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Warren Bennis

Warren Bennis

Warren Bennis is University Professor and Distinguished Professor of Business at the University of Southern California. His newest book is 'Still Surprised: A Memoir of a Life in Leadership.'

Five 'musts' for leaders

1. Be present and accessible. More than usual. More than ever. Helps a lot to be seen. "Management by Walking Around," as Peters and Waterman wrote almost 30 years ago, is more critical now than ever before. C.P. Snow wrote in the late 50s that leaders "must never absent themselves during times of crisis." Be there. Now. Visible.

2. Communicate obsessively about:

-- The challenges facing the organization and a frank and clear, step-by-step on what must be done.

-- The fact that we're all in this together, that our fates are correlated and that the only route to success is more transparency and more collaboration.

-- What's important -- often forgotten, even in good times.

3. Leaders are social architects who, especially during hard and uncertain times, are obliged to create a culture of candor and reflection that not only will keep hope alive but can be a watershed moment capable of opening up the prospect of new possibilities/opportunities, ignored or unseen during stable and successful times.

In Beckett's "Waiting for Godot," one of the characters says, "Habit is a great deadener." Successful habits that may have worked in the past, can turn out to be greater deadeners.

4. You are not alone. Abandon that susceptible ego, the dangerous delusion, that you alone can solve the problem or invent new strategies that will, with one wave of the wand, guarantee future success, that asking for help isn't, er, manly.

You have to quickly identify trusted colleagues within and others, outside the cocoon of the C-suite, for their advice. During crises, the tendency of top management is to circle the wagons.You must have a network of mavens and others whose experience and expertise can make a huge difference?

5. Assign Barbara Tuchman's "March of Folly: From Troy to Vietnam" and lead a discussion about the illusions that have besotted you and your direct reports in the past and must be understood before any real changes can be made.

By Warren Bennis

 |  January 8, 2010; 6:52 AM ET
Category:  Economic crisis Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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