South-Western - Management  
Do You Have the Will to Lead?
Topic Leadership
Key Words leadership, philosophy
News Story

Peter Koestenbaum has degrees in philosophy, physics, and theology from Stanford, Harvard and Boston University. He consults with companies across the globe on leadership - from one-on-one to large seminars. He believes that change is the business world's biggest and most persistent challenge, but too many people treat it as a technical challenge rather than by developing authentic answers to basic questions about business life. In this article, he answers the following questions:

  1. Why does being a leader feel so hard today?

  2. What are the attributes of a leadership mind?

  3. It's one thing for a leader to embrace the contradictions of the new economy. But how does he or she persuade colleagues to go along with this kind of thinking?

  4. Does developing the will to transform mean that you can actually will others to change?

His answers are based on the premise that the more you understand the human condition, the more effective you are as a businessperson. For example, he states that "every business interaction is a form of confrontation - a clash of priorities, a struggle of dignities, a battle of beliefs." Tough choices are a daily part of business, and stress and guilt are natural byproducts of that. Managing the polarity teaches us that there are no solutions, only changes of attitude.

The best leaders operate in four dimensions: vision, reality, ethics, and courage. Most of the time, leaders operate on two dimensions at most, usually reality and ethics. Vision and courage are rarely practiced.

A key challenge for a leader is to get others to take responsibility for their choices, even though you are responsible for the fate of the organization, which is impacted by those choices.


Briefly summarize what you believe Koestenbaum is saying about leadership in this article. Think about some of the things that have been in the news lately about corporate leaders, like Bernie Ebbers (WorldCom), Dennis Kozlowski (Tyco), and Ken Lay (Enron). What do you think Koestenbaum would say they did wrong (besides the obvious illegalities)?

Source Polly LaBarre, "Do You Have the Will to Lead?," Fast Company March, 2000, p. 222.
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