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Friday, November 16, 2007

Warren G. Bennis

Warren G. Bennis
Born: March 8, 1925
New York City, New York
Occupation: President, University of Cincinnati
University Professor, Distinguished Professor, Business Administration, University of Southern California
Consultant, Werner Erhard and Associates
Chairman, BOD, Harvard University Kennedy School of Government Center for Public Leadership
Spouse: Mary Jane O'Donnell, (m. March 8, 1988, div.1991)
Grace Gabe (m. November 29, 1992)
Children: 3

Warren Gameliel Bennis (March 8, 1925 - is an American scholar, organizational consultant and author who is widely regarded as a pioneer of the contemporary field of leadership studies. [1] [2] Bennis is University Professor and Distinguished Professor of Business Administration and Founding Chairman of The Leadership Institute at the University of Southern California [3].

“His work at MIT in the 1960s on group behavior foreshadowed -- and helped bring about -- today's headlong plunge into less hierarchical, more democratic and adaptive institutions, private and public,” management expert Tom Peters wrote in 1993 in the foreword to Bennis’ An Invented Life: Reflections on Leadership and Change[4].

Management expert James O’Toole, in a 2005 issue of Compass, published by Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, claimed that Bennis developed “an interest in a then-nonexistent field that he would ultimately make his own -- leadership -- with the publication of his ‘Revisionist Theory of Leadership’ in Harvard Business Review in 1961.” [5]O’Toole observed that Bennis challenged the prevailing wisdom by showing that humanistic, democratic-style leaders better suited to dealing with the complexity and change that characterize the leadership environment[6].

Military Service & Education

Bennis grew up within a working-class Jewish family in Westwood, New Jersey, before enlisting in 1943 in the United States Army. He would go on to serve as the Army’s youngest infantry officer in the European theater of operations, and was awarded the Purple Heart and Bronze Star. [7]

He enrolled in Antioch College in 1947 following his military service. Antioch president Douglas McGregor, considered one of the founders of the modern democratic management philosophy, would take on Bennis as a protégé, a scholarly relationship that would prove fruitful when both later served as professors at MIT’s Sloan School of Management. [There, Bennis would hold the post of chairman of the Organizational Studies Department.] [8]


Within the area of management, Bennis sought to move from theory to practice in 1967, taking the post of provost of the State University of New York at Buffalo and the presidency of the University of Cincinnati in 1971. He authored two books on leadership during his presidency: The Leaning Ivory Tower, 1973, and The Unconscious Conspiracy: Why Leaders Can’t Lead, 1976. [9]

Bennis chose to return to the life of a teacher, consultant and author following a heart attack in 1979, joining the faculty of the University of Southern California. Most of the best-known of his 27 books followed, including the bestselling Leaders and On Becoming A Leader, both translated into 21 languages. [10] An Invented Life was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. More recent books, Organizing Genius, 1997, Co-Leaders, 1999, and Managing The Dream, 2000, summarize Bennis’s interests in leadership, judgment, organizational change and creative collaboration. Geeks & Geezers, 2002, examines the differences and similarities between leaders thirty years and younger and leaders seventy years and older.[11][12]

Bennis spent time as an adviser to four United States presidents and several other public figures, and has also consulted for numerous FORTUNE 500 companies[13].

He has also spent time on the faculties of Harvard and Boston University and taught at the Indian Institute of Management-Calcutta, INSEAD and IMD. In addition to his current posts at USC, Bennis serves as chairman of the Advisory Board of the Center for Public Leadership at Harvard University’s Kennedy School. He is a visiting professor of leadership at the University of Exeter (UK) and a senior fellow at UCLA’s School of Public Policy and Social Research.


Bennis’ impact on the fields of leadership and management theory is significant. The Wall Street Journal named him as one of the top ten speakers on management in 1993; Forbes magazine referred to him as the “dean of leadership gurus” in 1996. The Financial Times referred to Bennis in 2000 as “the professor who established leadership as a respectable academic field.”[14]

Werner Erhard

Erhard Seminars Training

Warren Bennis took the EST Training in London, in 1979 :

Another scholar who knows Erhard well is Warren Bennis, professor of business administration at USC. Bennis took the est training in 1979 in London: "It gave me a good sense of who I was at a critical period in my life. I had just ended my time as university president, and I was looking around for new directions."[15]

Werner Erhard and Associates

Bennis later served as a consultant to Werner Erhard and Associates in the 1980s :

Bennis, who during the early 1980s served as a consultant to Erhard, giving advice on organizational design and leadership techniques, felt that what the training provided in those years was a "restoration of the self": "I'm sort of a loner among my colleagues. The people I know have profited from it. I don't think it deserved the bad press it has gotten. Personally, I haven't met a person who has gone through it and not profited."

