An Invented Life: Reflections on Leadership and Change

By Warren Bennis | Go to book overview

10
When to Resign

Friends from the South talk about having to make "hurtin' decisions," those choices which tear at the soul but must be made. None is more painful than deciding you must leave a once beloved institution, whether it's a marriage or a job. This piece explores the high cost of quitting and the higher cost of staying on in a role in which you are no longer effective. The essay was written with Patricia Ward Biederman.

No matter how often Daniel Ellsberg reminds the public that not he but a seemingly endless war in Indochina is at issue, I find that it is Ellsberg the man who touches the imagination. One can't help speculating on his personal odyssey from loyal insider to defiant outsider, from organization man to prison-risking dissident. It is the process of that change of heart that fascinates me. What interaction of man and organization produces a commitment like the younger Ellsberg's and then leads only a few years later to equally passionate rejection? How much, I wonder, of the Ellsberg affair is idiosyncratic and how much reflects general principles of organizational life? After all, Ellsberg is not the first government adviser to become suspicious of the work in which he has engaged. What is singular about Ellsberg is that he has found a dramatic way to make his dissent articulate. The organizational ethic is typically so strong that even the individual who dissents and opts for the outside by resigning or otherwise dissociating himself does so with organization-serving discretion. Ellsberg may not have broken the law, but he surely did something more daring. He broke the code. He has not only spoken out, he has produced documentation of his disillusionment.

The stakes are rarely as great, but many people who work in

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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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