The Art and Adventure of Leadership
With incredible insight, this book examines why George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and other giants were able to recover from failures, learn resilience, and prepare themselves for their moments of destiny. In so doing, it demonstrates and helps cultivate the leadership skills that you need to create your own most meaningful legacy. The Art and Adventure of Leadership is a unique look at lead-ership, and a critical resource for the leaders of tomorrow. WARREN BENNIS, University Professor and Distinguished Professor of Business Administration at the University of Southern California, was widely considered the pioneer of modern leadership studies. He was the author or coauthor of 30 books on leadership, including classics such as On Becoming a Leader, Transparency, and Still Surprised . Over a career that spanned 50 years, he advised four United States presidents as well as many CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. For more information, visit www.WarrenBennis.com STEVEN B. SAMPLE, President Emeritus of the University of Southern California, is the author of The Contrarian's Guide to Leadership . After being recruited to USC by Bennis in 1991, he led the university through two decades of explosive growth. A noted inventor whose developments are used today in hundreds of millions of homes, Sample is a member of the National Academy of Engineering. For more information, visit: about.usc.edu/presidentemeritus/ ROB ASGHAR, University Fellow at USC's Center on Public Diplomacy and Special Adviser to the USC President, spent more than 15 years as an aide to Sample and Bennis. His essays and commentaries have been published by the Wall Street Journal, Chicago Tribune, Christian Science Monitor , and dozens of other publications around the world. For more information, visit www.RobAsghar.com or follow him on Twitter via @rasghar
The Art and Adventure of Leadership
We are all failures-at least the best of us are.
- J. M. Barrie , Scottish author and creator of Peter Pan
This book is intended to be an outlier within the world of management and leadership. We believe this is necessary if society is to cultivate better and wiser leaders.
Much of today's management literature fosters warm feelings and unimportant results. It has good intentions but it leads to sterile outcomes.
Two things are too often lacking in popular analyses of leadership today. First, there is a need to pose more serious, even painful, questions to women and men who aim to lead. Second, there is a need for a real-world, mature, balanced treatment of the complex and convoluted role that failure plays in the life of a leader.
Though the age-old natural human impulse is to recoil from failure, failing forward and failing better have recently become catchphrases in business. This is a swing to the opposite end of the pendulum, and now most management experts, innovation experts, and start-up chief executive officers (CEOs) are using these terms too glibly.
Not many organizations reward or celebrate failure in any observable way. Few even tolerate it. What sensible venture capital firm, after all, would invest millions in a start-up that believed it was perfectly acceptable to fail?
For a broader and more satisfying treatment of when failure is beneficial and when it's not, we must go beyond the faddish management-speak, by surveying the landscapes of history and human behavior. We believe our approach is instructive and liberating.
There are no easy answers in the world of true leaders, no seven-step formulas for being a worthy leader. That allows the aspiring leader to set out on an adventure unlike any other.
Authenticity of Ambition
Leadership has taken on a cult status in recent decades. When Warren and his peers began exploring human organizational dynamics in the years after World War II, the concept of leadership drew far less attention. In 2014, an Internet search of the term "leadership expert" yielded 112 million results; the overblown term "leadership guru" yielded 26 million results. The training of managers and leaders is a megabillion industry, and it shows no indication of declining.
But not everyone can-or should want to-be a leader. Although one could say that all of us can be leaders in some realms and followers in other realms, only a small percentage of people should aspire to print the title Leader on their business cards.
Too often the wrong people seek out that title, egged on by parents, school counselors, and the many management gurus who claim to offer an infallible formula for leadership development.
Most leaders are ambitious, perhaps by necessity. But Warren found some years ago that the worst scenario is an aspiring leader with high ambition and low self-esteem. Such people can take families, companies, and societies down with them in their pursuit of glory.
For 16 years, we co-taught a seminar titled The Art and Adventure of Leadership. Each year several hundred University of Southern California (USC) undergraduate students competed for one of about 40 seats in the seminar. These were USC's best and brightest-the most driven and most determined to make a difference for the better. And today, the best young people are determined to become leaders.
But we often counseled them to realize that, after studying leadership closely from a variety of angles, there should be little shame in eschewing a conventional leadership or management role.
After all, despite the obvious prestige attending the title of leader today, a gifted person can usually make a greater contribution in some other way.
Even if a person is determined to enjoy public glory and adulation, he or she may well be suited to gaining it in some arena other than the o