Becoming a Leader has served for nearly fifteen years as ...more
Paperback, Updated and Expanded Edition, 256 pages
Published April 2nd 2003 by Perseus Publishing (first published December 31st 1899)
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Misty
Nov 04, 2008 rated it really liked it
Bennis discusses the importance of reflection as a tool for excellent leadership throughout his book On becoming a leader: The leadership classic (2003). I was particularly interested in his insight on reflection because it seems that few leaders have time to luxuriate in quiet time for reflection. After reading this book I see the importance of taking time to listen to one's inner voice. Bennis states that the most important lesson of leadership is learning to trust the inner voice (p. 28). He ...more
Jeff
Jan 14, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: leadership
I had to read this book for a graduate class. When I first started with it, I was excited because it was easy to read and really highlighted some good points with respect to leadership. In reality, I have picked up some good quotes from it.

However, as my coursework progressed and was assigned additional leadership texts, I came to regard this one as very bland. It is meant to be a prescriptive text for leaders but I think it is sporadic in theme and delivery. In some cases, it is hard to underst
...more
Jason
Dec 29, 2012 rated it did not like it
This was a book of the month for my leadership organization & my first exposure to Mr Bennis. It was clear from the start of the "updated" edition that he has an ideological slant. This annoyed me greatly; but it's what one would expect from someone who has spent most of his career under the comfy umbrella of academia. I'm surprised this was selected as book of the month, I'll never read another Bennis book again.
Sunny
Sep 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I thought this was brilliant. Some of the references to some of the great American businessmen are very very insightful. the books talks about mastering the context, understanding the basics, yourself and the world. Using your instinct and brining your whole self into work, moving through chaos, getting people onto your side and forging the future. Very highly recommended and actually one of the better business books I think I have read.
Alex Gordon
Jul 09, 2015 rated it did not like it
I don't know why people rate this book so highly exactly but my guess is the title alone may have something to do with it. Honestly, there are so many great books out there of stories of leaders to glean from... this one was pretty boring to me.
Kristina
Aug 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really liked this book. User friendly, very practical, and well-written. Inspiring.
Jenny (Reading Envy)
We read this for a library leadership council retreat, and I would give it 2 and 1/3 stars. Overall it isn't well researched, Bennis throws in random political opinions that are so far on the opinion spectrum (as opposed to fact) that they fail to prove his point, and sexism is built-in to the text. It is also very focused on a corporate environment, and for our purposes, something more academia-specific would have been more useful. Yes, I suppose I am punishing this book for not being good for ...more
Tom
Mar 10, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was assigned reading for a required management class in my MLIS program, and I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed the read. I thought that the book would be a management self-help book, with tips and tricks for becoming a cookie-cutter manager who can achieve results for the bottom-line, but Bennis makes a clear distinction between the manager and the leader, and his insight into leadership could just as well be applied as insight into living as an authentic self. ...more
Timothy Darling
Bennis's book is a classic for a reason. His articulate advocacy for authenticity, making mistakes and understanding the context in which leadership functions are seminal ideas, even if they are not new. Particularly the advice to know one's self and to be loyal to that persona is quite good. The way he describes his subjects as eternally energetic optimists about their own visions make for compelling examples. Optimism, trust, and transparncy, in fact, become the central qualities of a leader w ...more
Tyler
May 19, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: leadership
There were definitely some good insights in this book, but there was also a lot that in my judgment was thoroughly underwhelming. I took notes as I read and the insights I considered worth making the effort to record and remember took up just a couple typed pages:

P. xviii
“integrity is the most important characteristic of a leader, and one that he or she must be prepared to demonstrate again and again.”

P. xxiv
“a more dangerous world makes the need for leadership, in every organization, in every i
...more
Olamide OPEYEMI
Jul 20, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a very good book on leadership. It is based on real-life, real-time research conducted by the author as well as the author's own philosophical convictions. Although, he can take more time than you might feel necessary to drive home his points, he basically wins you over with his very logical, unassuming and truthful conclusions. I am glad to see the prevailing wisdom of Mr. Bennis tirelessly underscoring the profundity of each interviewee's thought on life and leadership and what they mi ...more
Beth Honeycutt
A bit repetitive...especially for someone not used to reading business books.
Michael Harden
May 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book has been one of the most amazing reads. Warren Bennis connects with you by making you reflect upon yourself as a human being and a leader. He gives many examples of great leaders and explains in depth the reasons behind their successes. It is impossible to re-write the detailed reflections but I hope to provide enough insight to entice you all to read this book. In this review I will highlight some important traits that according to Warren Bennis are must to have in a leader.

Vision, i
...more
Emmett Chase
Aug 12, 2017 rated it liked it
This book was originally published in 1989. One might worry that it is outdated. I didn't read this for a class or anything, I just found it at the second-hand store and thought there must be some knowledge of value in the pages; the writer is a professor at USC and the book claims that Al Gore "recommends this book to all of his advisers." Anyone who thinks the book is outdated doesn't know how to separate garbage from treasure, and even if you believe the world has moved on then it is still va ...more
Chris
Oct 16, 2017 rated it liked it
Most of the book has good information. The author analyzes leaders from a contemporary time frame of reference.

Pro: The writing was general enough to be broadly applicable to corporate leaders at the strategic/senior level. The writing correlated well with about 80% of my own leadership experiences (good enough for Pareto, right?).

