Harv Bus Rev. Sep;80(9), Crucibles of leadership. Bennis WG(1 ), Thomas RJ. Author information: (1)Leadership Institute, University of. Robert J. Thomas April 01, Pioneering scholarship by Warren Bennis, Edgar Schein, Chris Argyris, Donald Schon and Bennis and I speculate about the process through which crucibles teach leadership lessons. Crucibles of Leadership. Bennis, Warren G.; Thomas, Robert J. Harvard Business Review, v80 n9 p Sep Often, a traumatic event that forces a.

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And these two otherwise radically different groups have important things to teach business. Missionary work is the principal mechanism of that growth.

Yet neither suffers from a weak leadership gene pool. Experience can make you better, but you have to have the right skills within you. Surprisingly, the best examples of organizations that deliberately employ such alchemy do not come from the business world.

Most companies stay within a narrow comfort zone. Sonny Barger, a founding member of the Oakland, California, Hells Angels chapter, explains the significance of the run: Who else is going to tell him that he bennia up but his family?

The period after return also is recognized as an opportunity for reflection. Each chapter has a charter and a clearly defined division of labor between the international organization and the chapters. Returning missionaries form alumni networks, often composed of church members who went through the Missionary Training Center together.

Crucibles of leadership.

Leaders learn how to lead from experience. For those learning to lead, experience trumps formal training. A Hells Angel chapter leader explained this to me in vivid language: Organizing a run is no simple affair.

No mean feat, considering that large fractions of its leadership have been arrested periodically. Add a comment Cancel reply You crucibbles sign in to post a comment. You must sign in to post a comment. The authors’ recent research suggests that one of the most reliable indicators and predictors of true leadership is the ability to learn from even the most negative experiences. For example, before they leave for their particular postings, missionaries get intensive training in language, culture and pedagogical technique.


Others involve a suspension, an in-between period that people go through while in graduate school, boot camp, unemployment — even jail.

As the group has grown cruxibles number and complexity — it sells dozens of branded products, for example, and recently had to sue Walt Disney Co. Runs typically stretch hundreds of miles along public thoroughfares. For the Mormon Church, the most visible crucible is the missionary experience, a test of faith, identity and leadership talent that also serves as the principal growth engine for crucobles membership. Church membership has grown robustly since ; it doubled between and The Mormons and the Hells Angels follow that approach with crucibles of leadership development.

Why do some people appear to know instinctively how to inspire employees–bringing out abd confidence, loyalty, and dedication–while others flounder again and again? These are not one- or two-day etiquette seminars intended to prevent faux pas. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, better known as the Mormons, and the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club have mastered the art of turning crucible experiences into leadership gold.

Leaders are rarely recruited from the outside, and candidates undergo both a careful screening process and critical crucible experiences. No simple formula can explain how great leaders come to be, but Bennis and Thomas believe it has something to do with the ways people handle adversity. Let me be clear: Veteran members recall past runs and judge current ones accordingly. While that insight makes intuitive sense, a wealth of management writing confirms it.

Some organizations have taken this idea to heart. In interviewing leadreship than 40 leaders in business and the public sector over the past three years, the authors discovered that all of them–young and old alike–had endured intense, often traumatic, experiences that transformed them and became the source of their distinctive leadership abilities.

Individuals are anf and assigned, introduced to the culture and the unique requirements of the job, deployed and managed while on site and renewed or reincorporated with new skills and perspectives. The Hells Angels gets similar results from its own method of experience-based leader development. As the Mormons do, the Hells Angels make sure to capture the lessons from their crucible experiences by meeting after the events.


Run organizers benefit from building on legend and venturing to create their own. These are not esoteric or crucibless lessons. Families are counseled to give returning members time and space to reenter leaderhip environment that will appear to have leavership dramatically. For example, Toyota, Boeing, General Electric and MIT through its Leaders for Manufacturing program ceucibles put programs into place specifically to take advantage of experiential learning.

However, I am saying that some crucibles can be deliberately set up, managed and exploited to help produce leaders.

Crucibles of Leadership Development

It opened my eyes even more to what it takes to keep your freedom to do what you want. Both have closed borders and engage in selective recruitment of new members, and they rarely admit converts into the top leadership ranks.

Instead, members are steeped in methods for reading situations, for judging the sincerity of someone on the journey to conversion, for resolving conflicts and maintaining productive relationships with their missionary companions with whom they will live and work for up to six months and for developing the personal resilience necessary to withstand frequent rejection.

For example, when two towns refused to allow parade permits for a planned run, one chapter leader discovered that bicycle paths could be used for legal passage. As a result of the mission, then, the organization has new members and a fresh supply of dedicated individuals who represent the pool from which the next generation of leaders can be recruited.

Since missions last two years for men and 18 months for women, nearly 30, new missionaries must come forward each year to maintain that level of outreach.