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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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2Why Success Requires the Right Kind of Appetite for the Fight

Given the headaches of leadership, the obstacles, second-guessing, and criticism, there is a certain kind of person who will thrive in the role. And there is a certain kind of person who will find the role toxic for himself or herself or make the role toxic for others.

As Bennis has long described it, the central issue involves whether the leader is doing what he or she does to express or to prove himself or herself. The difference between these two requires careful discernment and explanation.

If a person finds himself or herself in a leadership or management position as a natural result of expressing and exploring personal talents and gifts, he or she has an edge over the person who shoehorns himself or herself into a leadership role to prove his or her worth. The latter person often is unable to tolerate failure or even uncertainty. And in the process, he or she often creates the worst kind of final failure.

Richard Nixon, blessed with preternatural political skills but haunted by demons and insecurities, was driven by a desire to compare his legacy to others to prove his worth. The result was a legacy in which a wise and gifted politician had squandered an opportunity to build a meaningful legacy.

Consider, too, Al Gore, coming from a dynastic political family, who seemed groomed from birth to take aim at the presidency of the United States. After two terms as vice president, he nearly won the prize in the controversial ...

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