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The Art and Adventure of Leadership: Understanding Failure, Resilience and Success by Warren Bennis, Steven B. Sample, Rob Asghar

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1Redefining Success and Failure

Each human being is born with an innate desire for respect. Beyond the base Maslovian hierarchy, the most pressing human goal is to be of import—that is, to be important.

The drive to matter has itself been a dark topic that invisibly binds all social organization, from the quiet plains of outer Mongolia to the teeming London streets, from the earliest bands of hunter-gatherers to the most modern empires and megacorporations.

This drive for importance is today commonly called leadership. It is the singular genius of the human species to look at alpha roles across the animal kingdom and mold the collected facts and intuitions into a sophisticated and ever-evolving art of moving others in new directions. Of course, the ability to move others in new directions isn't solely a practical concern: It is a piece of our inner drive to matter, to be of value and significance.

Thus, the curtest expression of humanity's notion of true success may be this: To do something that matters so that we might know that we matter. Put differently, to make something worthy happen, and, in the process, to enhance our own name.

But just as passionately as humans everywhere seek success, we instinctively seek to avoid even the faintest trace of failure.

“If at first you don't succeed, destroy all evidence that you tried,” one humorist quipped. Indeed, whole industries—public relations, advertising, and the legal profession among them—strive to destroy the evidence and ...

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