ASQ - Team and Workplace Excellence Forum

Online Edition - August 2001


Issue Highlight — Moveable Chairs
- Peter Block discusses a Milwaukee religious dispute and how the protestors' passion and commitment regarding space and structure should transcend into the workplace.

 In This Issue...
Championing Change
Training The Trainee
Teaming For Tomorrow
Quality From The Ground Up

The Road To Quality

Peter Block Column
Views for a Change
Brief Cases

Return to NFC Index

    Pageturners        Book Reviews with a Twist

The Future of Leadership
by Warren Bennis, Gretchen M. Spreitzer adn Thomas G. Cummings

“Festschrift” is a German term for a volume of essays contributed by colleagues as a tribute to a scholar. About a year ago, a “festschrift” to honor Warren Bennis was hosted by the Department of Management and Organization at the Marshall School of Business at the University of Southern California of which Bennis is the founding chairman. It included a day-long conference followed by a banquet attended by more than 400 of his friends and colleagues. Here in this volume are the essays written for that special occasion. Gretchen M. Spreitzer and Thomas G. Cummings have done a brilliant job of co-editing the material, contributing an essay of their own. They and other authors respond to one or more questions which “keep him [Bennis] awake at night and challenge his intellect and curiosity.” This first chapter, “The Future Has No Shelf Life,” is written by Bennis and addresses several key questions about leadership in the next 10 years, what new leaders will look like and the role of the next generation.

   Their primary audience consists of tomorrow’s leaders. In 2001, some are infants, others are completing college or have recently embarked on careers and still others now occupy middle management levels. Think of the book as a literary time capsule. Those of us who examine the contents now can re-examine them in 2010. It will be interesting to learn which observations prove prescient and which do not.

   All of the essayists are experts on their respective subjects. The material is carefully organized within six parts: “Setting the Stage for the Future, The Organization of the Future, The Leader of the Future, How Leaders Stay On Top of their Game, Insights from Young Leaders and Some Closing Thoughts” which includes Bennis’ “Postlude: An Intellectual Memoir.” It remains for each reader, of course, to determine which essays have the greatest immediate value. All are so well-written that I suspect each will have special value at some point between now and 2010—perhaps beyond.

My Favorites
My personal favorites include the two essays by Bennis which serve as book-ends, as well as Handy’s “A World of Fleas and Elephants,” Kouzes and Posner’s “Bringing Leadership Lessons from the Past to the Future,” Lipman-Blumen’s “Why Do We Tolerate Bad leaders? Magnificent Incertitude, Anxiety and Meaning”, O’Toole’s “When Leadership Is an Organizational Trait,” and Spreitzer and Cummings’ “The Leadership Challenges of the Next Generation.”

   It seems most appropriate to conclude this commentary with a brief excerpt from Bennis’ own remarks in the book’s final chapter. After briefly reviewing the last 20 years of his career, he focuses specifically on the dynamic “Spirit of Place” which, in his opinion, Southern California, the Los Angeles area and USC now have. He cites their “rich variety of population, economic enterprise and social functions,” adding that, “diversity endows them with resilience and the gift of maintaining identity in the midst of endless changes. Perhaps this is all an elegant justification for why these past 20 years have been, for me, so alive, so absorbing and so invigorating, who knows. But I want to add something to what I said earlier—it isn’t only history that favored my career, it’s also geography, the spirit of the place.” Bennis is himself endowed with “resilience and the gift of maintaining identity in the midst of endless changes.”

   Whatever the future of leadership proves to be, it will have been guided and enriched by Warren Bennis, as well as by those who honor him with the essays assembled in this book.

Reviewed by Robert Morris,Independent Management Consultant, Dallas, Texas.

The Future of Leadership, Warren Bennis, Gretchen M. Spreitzer and Thomas G. Cummings, 2001, Jossey-Bass Publishers, San Francisco, CA. ISBN 0-787-95567-1.

Book Ratings:

= Pick it up today
  **** = Overnight it
*** = Snail mail it
** = At a library?
        * = Never mind

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