The Seven Ages of the Leader by Warren Bennis
The 2004 article The Seven Ages of the Leader by Warren Bennis gives a detailed description of the growth process of persons in authority. Bennis makes an excellent case to support his idea that a leader goes through seven stages until he/she retires. To back his assertions, he makes references to famous leaders such as King Henry IV, Caesar, and Carly Fiorina. Furthermore, he relates his life experiences with his leadership assertions.
Bennis asserts that a leader must go through seven stages, which he categorizes as infant, schoolboy, lover, soldier, general, statesman, and sage. The infant level refers to the period just after a person’s induction as a leader in any organization. Bennis opines that an individual should first learn from those who are experienced and aware of how the firm operates before he/she makes any decisions. Once a person in authority is confident that he/she has all information needed to make appropriate choices, he/she should slowly start to implement his/her tasks. Bennis refers to this leadership level as a “schoolboy with shining face.” Normally, the young leader faces a lot of criticism, and most of his/her comments are interpreted or misinterpreted in various ways. In the lover stage, a leader usually has the challenge of relating to his/her former junior workers.
After gaining experience, the leader graduates to the bearded soldier. In this level, he/she must choose his/her words carefully since they may have a lot of repercussions in the organization. In the general stage, he/she must keenly hear what his/her followers are saying. The statesman rank is the highest position of a person in authority; consequently, he/she must exercise his/her duties excellently. Finally, the leader must act as a mentor when he/she is about to retire. This stage is called the sage level.
In my opinion, Bennis views about the leadership stages are practical and in line with what I have observed. From my experience, most people always have difficulty in immediately asserting their positions when they are in authority. Usually, individuals want to have some time to learn the character of their followers and the nature of the organization they are leading. Furthermore, all institutions are unique and require managers to use different tactics. As such, Bennis assertion that a new leader should spend some time learning the operation of organizations is practical.
I also agree with Bennis that a new leader should be prepared to face a lot of criticism in his/her first periods of work. This backlash normally occurs since his/her followers are not familiar with how he/she operates. Given that all people in authority usually have a guide on their code of conduct and responsibilities, leaders should not be too worried about their followers’ interpretations of their leadership styles. Therefore, people in power should be more concerned about how they perform their activities rather than how their followers think about them.
I also agree with Bennis views that a leader should carefully listen to his/her followers and choose his/her words wisely. Since a leader makes his/her decisions based on what he/she hears from his/her followers; it is essential for him/her to listen to their opinions. Furthermore, for a person to effectively lead his/her followers, he/she should be clear on what he/she says and choose his/her words carefully.
Finally, I do not agree with Bennis view that the mentorship role of a leader should occur once he/she has become an excellent leader. From my experience, a person always has some skill and information that he/she can share with others. Therefore, any aspiring leader can be a mentor at any stage of his/her life. In fact, this relationship can play an essential role in enabling the former to learn from his/her protégé some crucial skills that he/she may have forgotten.
As an aspiring manager in the quality control department, Bennis concept will be essential in my career. Firstly, I will be able to strategically implement my policies in any organization where I will work as the quality control manager. According to Bennis, a new leader should first create a relationship with experienced employees for him/her to learn how the firm operates. Consequently, I will establish a relationship with other managers and supervisors in the quality control department. These bonds will enable me to familiarize to my new work environment. Moreover, the information I will get from these individuals will be essential in helping me to make appropriate decisions.
Bennis view will also be essential in aiding me to predict various occurrences in the organization. Bennis opines that a new leader faces a lot of criticism because junior officers are not familiar with his/her management style. As a new manager, I will be prepared to explain and clarify any issues to the quality control employees. One major challenge that I will face is retaining the strong friendship bonds that I may be having with my former junior colleagues. I will always allocate time for them so that they may know I am still their friend. This relationship will be essential in creating teamwork in the organization.
Finally, I will always listen to my junior officers and ensure that my instructions are clear and concise. This policy will make me knowledgeable of my juniors’ expectations and experiences. Additionally, it will enable all my followers to understand what I am saying. I will also be open to mentor any of my juniors so that they can be great leaders in the future.
Bennis, W. (2004, January). The seven ages of the leader. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2004/01/the-seven-ages-of-the-leader.