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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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6When Failure is Baked Into the System

At this point, we note the common purpose for which George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, and Harry Truman fought: democracy. They fought for the right of their people to make their own decisions and to determine their own fates.

Yet democracy has come in for severe criticism recently—ironically only a few years after leading historians claimed with straight faces that democracy had forever triumphed in world affairs.

Bennis had in fact spent his last several years examining the trials of democracy with particular interest: After all, the effectiveness of democracy was the philosophical underpinning of the very schools of management and leadership that he and his peers helped establish. Bennis never suggested that democracy was a perfect, incorruptible form of governance. But to paraphrase Churchill, he and his peers believed that democracy fails less than the other forms of government.

However, any glimpse of the news today suggests that democracy is seen to be struggling in a variety of political, economic, and corporate contexts.

Many wonder: Does this cast doubt on its efficacy or worth? Is it a sentimental approach to human organization that fails in the clutch? Might tough, authoritarian approaches be more effective in times of crisis? And might nations, corporations, and movements all work more efficiently under other systems?

Indeed, no examination of failure in organizational life can be undertaken without an honest ...

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