Cover image for Geeks & geezers : how era, values, and defining moments shape leaders
Geeks & geezers : how era, values, and defining moments shape leaders
Bennis, Warren G.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Boston : Harvard Business School Press, [2002]

Physical Description:
xxvii, 224 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
Leading and learning for a lifetime -- Geezers : the era of limits -- Geeks : the era of options -- Crucibles of leadership -- The alchemy of leadership -- A passion for the promises of life.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
HD57.7 .B4578 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



Today's young leaders grew up in the glow of television and computers; the leaders of their grandparents' generation in the shadow of the Depression and World War II. In a groundbreaking study of these two disparate groups-affectionately labeled "geeks" and "geezers"-legendary leadership expert Warren Bennis and leadership consultant Robert Thomas set out to find out how era and values shape those who lead. What they discovered was something far more profound: the powerful process through which leaders of any era emerge.Geeks and Geezers is a book that will forever change how we view not just leadership-but the very way we learn and ultimately live our lives. It presents for the first time a compelling new model that predicts who is likely to become-and remain-a leader, and why. At the heart of this model are what the authors call "crucibles"-utterly transforming periods of testing from which one can emerge either hopelessly broken, or powerfully emboldened to learn and to lead. Whether losing an election or burying a child, learning from a mentor or mastering a martial art, crucibles are turning points: defining events that force us to decide who we are and what we are capable of. Through the candid and often deeply moving crucibles of pioneering journalist Mike Wallace to new economy entrepreneur Michael Klein, from New York Stock Exchange trailblazer Muriel Siebert to environmental crusader Tara Church, Geeks and Geezers illustrates the stunning metamorphoses of true leaders. It also reveals the critical traits they share, including adaptability, vision, integrity, unquenchable optimism, and "neoteny"-a youthful curiosity and zest for knowledge. Highlighting the forces that enable any of us to learn and lead not for a time, but for a lifetime, this book is essential reading for geeks, geezers, and everyone in between.AUTHORBIO: Warren Bennis is Professor and Founding Chairman of The Leadership Institute at the University of Southern California, and the author of over thirty visionary books on leadership. Robert J. Thomas is an Associate Partner and Senior Fellow with the Accenture Institute for Strategic Change and award-winning author of What Machines Can't Do.

Author Notes

Robert J. Thomas is an Associate Partner and Senior Fellow with the Accenture Institute for Strategic Change.

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

Successful leaders young and old share numerous qualities, say Bennis and Thomas. The authors, who bring considerable experience to the table (Bennis has written over 30 books on leadership and Thomas is a senior fellow with Accenture's Institute for Strategic Change), interviewed more than 40 leaders who they deem either "geeks" (aged 21-34) or "geezers" (aged 70-82) to evaluate the effect of era on values and success. The two groups vary in terms of their ambitions, heroes and family lives, but members of both sets share one common experience: all have "undergone at least one intense, transformational experience," which the authors call a "crucible." In some cases the crucible was an actual hardship, e.g., geezer Sidney Rittenberg spent 16 years in prison in China for speaking out against the government. For others, it was a dramatic experience, such as NYSE pioneer Muriel Siebert's entry into male-dominated Wall Street in 1967 or geek Liz Altman's stint working at a Japanese Sony factory before becoming a Motorola v-p. The authors offer interviews and statistical data as evidence for the value of the crucible experiences. Among the survey results: of the geezers, 87% had mothers who worked at home, while only 7% of the geeks grew up similarly; 8% of the geezers had divorced parents, versus 44% of the geeks, both facts no doubt reflecting their eras. As an overview, the book lacks the practical applications of some of Bennis's other works, but it's revealing and entertaining nonetheless. (Sept. 19) Forecast: Bennis's reputation, a national ad/promo campaign and the planned 100,000 first printing will help generate lots of attention for this enjoyable book. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Choice Review

Leadership guru Bennis (Univ. of Southern California) and Thomas (Accenture Institute for Strategic Change) provide a novel approach to examining leadership: they look at the oldest and the youngest, their times, and their values. Based on interviews with more than 40 leaders, they develop a new model for predicting leadership success and failure. Interviewees include Bob Crandall (American Airlines), Mike Wallace (60 Minutes correspondent), Elizabeth Kao (Ford Motor Company), Sky Dayton (Earthlink), and Jeff Wilke (Amazon). The model identifies "era" (generational) and personal variables as factors in the "crucible" of experience that helps an individual organize meaning and develop leadership characteristics of adaptability, shared meaning, voice, integrity, and a youthful knowledge-seeking curiosity. Entertaining and highly readable, the book successfully conveys its message that leaders possess or acquire and improve on these characteristics and then rely on them to be successful. Recommended for upper-division undergraduate through professional collections. L. J. Cumbo Emory and Henry College

Table of Contents

David Gergen
Prefacep. ix
Acknowledgmentsp. xix
Forewordp. xxv
1 Leading and Learning for a Lifetimep. 1
2 Geezers: The Era of Limitsp. 23
3 Geeks: The Era of Optionsp. 51
4 Crucibles or Leadershipp. 87
5 The Alchemy of Leadershipp. 121
6 A Passion for the Promises of Lifep. 157
Appendix A Biographiesp. 181
Appendix B Interview Questionsp. 199
Notesp. 203
Indexp. 209
About the Authorsp. 223