Con: There was very little comparative analysis of leadership styles. There was very little reference to historical leaders outside the author's generation. The poli
...more
Christian Ray
Dec 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: gtd, business
In the edition I read, written in 1989, Bennis talks about a crisis in America- the dominant role of corporations, a lack of integrity in corporate America, and a consequent lack of leadership. If anything, these problems have become amplified by the evolutions and revolutions of information technology in the subsequent 30 years. The lessons to be learned, then, have remained more relevant than ever: integrity is a central facet of Bennis's vision of leadership.
John Browning
Nov 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Worth the read for anyone in leadership or aspiring to it.
John
Sep 28, 2017 rated it it was ok
Classic? Sounds more like his journal. Reads more like excerpts of interviews with his pals.
Jlemerson27
Does it count as reading if I listened to it during my car rides to and from work?

Although outdated with some information, there are some interesting anecdotes and leadership qualities that endure.
Reed
May 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
its as a pretty good and i think it helped me think of how to be a better person
John Whitfield
hard to follow but the overall theme made sense.
Sean Brady
Jan 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
Pretty awesome. I would have given it a 5, but some of it was above my head and/or I did not connect with it. This leadership stuff is for being in charge of companies and countries and stuff. But, it also seems quite useful for taking charge of your life. The book makes the point that leadership is not something to be learned from a book! Then why get the book. Sort of kidding. The book says that leadership is discovered by being put into difficult situations and having the skillset to solve th ...more
Craig
Mar 10, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Super disappointed by this book. The reason I picked this book up is two-fold. First, it came recommended by one of the greatest leaders I have ever known. Second, I wanted to expand my world in regard to the leadership teachers I am reading. While I still respect the leader that recommended this book, I will just have to assume it spoke to him in a different way. The good, the bad, the ugly.... First, "The Good"- a few great leadership principles (though nothing new) communicated in a different ...more
Kevin
Apr 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“On Becoming A Leader” (2003©) and was written by Warren Bennis – updated version from the original published in 1989. Bennis is considered to be the “father” of the developed leader school. His mantra is that leaders are not born, they are made. Some are made by history, but Bennis goes farther in that he believes many (if not most) make themselves. They (leaders in process) have various ways of “making” themselves, but ultimately they follow similar paths to becoming a leader. The book is mean ...more
George
As someone who reads a lot of leadership / self-development material, I can confidently say that this book is highly overrated. I picked it up because it is always on "Best Leadership Books Ever" lists and others routinely cite it. I have only the smallest idea as to why. It does contain some valuable information and some challenging ideas; there are useful aspects to this book -- thus the two stars rather than just one. However, the book's substantial shortcomings made it hard to slog through a ...more
Dave Krig
Dec 23, 2016 rated it really liked it
It's a well-rounded book about leadership. However, at the end of the day it is a fairly cynical, though accurate, analysis of our country's severe lack of leadership at every level of society. In turn, the tone of the book is more a desperate plea for the reader to become the hero that Gotham needs, so to speak. Despite the buzz kill, it reaffirms most of the things you'll study elsewhere: that the human element of leadership trumps our culture's constant desire to manage instead, that authenti ...more
Tiffany
Sep 11, 2013 rated it it was ok
I find it hard to believe that this book is considered a thought leader on leadership. All it really does is describe characteristics generally found in leaders. It seems to equate correlation with causation. All great leaders have been tested in some way. But that's also true of our worst leaders.

The reality is that we're all tested. Some crack under the testing, some are molded by it, and still others are propelled by it. Likewise, many individuals are continual learners and students of the w
...more
Rick
Jan 28, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition

Deemed the dean of leadership gurus by Forbes magazine, Warren Bennis has for years persuasively argued that leaders are not bornthey are made. Delving into the qualities that define leadership, the people who exemplify it, and the strategies that anyone can apply to achieve it, his classic work On Becoming a Leader has served as a source of essential insight for countless readers. In a world increasingly defined by turbulence and uncertainty, the call to leadership is more urgent than ever.

Fe

...more
YVLeadership
Nov 07, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: recommended
“Most business books share stories about a leader of a company and how he or she overcomes particular challenges. Others offer a lesson learned from business experience. Often these books all read alike, but not Bennis’ books. He has a way of sharing a business experience while extracting insight and, more importantly, wisdom. He brings out the best in every story and especially helped me understand the value of self reflection and obstacles. He writes so clearly about how reflection provides se ...more
David
Feb 11, 2008 rated it really liked it
Pretty good book on Leadership for this time in history (1990's through 2010's). Bennis does a good job enlightening how leaders are formed and how this is a product of a culture/context.
He also does a pretty good job of delineating what kinds of things a leader CAN learn and what might need to be either innate/genetic or cultural (e.g. integrity, empathy).
Yet when Bennis tries to lay out what makes a good leader, it gets a bit weak.

At this point in time, with the changes going on in both leader
...more
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Warren Gamaliel Bennis is an American scholar, organizational consultant and author, widely regarded as a pioneer of the contemporary field of Leadership Studies. Bennis is University Professor and Distinguished Professor of Business Administration and Founding Chairman of The Leadership Institute at the University of Southern California.

“His work at MIT in the 1960s on group behavior foreshadowe
...more
More about Warren G. Bennis
“If knowing yourself and being yourself were as easy to do as to talk about, there wouldn't be nearly so many people walking around in borrowed postures, spouting secondhand ideas, trying desperately to fit in rather than to stand out.” 13 likes
“...once you recognize, or admit, that your primary goal is to fully express yourself, you will find the means to achieve the rest of your goals...” 8 likes
More quotes…