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Who is Warren Bennis?


When everyone is his or her own boss, no one is in charge, and chaos takes over. Leaders are needed to restore order, by which I mean not obedience but progress. It is time for us to control events rather than be controlled by them.

Best-selling leadership and management guru Warren Bennis, a founding member of Integral Institute, has served as University Professor and Distinguished Professor of the Marshall School of Business at the University of Southern California since 1979 and is founding Chairman of the USC Leadership Institute. The recipient of 11 honorary degrees, he has served on the faculties of Harvard, MIT, Boston University, and the Indian Institute of Management at Calcutta. He is the author of over 25 books on leadership, including the best-selling Leaders (named by Financial Times as one of the top 50 business books of all time) and On Becoming a Leader, both translated into 21 languages. He has published over 900 articles and two of his books have earned the coveted McKinsey Award for the Best Book on Management. He has also served in an advisory capacity to the past four U.S. presidents and as consultant to many Fortune 500 companies as well as the United Nations. The Wall Street Journal named Bennis as one of the top ten speakers on management, and Forbes dubbed him the "Dean of Leadership Gurus."

Bennis got his first taste of leadership at age 20 as the youngest infantry officer in the European theater of operations during WWII. As a lieutenant in the Army, he learned how to lead from both his own soldiers and his superior officers, an experience which earned him both the Bronze Star and a Purple Heart. After the war, Bennis attended Antioch College on the G.I. Bill, where he found a mentor in workplace motivational theorist Douglas McGregor. Bennis soon followed McGregor to MIT, where he earned a Ph.D. in economics and social science, taught at the Sloan School of Management, and eventually succeeded McGregor as chairman of the organizational studies department (current stomping grounds of IN contributors Peter Senge and Claus Otto Scharmer).

Bennis then moved on to become Provost and Executive Vice President of the forward-thinking University of Buffalo in the late 1960s (a school with ambitious plans to become “the Berkley of the East”), where he became a visible symbol of an academic revolution taking place that began to posit learning as a life-long pursuit, rather than a one-time affair. At Buffalo, Bennis learned the importance of maintaining continuity with an organization‘s past in order to create change in the future. As he once quoted Alfred North Whitehead:

Every leader, to be effective, must simultaneously adhere to the symbols of change and revision and the symbols of tradition and stability.

The book that Warren published in 1973, The Leaning Ivory Tower, came out of these turbulent times in Buffalo (the campus was at one point occupied by 600 armed state troopers), and raised issues about the ethical responsibility of leadership that would be central to much of his later work.

From 1971 to 1978, Bennis served as president of the University of Cincinnati and in the 1980s, he began to write the books that have become management classics, including the 1989 bestseller, On Becoming a Leader.

Since 1979, Dr. Bennis has served as University Professor and Distinguished Professor of the Marshall School of Business at the University of Southern California, where he continues to pursue his greatest joy, writing, while mentoring and taking pleasure in "people growing," the fullest expression of his axiom that a leader should be able to bring out the best in those around him.

Warren Bennis‘s extensive bibliography includes:

On Becoming a Leader
Addison-Wesley (1989)

An Invented Life: Reflections on Leadership and Change.
Perseus Publishing (1993)

Learning to Lead: A Workbook on Becoming a Leader (with Joan Goldsmith)
Basic Books (1997)

Warren has appeared on Integral Naked:

The Future of Leadership is Integral5/3/2004

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