Foreword
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ix THE STORY SEEMS AS OLD AS METHUSELAH. Following a string of losses, the directors of a company launch an intensive search for a corporate messiah. Eventually, they find one, a miracle worker, who, it seems at the time, can restore customer confidence, employee morale, and, most important , operating income. But, just months after the appointment, disillusionment sets in and the would-be savior is terminated unceremoniously. Sound far-fetched? In the teeth of the recent financial crisis, the American landscape is littered with such dark clouds. The corner office has become a revolving door, as boards and shareholders become ever more demanding. Increasingly, heading an important organization is like being one of the kings in ancient Crete who had extraordinary power and access to every perk and pleasure—but only for a time. After his year of absolute power, the king was put to death. For contemporary leaders, the emperor’s throne isn’t nearly as comfortable as it used to be. As the top job becomes more and more tenuous, tackling the near-impossible becomes critical. Nor are these gargantuan challenges confined to corporate titans or to the private sector. Take sports, for instance. From my perch at the University of Southern California, I’m an unabashed Trojans fan. So I was shocked when our charismatic assistant football coach, Lane Kiffin, left USC for the black hole of professional coaching, the top slot at the Oakland Raiders. Less than two years later, the team’s aging autocrat, Al Davis, abruptly pink-slipped the thirty-one-year-old Kiffin—his fifth head coach in seven years. Fortunately, Kiffin landed on his feet, snaring the top coaching job at the University of Tennessee. Today, we are seeing more and more dark hours—nightmarish situations where talented men and women, quite often for reasons beyond FOR EWOR D x foreword their control, seem destined to walk the plank. No doubt, we’ve all—at one time or another—encountered times of gloom and despair. I used to think I wanted to be a university president. And for seven long years, I did just that. The problem was I wanted to be a university president, but I didn’t want to do a university president—a role often described as notoriously hellish. Less than three years into my tenure, I had a moment of truth. At four o’clock in the morning—weary of bone and tired of soul, I found myself muttering, “Either I can’t manage this place, or it’s unmanageable .” Consequently, I shucked the brass ring for opportunities that allowed me to achieve my brightest triumphs: to write, teach, and lecture on a wide variety of topics. I have to add now—I hope not too defensively—that peering back through the shining ether of thirty years of time, I feel more capable of writing about servant leadership with more authority than I would have had as a full-time scholar. To this extent, I believe David Heenan’s thinking and writing have marinated over time, depositing a more profound conceptual heft and gravitas than had he remained a distinguished Wharton scholar. In this well-timed book, Heenan examines why some of us are able to sidestep life’s most serious setbacks and go on to greatness. He knows this subject. A well-respected corporate executive, business school dean, and former Marine, he has encountered his own share of the best and worst of times, as Dickens put it. It is this authenticity that allows him to lay out an intellectual road map—a set of directions any of us can follow to confront some of life’s most daunting challenges. While Bright Triumphs From Dark Hours offers no major formula, no quick fix, it does provide hard-hitting strategies for turning gloom into prosperity. Read this groundbreaking book and you’ll discover some simple truths about overcoming adversity. Part mediation, part how-to manual, Bright Triumphs illustrates through the prism of ten extraordinary individuals that confronting a hellhole is not the end of the world. According to Heenan, it could even be a required speed bump on the road to success—to, in his words, a Bright Triumph. WARREN BENNIS Santa Monica, California August 2009 xi MANY FRIENDS AND COLLEAGUES contributed to this book. Earlier versions of the manuscript were critiqued by Warren Bennis, Jerry Porras , Kent Keith, Dan and Peter Boylan, Vance Roley, Dave Bess, and Reg Worthley. Brett...