An Invented Life: Reflections on Leadership and Change

By Warren Bennis | Go to book overview

14
Meet Me in Macy's Window

It is hard, even today, to recall the wholesale mistrust of public officials that characterized the Watergate era. (There were bumper stickers that urged "Impeach Somebody!") One of the results of that dark time was an urgent call for greater organizational candor. This piece, first published in 1975, argues that complete candor is a false solution to a real problem—that of trust. The essay calls for balancing the legitimate needs for openness and confidentiality in the interest of effectiveness.

The British Foreign Office gives its fledgling diplomats three cardinal rules of behavior: (1) never tell a lie, (2) never tell the whole truth, and (3) never miss a chance to go to the bathroom. An old Tammany boodler, who disliked leaving any traces of his dealings, had a terser rule: "Don't write. Send word."

Both sets of rules, I fear, are likely to become more and more a tacit standard of conduct for those who, in the post-Watergate climate of suspicion, share the hazardous privilege of running large organizations—including, in my own case, the nation's second largest urban multiversity.

Never have the American people felt such universal distrust of their presumed leaders—whether in government, the law, the clergy, or education. Year after year of calculated deception over Vietnam, compounded by the conspiracy, skullduggery, and chicanery of Watergate, have left them trusting almost no one in authority.

Consider a recent Gallup survey in which college students were asked to rate the honesty and ethical standards of various groups: political officeholders (only 9 percent rated "very high") were eclipsed only by advertising men (6 percent), lawyers rated

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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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