An Invented Life: Reflections on Leadership and Change

By Warren Bennis | Go to book overview

2
Is Democracy Inevitable?

Twenty-six years after this essay was originally published, it suddenly came true. The preface written for its republication in 1990 in the Harvard Business Review places the piece in context and is also included. When Phil Slater and I first hypothesized that democracy would eventually triumph because it worked, we didn't instantly convert the world, or even our editor. Our proposed title, "Democracy Is Inevitable," was changed to a more cautious "Is Democracy Inevitable?" When I saw, via CNN, the Berlin Wall begin to crumble, it was all I could do to keep from shouting, "Yes!"

Phil Slater was on the Harvard faculty when we wrote this essay. He is now an author and artistic director of the Santa Cruz County Actors' Theatre.


Retrospective Commentary

It's wonderful—perhaps because it's so rare—to reread something you wrote 26 years ago and discover you were right.

In 1990, after the extraordinary recent events in Eastern Europe, including the dismantling of the Berlin Wall, it seems obvious that democracy was inevitable. But 26 years ago, in the heat of the Cold War, it was not so certain. When Philip Slater and I first argued that democracy would eventually dominate in both the world and the workplace, a nuclear war between the United States and the Soviet Union seemed more likely than a McDonald's in Moscow.

Slater and I saw a common thread running through the most exciting organizations of the time: as the once-absolute power of top management atrophied, a more collegial organization where good ideas were valued even if they weren't the boss's was

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An Invented Life: Reflections on Leadership and Change
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • An Invented Life - Reflections on Leadership and Change *
  • Contents *
  • Foreword *
  • Preface *
  • 1 - An Invented Life: Shoe Polish, Milli Vanilli, and Sapiential Circles *
  • 2 - Is Democracy Inevitable? *
  • 3 - The Wallenda Factor *
  • 4 - The Coming Death of Bureaucracy *
  • 5 - The Four Competencies of Leadership *
  • 6 - Managing the Dream *
  • 7 - False Grit *
  • 8 - On the Leading Edge of Change *
  • 9 - Searching for the Perfect University President *
  • 10 - When to Resign *
  • 11 - Followership *
  • 12 - Ethics Aren't Optional *
  • 13 - Change: the New Metaphysics *
  • 14 - Meet Me in Macy's Window *
  • 15 - Corporate Boards *
  • 16 - Information Overload Anxiety (and How to Overcome It) *
  • 17 - Our Federalist Future: the Leadership Imperative *
  • Index *
  • Permission Acknowledgments *
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