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Visionary Leadership

Warren Bennis

Alfred Sloan and Martin Luther King, although from very different walks of life, both possessed one thing in common. They had attained self-mastery, and they had developed a vision. The same applied to William Paley.

When William Paley took over at America's CBS in 1928, at the age of 27, it had no stations of its own, was losing money, and was insignificant in an industry completely dominated by NBC. Within ten years, CBS had 114 stations and was earning $27.7 million. More than 40 years later, with Paley still at the helm, CBS was a dominant force in the broadcasting industry. David Halberstam has described Paley's ability like this:

The critical years were the early ones. What he had from the start was a sense of vision, a sense of what might be. It was as if he could sit in New York in this tiny office with his almost bankrupt company and see not just his own desk, or the row of potential advertisers outside along Madison Avenue, but millions of the American people out in the hinterlands, so many of them out there, almost alone, many of them in homes as yet unconnected to electricity, people alone with almost no form of entertainment other than radio. It was his sense, his confidence that he could reach the masses, that he had something for them, that made him different. He could envision the audience at a time when there was in fact no audience. He not only had the vision, he knew how to harness it, he could see that the larger the audience, ...

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