What Are the Three Fundamental Responsibilities and Skills Required of Leaders?

A Frequently Asked Question from Ask Bob, The Effectiveness Coach®


Prior to Warren Bennis’ (1925 – 2014) entry on the scene, with the publication of his ‘Revisionist Theory of Leadership’ in Harvard Business Review in 1961, there was no leadership discipline as we know it today.  Since then and over 30 books later, The Wall Street Journal named Bennis as one of the top ten most sought after speakers on management in 1993; Forbes magazine referred to him as the “dean of leadership gurus” in 1996. The Financial Times referred to him in 2000 as “the professor who established leadership as a respectable academic field.” In August, 2007, Business Week ranked him as one of the top ten business thought leaders.

His work in the book, On Becoming a Leader, originally published in 1989, established the foundation that a leader must be authentic, i.e. author of one’s own creation; a combination of experience, self-knowledge, and personal ethics. This need for an effective leader to remain true to their self-invention would be further expanded upon by others into what has become known as the Authentic Leadership approach.

Now, fast forward to 2013 and the book, The Work of Leaders: How Vision, Alignment and Execution Will Change the Way You Lead. This book opens, not surprising with this quote from Warren Bennis, “Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality. The authors of The Work of Leaders state that in their view, leaders have three fundamental responsibilities: They craft a vision, they build alignment, and they champion execution. The book goes on to elaborate on skills required for each of those responsibilities. But first, here are some definitions:

Crafting a Vision: Imaging and improved future state that the group will make a reality through its work.

Building Alignment: Getting to the point where everyone in the group understands and is committed to the direction.

Championing Execution: Ensuring that the conditions are present for the imagined future to be turned into reality.

These three elements are part of a dynamic, fluid process and while there is an implied loose order to the VAE model, the actual Work of Leaders is not strictly sequential. However, there are 18 best practices or skills that I will expand upon in upcoming issues of Ask Bob.

In the next issue I will answer the question, “What are the Three Cornerstone Principles of the Work of Leaders?”

The Work of Leaders VAE Model
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