This week I have been poring through textbooks as I prepare to teach some on-line Master’s levels courses this fall. As I prep, I am reminded how much learning occurs through the ‘doing’ process. Learning is a journey that challenges our assumptions and helps us learn to think in new ways. The process of thinking differently must also occur outside of the classroom and is a critical ingredient in successful organizations.Warren Bennis, often considered the father of contemporary leadership, listed creativity and thinking outside-the-box as one of the most important leadership qualities.
Gareth Morgan, an organizational development expert provides a great reminder of the importance of this skill:
“Skilled leaders and managers develop the knack of reading situations with various scenarios in mind and of forging actions that seem appropriate to the understandings thus obtained. They have a capacity to remain open and flexible, suspending immediate judgement whenever possible until a more comprehensive view of the situation emerges. They are aware that new insights often arise as one approaches situations from ‘new angles’ and that a wide and varied assessment can create a wide and varied range of action possibilities. Less effective managers and problem solvers, however, seem to interpret everything from a fixed standpoint. As a result, the frequently hit blocks they cannot get around; their actions and behaviors are often rigid and inflexible.”
Nurturing the ability to see things differently takes time and effort. As you consider the need to look at old challenges in new ways, here are a few of my favorite quotes to inspire you:
I skate to where the puck is going to be. Wayne Gretzky
The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function. F.Scott Fitzgerald
A person who never made a mistake has never tried anything new. Albert Einstein
Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity. Seneca
People will not believe what does not fit in with their plans or suit their prearrangements. Barbara Tuchman
What everybody knows is what has already happened or become obvious. What the aware individual knows is what has not yet taken shape, what has not occurred. Sun Tzu
We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them. Albert Einstein
No plan survives first contact with the enemy. Russian General von Moltke
Doubt is not a pleasant condition but certainty is absurd. Voltaire
Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Albert Einstein
Many of you are aware that Warren Bennis, a modern leader in the field of leadership studies passed away on July 31, 2014. Earlier today, my good friend Paul Sohn posted an excellent summary of some of his contributions. Rather than reiterate this good work, I share Paul’s content in a guest post.
If Peter Drucker was “the father of management,” Warren Bennis will be remembered as “the father of leadership.”
When I discovered Warren Bennis’ passing last Thursday, I remembered this man’s remarkable legacy. Bennis was truly a leader of leaders. It was Bennis who first said leadership is not a set of genetic characteristics, but rather the result of the lifelong process of self-discovery. That process enables people to become fully integrated human beings who know themselves and bring out the best in others.
The first book I read from Bennis was his classic “On Becoming a Leader” which catapulted by leadership journey. Here are my top ten quotes from Bennis which I hope will inspire you to become a leader of leaders.
1. “The most dangerous leadership myth is that leaders are born – that there is a genetic factor to leadership. This myth asserts that people simply either have certain charismatic qualities or not. That’s nonsense; in fact, the opposite is true. Leaders are made rather than born.”
2. “Excellence is a better teacher than mediocrity. The lessons of the ordinary are everywhere. Truly profound and original insights are to be found only in studying the exemplary.”
3. “Too many companies believe people are interchangeable. Truly gifted people never are. They have unique talents. Such people cannot be forced into roles they are not suited for, nor should they be. Effective leaders allow great people to do the work they were born to do.”
4. “Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.”
5. “Leaders must encourage their organizations to dance to forms of music yet to be heard.”
6. “Managers do things right. Leaders do the right thing.”
7. “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.”
8. “The manager accepts the status quo; the leader challenges it.”
9. “No leader sets out to be a leader. People set out to live their lives, expressing themselves fully. When that expression is of value, they become leaders. So the point is not to become a leader. The point is to become yourself, to use yourself completely – all your skills, gifts and energies – in order to make your vision manifest. You must withhold nothing. You, must, in sum, become the person you started out to be, and to enjoy the process of becoming.”
10. “Failing organizations are usually over-managed and under-led.”
BONUS: Top 5 Leadership Books You Should Read by Warren Bennis:
Paul Sohn is an organizational chiropractor, purpose weaver, and kingdom-minded catalyst. Paul currently serves at The Boeing Company as a LEAN practitioner, providing expertise in continuous improvement initiatives, building high-performing teams and processes to create effective organizations. Paul also serves as an organizational consultant and Board Director at the Portland Leadership Foundation. He is writing his forthcoming book on how to live intentionally as a twenty-something. Paul received a Bachelor of Commerce degree at University of British Columbia in 2010. Above all, Paul’s vision is to turn the world upside down by equipping, connecting, and transforming emerging Christian leaders and organizations.You can discover more about him on his website.