3 Leadership Tips from Warren Bennis

“Leadership is the wise use of power. Power is the capacity to translate intention into reality and sustain it.” -Warren G. Bennis

In an interview with Harvard Business Review’s Christina Bielaszka-DuVernay (2009), Warren Bennis* (at right in above photo) shared three tips for how leaders and aspiring leaders can be successful:

1) Delegation: “Learning to delegate is difficult. It’s tempting for all of us, especially ambitious business professionals, to believe that unless we do something ourselves, it won’t be done right.

“What new leaders need to understand is that by not delegating, they’re disrespecting not only others but themselves. They’re not using themselves to their best advantage, and they’re demonstrating that they haven’t learned one of the key truths about leadership, which is that the only way to make your weaknesses irrelevant is to respect others’ strengths and use them.”

2) Attentiveness: “[E]ven if a leader has surrounded herself with trusted advisers who give her straight talk, she still needs to cultivate attentiveness. That means whenever an issue or crisis arises, asking herself, What have I done to create this situation? What did I contribute to this mess?

“The goal is not to blame but to understand. Accepting failure is pretty easy; to understand it is the hard part.”

3) Contextual Intelligence: “Get the business literacy down pat. Just as a musician has to master the scales before he can become a master, so a leader has to gain a command of the basics to break free of the grid of technique and become an eminence.

“It also means knowing the whole industry: what it’s about, what makes one an expert in that particular space.

“Finally, it requires knowing your company inside and out: the products, how customers see you, the culture — and what employees particularly value about it….If you want to lead people, you have to enter their world.”

*Dr. Warren Bennis is considered one of the world’s foremost experts on leadership. His best selling book On Becoming A Leader has been named one of the 100 best business books of all times and considered the top leadership book. He has served as an adviser to five U.S. presidents.


Bielaszka-DuVernay, C. (2009, April 13). Avoid mistakes that plague new leaders: An interview with Warren Bennis. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from http://hbr.org