8/15 — Warren G. Bennis


An unconscious conspiracy in contemporary society prevents leaders — no matter what their original vision — from taking charge within any organization, an entrenched bureaucracy with a commitment to the status quo undermines the unwary leader. To make matters worse, certain social forces — increasing tension between individual rights and the common good, for example — discourage the emergence of leaders. The narcissistic children of the Me Decade seem unwilling to embrace any  new vision but their own — a narrow one that excludes the possibility of sacrificing a little bit today to gain something better tomorrow. A corollary of this unwillingness to sacrifice is an unwillingness to cooperate with neighbors. Americans are now going through a self-imposed isolation phase: Each individual feels helpless to affect anything beyond the immediate environment and so retreats into an ever-contracting private world — a phenomenon that manifests itself among the affluent as “cocooning” and among the poor as drug addiction. Activism is on decline, including the simplest form of activism — voting. People float, they don’t dream. And people without a dream are less easily inspired by leaders’ vision.

Warren Bennis, Why Leaders Can’t Lead; 1989, pages xii-xiii.

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