Current Affairs Book Briefs
Leaders: The Strategies for Taking Charge, by Warren Bennis and Burt Nanus. New York: Harper & Row. 244 pp. $19.95. Management books are the fashion of the mid-1980s, and leadership is a key focus. The best-selling ``A Passion for Excellence,'' by Tom Peters and Nancy Austin (see Monitor review, Aug. 13), has leadership as a muted theme. ``Leaders,'' written in a somewhat similar rambling and hortatory style by two professors at University of Southern California, focuses directly on the critical skills of the leader. Bennis and Nanus contend, based on in- depth interviews with 90 corporate and public leaders, that all leaders embody four strategies: They create a focus and an agenda, communicate this vision, carry out the vision by establishing trust and predictability, and deploy the self by positive self-regard and the capacity to embrace positive goals. Our present business climate calls for leadership at every level of society and in all organizations. Many potential leaders could take charge if they realized that everyone has leadership potential. Lear ning to be a good leader is like learning to be a good parent. Other key themes: Organizations have many leadership roles, and leadership is essentially the act of empowering others. Fresh and inspiring. The Future Is Not What It Used to Be: Returning to Traditional Values in an Age of Scarcity, by Warren Johnson. New York: Dodd, Mead & Co. 246 pp. $16.95.
If the call for progress through innovative leadership is not persuasive, try the opposite argument: The writer, a geography professor at San Diego State University and author of ``Muddling Toward Frugality'' (Sierra Club, 1978), sees our economic problems as part of a long-term deterioration of industrial society. As we move toward scarcity -- the more universal condition of human existence -- we will once again learn to appreciate the universal values of loyalty, generosity, and cooperation, instead o f the marketplace values of accumulation, competitiveness, and strident individualism. Johnson dismisses a variety of ``false solutions'' such as the electronic revolution, reindustrialization, and deregulation, finding all of these options restricted. It is better that the task of building a sustainable way of life begin now, rather than trying to delay it. We will not miss our affluence, but instead find that we will be richer in the more important ways. An eloquent and provocative essay. (For an illumina ting intellectual history of such ``less is more'' thinking, see ``The Simple Life: Plain Living and High Thinking in American Culture,'' by David E. Shi. New York: Oxford University Press. 332 pp. $19.95).) A Preface to Economic Democracy, by Robert A. Dahl. Berkeley, Calif.: University of California Press. 184 pp. $14.95.
A well-known political scientist at Yale writes that the framers of the United States Constitution did not foresee the way in which agrarian society would be replaced by the modern corporation as the main employer of most Americans and the driving force of the society. The older vision of a citizen body of free and roughly equal farmers no longer fits the reality of an economic order in which large enterprises generate inequality among citizens. Dahl explores an alternative to this system of ``corporate
capitalism'': A system of economic enterprises collectively owned and democratically governed by all who work in them. Such systems, also known as self-management and workers' cooperatives, may well have economic advantages over the typical corporation, he says. But they are justified here in terms of their contribution to the values of justice and democracy. If democracy is justified in governing the state, then it must also be justified in governing economic enterprises. (If Dahl's preface is intriguing,
then move on to the broader and more detailed argument in ``Economic Democracy: The Challenge of the 1980s,'' by Martin Carnoy and Derek Shearer. White Plains, N.Y.: M. E. Sharpe. 1980. 436 pp. $7.95, paperback. Regrettably, Dahl does not cite this earlier work, which takes a similar position in a less academic style.) The New Directions in American Politics, edited by John E. Chubb and Paul E. Peterson. Washington: The Brookings Institution. 409 pp. $26.95 cloth. $9.95 paper.
Essays on the present two-party system, the economic basis of Ronald Reagan's appeal, the Republican advantage in campaign finance, new patterns of congressional decisionmaking, federalism and the bias for centralization, controlling entitlements, national-security policy, and the new politics of deficits. Each essay compares developments in the mid-1980s with trends that were in place before Reagan took office. With the growing capacity of the executive branch to dominate the policy agenda, and with a President and a governing party holding a clear vision of what the agenda is (see ``Mandate II,'' below), the changes have been extensive. The editors conclude that, together, the changes represent a new direction in US politics. An economic downturn or a foreign policy reverse may rejuvenate the Democrats, but the policies they once espoused will not be as resilient. Big deficits, strong defense commitments, and doubts about the welfare state will shape the political and policy future, whatever the fate of
parties or presidents in particular elections. Mandate for Leadership II: Continuing the Conservative Revolution, edited by Stuart M. Butler, Michael Sanera, and W. Bruce Weinrod. Heritage Foundation. December 1984. 566 pp. $23.95 cloth. $14.95 paper.
The Heritage Foundation's first ``Mandate for Leadership'' report, weighing in at 1,093 pages, was issued just before Ronald Reagan's inauguration in 1981. It was designed as a detailed ``road map'' to help the new administration steer the US into a future guided by conservative principles of free enterprise, leaner government, and a strong defense. Asserting that nearly two-thirds of the first ``Mandate'' recommendations had been or are being transformed into policy, ``Mandate II'' marshals the talents
of more than 150 experts into some 1,300 proposals for the federal government. There are specific recommendations for various Cabinet-level departments. A section is also devoted to such institutional reforms as the federal regulatory process, the social security system, and the congressional budget process. A final section discusses how to carry out the ``mandate'': constraints on policymaking, techniques for managing policy change, and the environment of the political executive.
As advertised, ``Mandate II'' is an exercise in leadership -- the creation and implementation of a vision. Not just another exercise, but an initiative of fundamental importance to America. Regardless of whether one agrees with the directions advocated in this ``road map,'' it nevertheless articulates a coherent program of specific changes -- and is a good predictor of Reagan administration initiatives in the next few years. Perhaps it will inspire Democrats and others to draft alternative ``road maps'' to the future, either before or after the election of a sympathetic president.
Michael Marien is editor of Future Survey, a monthly publication of the World Future Society, Bethesda, Md.