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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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What makes a great leader? While that insight makes intuitive sense, a wealth of management writing confirms it. They also reveal that great leaders possess four essential skills, the most critical of which is “adaptive capacity”–an almost magical ability to transcend adversity and emerge stronger than before. In each phase, the church emphasizes the acquisition of technical skills and learning skills. The extraordinarily loud and deep rumble of dozens occasionally hundreds of unmuffled Harley-Davidson motorcycles can be heard for miles — no small source of delight to the riders.

Leadershp a comment Cancel reply You must sign in to post a comment. The most relevant test? But they, and a few others, are the exceptions.

Crucibles of Leadership Development

With 12 million members, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is well on its way to becoming a world religion. Think of it as leadership development from heaven and hell. Missionary work is the principal mechanism of that tohmas. Sonny Barger, a founding member of the Oakland, California, Hells Angels chapter, explains the significance of the run: These are not one- or two-day etiquette seminars intended to prevent thoams pas.

This is a summary of the full article. Return from the mission is a time of renewal for the individuals and for the organization. But some experiences matter more than others, as two unconventional but highly successful organizations — The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club — leaderdhip recognized.

Moreover, runs invariably cross nad boundaries between different clubs, many of which are hostile. Organizing a run is no simple affair.


A successful run requires imagination, negotiating skill, a surprise or two such as the selection of an unusual camping spot or night of entertainment and attention to history. As the group has grown in number and complexity — it sells dozens of branded products, for example, and recently thomaa to sue Walt Disney Co.

Bennis and Thomas call these shaping experiences “crucibles,” after the vessels medieval alchemists used in their attempts to turn base metals into gold.

The Hells Angels gets similar results from its own method of experience-based leader development. These experiences made them stronger and more confident and changed their sense of purpose in some fundamental way. But it is also a critical organizational function, a rite of passage for young men and women between the ages of 19 and 26, and a leadership crucible.

As the Mormons do, the Hells Angels make sure to capture the lessons from their crucible experiences by meeting after the events. Runs typically stretch hundreds of miles along public thoroughfares.

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.

Each group uses a particular activity as a crucible experience for leader development.

Crucibles of leadership.

The Mormons and the Snd Angels follow that approach with crucibles of leadership development. A third form is leadershhip crucible of new territory, in which the individual is thrust into a new social role or asked to take on an overseas assignment in an unfamiliar country. No mean feat, considering that large fractions of its leadership have been arrested periodically. For the interviewees, their crucibles were the points at which they were forced to question who they were and what was important to them.

Church membership has grown robustly since ; it doubled between and The crucilbes 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. 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.

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A Hells Angel chapter leader explained this to me in vivid language: Unless they want to.

Writing in The Nation 40 years ago, Hunter S. Surprisingly, the best examples of organizations that deliberately employ such alchemy do not come from the business world. An extraordinary leader is a kind of phoenix rising from the ashes of adversity stronger and more committed than ever. And because many of its ventures are secretive and subject to external surveillance, it works to prevent organizational decapitation by maintaining a leadership pipeline.

Crucible experiences, when properly set up, managed and mined, can help aspiring companies develop their next generation of outstanding leaders. 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.

Like many network-based organizations, the Hells Angels maintains a strong core leadership but a relatively flat structure. In Leading for a LifetimeWarren Bennis and I speculate about the process through which crucibles teach leadership lessons. Demonstrating the ability to organize and successfully manage a motorcycle run.

They will require, however, an openness to experimentation and risk taking in the area of leader development — perhaps the biggest hurdle of all.

Experience can make you better, but you have to have the right skills within you. Fertile ground, then, for developing leaders.

The chapter leader shared his own crucible lessons with me: For that project, I interviewed 70 leaders wnd business, the performing arts and sports and analyzed stories from dozens more in order to understand better the dynamics of experiential learning.