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Published: October 1, 2010

 
 

Donning a Leader’s Garb

If I had been more self-aware then, better equipped to analyze the remarkable circumstances in which I found myself, I might have asked myself if I was authentic in this new role. But I have no recollection of thinking deeply and analytically about anything that was happening to me. As everyone does in war, I lived entirely in the often miserable present. But in an almost magical way, the uniform seemed to bestow on me the ability to do what I had to do. It was talisman and inspiration, a symbol of my new authority and a mark of my new responsibility. More than 40 years later, Sydney Pollack, the director of such much lauded films as Tootsie and Out of Africa, told me how he turned himself into a director by playing the role of director. “The first time I directed anything,” he said, “I acted like a director. That’s the only thing I knew how to do, because I didn’t know anything about directing. I had images of directors from working with them [Pollack was also an actor], and I even tried to dress like a director — clothes that were kind of outdoorsy. I didn’t put on puttees, or anything like that. But if there had been a megaphone around, I would have grabbed it.” The role and a persuasive costume from L.L. Bean allowed Pollack to behave like a director until he truly became one. 

— Warren Bennis

Reprinted by permission of the publisher, John Wiley & Sons Inc. Copyright © 2010 by Warren Bennis. All rights reserved.

 
 
 
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This Reviewer

  1. James O’Toole is the Daniels Distinguished Professor of Business Ethics at the University of Denver’s Daniels College of Business. He has written or edited 17 books, including The Executive’s Compass: Business and the Good Society (Oxford University Press, 1993), Leading Change: The Argument for Values-Based Leadership (Jossey-Bass, 1995), and, most recently, Good Business: Exercising Effective and Ethical Leadership (edited with Don Mayer; Routledge, 2010).

This Excerpt

  1. Still Surprised: A Memoir of a Life in Leadership (Jossey-Bass, 2010) by Warren Bennis with Patricia Ward Biederman
  2. Warren Bennis is widely regarded as the pioneer of the contemporary field of leadership. He is the distinguished professor of business administration and founding chairman of the Leadership Institute at the University of Southern California. He is the best-selling author of more than 25 books, including Leaders: The Strategies for Taking Charge (with Burt Nanus; Harper & Row, 1985), On Becoming a Leader (Perseus Books, 1989), and The Essential Bennis (with Patricia Ward Biederman; Jossey-Bass, 2009).
  3. Patricia Ward Biederman is an award-winning journalist and former staff writer for the Los Angeles Times. A longtime collaborator with Warren Bennis, she is the coauthor with him of Organizing Genius: The Secrets of Creative Collaboration (Perseus Books, 1997).

 

 
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