Warren Bennis on Personal Direction

Tests and Measures

Some people are born knowing what they want to do, and even how to do it.  The rest of us aren’t so lucky.

…What do you want?  The majority of us go through life, often very successfully, without ever asking, much less answering, this most basic question.

The most basic answer, of course, is that you want to express yourself fully, for that is the most basic human drive.  As one friend put it, “We all want to learn how to use our own voices,” and it has led some of us to the peaks and some of us to the depths.

How can you best express you?

The first test is knowing what you want, knowing your abilities and capacities, and recognizing the difference between the two. 

…The second test is knowing what drives you, knowing what gives you satisfaction, and knowing the difference between the two.

…The third test is knowing what your values and priorities are, knowing what the values and priorities of your organization are, and measuring the difference between the two.

…The fourth test is… are you able and willing to overcome those differences?”

– Warren Bennis in On Becoming A Leader: The Leadership Classic–Updated And Expanded (2003).

It occurs to me that Bennis’s tests can take an exceptional amount of time to wrestle through.  What entrepreneur could find the time and energy (or even the wisdom?) to do these tests thoroughly and well?

I have to guess that the good entrepreneur ought expect to go through all four in repeated cycles, each time through working another layer of the “onion”, finding fresh answers with each new round of questioning.  And all the while taking care of the day-to-day — perhaps discovering over time that by refining the focus of what should be done in each day-to-day, that the fourth test becomes more readily passed.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *