Crucibles of Leadership
by Warren G. Bennis and Robert). Thomas
of leadership, we are fascinated with the notion of what makes a leader. W h y is it that certain people seem to naturally inspire confidence, loyalty, and hard work, wh i le others (who may have just as much vision and smarts) stumble, again and again? I t's a timeless question, and there's no simple answer. But we have come to believe it has something to do with the different ways that people deal with adversity. indeed, our recent research has led us to conclude that one of the most reliable indicators and predictors of true leadership is an individual's ability to find meaning in negative events and to learn from even the most trying circumstances. Put another way, the skills required to conquer adversity and emerge stronger and more committed than ever are the same ones that make for extraordinary leaders. Take Sidney Harman.Thirty-four years ago, the then-48-year-old businessman was holdi ng down two executive positions. He was the chief executive of Harman Kardon (now Harman I nternational),the audio components company he had cofounded, and he was serving as president of Friends World College,
AS LIFELONG STUDENTS
Everyone is tested by life, but only a few extract strength and wisdom from their most trying experiences. They're the ones we call leaders.
now Friends World Program, an experimental Quaker school on Long Island whose essentia l philosoph y is that students, not their teachers, are responsible for their education. Juggling the two jobs, Harman was living what he calls a "bifurcated life; hanging clothes c in his car and eating lunch as he drove between Harman Kardon offices and plants and the Friends World ca m pus. One day while at the college, he was told his company's factory in Bolivar, Tennessee, was having a crisis. He immediately rushed to the Bolivar factory, a facility that was, as Harman now recalls,"raw, ugly,and,in many ways, demeaning!'The...