But Bennis adds that there were problems: "The bad part is the proselytizing, the phone calls you get, the language; there's something missing in the aesthetic of it. And another problem has been the dependence upon Werner himself. Which is not his problem. If you're in that kind of position, sometimes you get disciples as opposed to students."

"I have to say," adds Bennis, "that it's an incredible puzzle for me that he has acquired such a negative image among so many people. I detect a lot of hostility, and I don't understand it. A lot of my friends are Jewish, and I'm Jewish, and often they see est as a quick fix for making money from losers.

"But many of my colleagues who criticize Erhard have grown up in a deterministic environment. The world they know was created by Freud, Darwin and Marx -- all men who believed in limits. I think Erhard is talking from a different perspective, and sometimes that's threatening to people who are resigned to the death-on-the-installment plan."[15]

John F. Kennedy School of government

Werner Erhard and his associate Gonneke Spits attended this event in honor of Bennis :

Werner Erhard, individual, organizational, and social transformation expert; and Gonneke Spits, who has worked with Werner Erhard for the past 40 years[16]

Appears in Documentary

In 2006, Warren Bennis appeared alongside Landmark Forum Leaders Laurel Scheaf and Randy McNamara, 60 Minutes and the Assassination of Werner Erhard author Jane Selfand Werner Erhard in the Robyn Symon documentary: Transformation: The Life and Legacy of Werner Erhard.[17]

Associated Publications



  1. ^ [ Center for Public Leadership], John F. Kennedy School of government, Harvard University, Fall 2005
  2. ^ [ Center for Excellence in Teaching], University of Southern California
  3. ^ [ USC Experts Directory], University of Southern California
  4. ^ [ Center for Public Leadership], John F. Kennedy School of government, Harvard University, Fall 2005
  5. ^ [Bennis, W.G. (1961), "Revisionist theory of leadership"], Harvard Business Review, Vol. 39
  6. ^ [ Center for Public Leadership], John F. Kennedy School of government, Harvard University, Fall 2005
  7. ^ [Bennis, Warren, "Managing the Dream," Chapter 16, pages 195-199], Perseus Publishing , Cambridge, Massachusetts, 2000
  8. ^ [Bennis, Warren, "Managing the Dream," Chapter 16, pages 199-211], Perseus Publishing , Cambridge, Massachusetts, 2000
  9. ^ [Bennis, Warren, "Managing the Dream," Chapter 16, pages 204-226], Perseus Publishing , Cambridge, Massachusetts, 2000
  10. ^ [Bennis, Warren, "Managing the Dream," Chapter 16, pages 212-226], Perseus Publishing , Cambridge, Massachusetts, 2000
  11. ^ [ Center for Public Leadership], John F. Kennedy School of government, Harvard University, Fall 2005
  12. ^ [ Center for Excellence in Teaching], University of Southern California
  13. ^ [ Center for Excellence in Teaching], University of Southern California
  14. ^ [ Center for Public Leadership], John F. Kennedy School of government, Harvard University, Fall 2005
  15. ^ a b The Return of Werner Erhard: Guru II, Los Angeles Magazine, May, 1988, Vol 33; No 5; Sec 1; pg 106, Mark MacNamara, San Francisco, CA
  16. ^ Center for Public Leadership, John F. Kennedy School of government, Harvard University, May 11, 2004
  17. ^ Transformation: The Life and Legacy of Werner Erhard, Documentary, 2006, Directed by Robyn Symon


  • 'Beyond Bureaucracy: Essays on the Development and Evolution of Human Organization'
  • 'Beyond Counterfeit Leadership: How You Can Become a More Authentic Leader'
  • 'Beyond Leadership: Balancing Economics, Ethics and Ecology' (ISBN 155786960X)
  • 'Co-Leaders: The Power of Great Partnerships'
  • 'Geeks & Geezers : How Era, Values, and Defining Moments Shape Leaders' (ISBN 1578515823)
  • 'Leaders: Strategies for Taking Charge' (ISBN 0887308392)
  • 'Managing People Is Like Herding Cats: Warren Bennis on Leadership' (ISBN 096349175X)
  • 'Managing the Dream: Reflections on Leadership and Change' (ISBN 0738203327)
  • 'On Becoming a Leader' (ISBN 0738208175)
  • 'Organizing Genius: The Secrets of Creative Collaboration' (ISBN 0201570513)
  • 'Reinventing Leadership: Strategies to Empower the Organization' (ISBN 9780060820527)
  • 'The Leaning Ivory Tower' (ISBN 0875891578)
  • 'The Planning of Change' (ISBN 0030895189)
  • 'The Unreality Industry: The Deliberate Manufacturing of Falsehood and What It Is Doing to Our Lives '
  • 'Visionary Leadership: Creating a Compelling Sense of Direction for Your Organization'
  • 'Why Leaders Can't Lead: The Unconscious Conspiracy Continues' (ISBN 1555421520)

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