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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Technologies change. Human nature doesn't."
Warren Bennis, Daniel Goleman, and James O'Toole are three of the most influential business thinkers in recent years and, with Patricia Ward Biederman, collaborated on this book that consists of three separate but related essays: "Creating a Culture of Candor" (Bennis, Goleman, and Biederman examine transparency with and between organizations), "Speaking Truth to Power"...
Published on 24 Jun 2008 by Robert Morris

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3.0 out of 5 stars Eminently readable....but there will be better
Perhaps I came to this brief and eminently readable series of essays with exceedingly high expectations. Or perhaps I have been through many of the arguments already. For whatever reason, I was disappointed. Not in the quality of the writing, or the strength of the arguments, both of which are superb. But for two reasons. First, because this book will so quickly date,...
Published 20 months ago by Ian Smith


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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Technologies change. Human nature doesn't.", 24 Jun 2008
By 
Robert Morris (Dallas, Texas) - See all my reviews
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Warren Bennis, Daniel Goleman, and James O'Toole are three of the most influential business thinkers in recent years and, with Patricia Ward Biederman, collaborated on this book that consists of three separate but related essays: "Creating a Culture of Candor" (Bennis, Goleman, and Biederman examine transparency with and between organizations), "Speaking Truth to Power" (O'Toole shares his perspectives on transparency in terms of personal responsibility), and "The New Transparency" (Bennis explains how digital technology is making the entire world transparent). According to Thomas Friedman, the world has become flat as a result of forces that "are empowering more and more individuals today to reach farther, faster, deeper, and cheaper than ever before, and that is equalizing power - and equalizing opportunity, by giving so many more people the tools to connect, compete, and collaborate." Bennis, Goleman, O'Toole and Biederman agree. The first essay suggests how the same "flattening forces" to which Friedman refers also have a profound impact on relationships between and among organizations throughout the world. In the second essay, O'Toole eloquently as well as convincingly stresses the importance of responsibility and (yes) accountability of everyone who is involved in those relationships. Then in the third essay, Bennis shares his insights concerning the most significant consequences of technology, given the fact that "leaders are losing their monopoly on power, and this has positive impacts - notably the democratization of power - as well as some negative ones."

In the Preface, Bennis notes that this book really isn't about technology. "It is about the things that have mattered since the new technology was the flint and the longbow - courage, integrity, candor, responsibility. Technologies change. Human nature doesn't." That is the core concept in O'Toole's essay and wholly consistent with the core concepts in his previously published books, notably The Executive's Compass, Leading Change, and Creating the Good Life. I agree with him that "speaking to power is, perhaps, the oldest of all ethical challenges." He briefly discusses several plays (Sophocles' Antigone, John Osborne's Luther, and Robert Bolt's A Man for All Seasons) who protagonist offers a reminder to leaders in our own time of the responsibility to create a transparent "culture of candor." O'Toole also cites FedEx, the Cowles Media Corporation, GM, and Motorola as examples of organizations that do -- or do not -- have such a culture, those whose leaders are - or are not -- "constantly willing to rethink their most basic assumptions through a process of constructive dissent...about such often-taboo subjects as the nature of working conditions they offer employees, the purposes of their corporation, and their responsibilities to various stakeholders." Whatever the size and nature of an organization may be, O'Toole insists, it must be one "one in which every employee is empowered to speak the truth." Trust must be the essential ingredient to its effectiveness [and is] the most elusive and fragile aspect of leadership" because it is so difficult to earn but so easy to lose and, once lost, nearly impossible to regain.

I highly recommend this book to those in senior-level executive positions as well as to others whose ambition is to ascend to that level. Speaking directly to the reader of this review, I urge you do everything you can to help establish and then support a transparent culture of candor. If you find yourself in one in which you cannot "speak to power" despite your best efforts, seek another culture in which you can. Meanwhile, keep in mind that Dante reserved the last and worst ring in hell for those who, in a moral crisis, preserved their neutrality.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Eminently readable....but there will be better, 6 Jan 2013
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Ian Smith (Cessy, France) - See all my reviews
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Perhaps I came to this brief and eminently readable series of essays with exceedingly high expectations. Or perhaps I have been through many of the arguments already. For whatever reason, I was disappointed. Not in the quality of the writing, or the strength of the arguments, both of which are superb. But for two reasons. First, because this book will so quickly date, more of which in a moment. And second, and perhaps most importantly, because transparency is a moral and ethical imperative, a prerequisite for a functional democratic and egalitarian society, whereas this book (arguably) builds a case primarily based on mutual self interest. Not an illegitimate reason to be sure, but sadly results in a building without foundations. Remove the shared interest, and you remove the need for transparency.

Anecdotes and case studies - many helpful and illustrative - flow thick and fast, but in largely restricting their purview to examples from the last 30 years or so, the authors may give the impression that transparency is a modern phenomenon, without historical precedent (other than the fascinating section on speaking truth to power). The result is that the book is locked into a time period from which it may struggle to escape. What could have been a timeless imaginative exploration of the fundamental need for transparency becomes a light 'call to arms', and as the anecdotes lose their contextual relevance, so too will the arguments.

Definitely worth a read though. But there will surely be a better book on transparency.
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Transparency: How Leaders Create a Culture of Candor (J-B Warren Bennis Series)
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