Geeks & Geezers



Book Authors: Warren G. Bennis, Robert J. Thomas

Book Review by : Anil Kumar Kartham
Faculty Associate, ICMR (IBS Center for Management Research)


Leadership, cross-generational leadership, wisdom, skill, Era, Changing the world, organization, how people become leaders, Crucible, Individual factors, IQ, self-grooming, Adaptive capacity, leadership competencies

Regulating the Regulator

Leadership is as old as human civilization. Every time, irrespective of crises, leadership was one thing that ensured the sustenance of human societies. Great challenges naturally needed great leaders and they emerged whenever they were needed. Seen this way circumstances themselves had important role in creating leaders.

The authors Warren G Bennis and Robert J Thomas (Bennis & Thomas) began this point as the basis and weaved their story on leadership. Essentially, the book tries to explain leadership, learning, and the magical process by which people succeed continuously. While doing this, authors focused on cross-generational leadership at two groups of leaders: the geeks and the geezers. According to the book the geeks are young (35 and under); most of whom are involved in the now troubled yet still vital New Economy. The geeks have outstanding achievements at a young age. They characterize a thoughtful ability to articulate their experiences, observations, and views. The geezers are the grandparents of geeks (all 70 and above.)

They are admired for their wisdom and skill. Though some of these leaders are retired, yet most of them continue to lead major corporations and other successful organizations. In writing the book, the authors were led by the belief that leadership in a rapidly changing world needs the backup of wisdom of elders and the insights of younger people who have clearly demonstrated their leadership abilities.  The book is a compilation of the experience of these geeks and geezers. Authors tried to find out answers to questions such as why some people are able to extract wisdom from experience, and why others are not.

The book makes informative reading with successful geeks sharing the secrets of their triumphs at tender age. And geezers disclosing their secrets of what keep them active and engaged in spite of significant shifts in the world in which they were born and brought up and the world in which they live today. The authors of this book promise that the lessons learnt from the lives of these people would help others in finding best strategies for leading and learning through out their life. This book thus aims to formulate, rather ambitiously, a theory of leadership.

The theory of leadership assumes that distinctive periods in history play important role in creating leaders. The authors call this phenomenon as "Era". According to the book, "Era" plays a key role in determining choices that are both mundane and profound, ranging from music people prefer to much of coloration that marks their lives. The authors tried to explain the historical forces that influenced the geeks and the geezers, before emphasizing the lessons that can be learned from their experiences. This makes the book a continuous and a sensible reading.

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