Bill Nichols

18 August 2014

Bill Nichols

Variations on Leadership – Tribute to Warren Bennis 

017 – August 2014

Are you over-managed? Or perhaps over-led? (Under-paid, for sure!).

Leadership guru, Warren Bennis, sadly died at end-July. Most famously, I was reminded in an obit, he charged that “failing organisations are usually over-managed and under-led”.   This, he attributed in part (and rightly) to an increasingly scientific and research-orientated business school curriculum.

True and agreed, too many ‘Theorists’, immediately chimed my 35 years’ client experience.

Hang on, replied cooler reflection, at least in larger firms.  In practice, fading smaller entrepreneurial players – especially PR-type ones – manifest the reverse. Those ‘Creatives’ are often under-managed and over-led.  They’ve bags of vision and direction: but are poor on execution and detail.

Leadership and Management Quadrant

 Leadership Box

And what about larger public sector organisations (e.g. higher education)? They’re often characteristically both under-managed and under-led.  These ‘Zombies’ function, tick boxes and linger uncomfortably.

So, prompted reflection, there must be a fourth dimension?  But over and over?  Easy: a succinct definition, surely, of organisations suffering political interference.  They are the ‘Politicals’.

And, you ask, is there then a perfect middle?

“True leaders,” added Bennis, “make dreams come alive”.  They manage, he said, four competencies: attention, meaning, trust and ‘oneself’. That’s leadership.




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