Warren Bennis
Warren Bennis.jpg
Warren Gamaliel Bennis

(1925-03-08)March 8, 1925
DiedJuly 31, 2014(2014-07-31) (aged 89)
Spouse(s)Clurie Williams Bennis, (m. 1962, div. 1980), Grace Gabe (m. November 29, 1992)
ChildrenKatharine Bennis, John Leslie Bennis, Will Martin Bennis

Warren Gamaliel Bennis (March 8, 1925 – July 31, 2014) was an American scholar, organizational consultant and author, widely regarded as a pioneer of the contemporary field of Leadership studies.[1][2] Bennis was 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.[1]

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'[4] in Harvard Business Review in 1961."[5] O'Toole observed that Bennis challenged the prevailing wisdom by showing that humanistic, democratic-style leaders are better suited to dealing with the complexity and change that characterize the leadership environment.

Military service and education

Bennis was born in The Bronx and grew up within a working-class Jewish family in Westwood, New Jersey, before enlisting in the United States Army in 1943.[6] He would go on to serve as one of the Army's youngest infantry officers in the European theater of operations, and was awarded the Purple Heart and Bronze Star.[7]

Following his military service, Bennis enrolled in Antioch College in 1947, where he earned his BA in 1951. In 1952, Bennis was awarded an Honors Certificate from London School of Economics, and Hicks Fellow from MIT. Antioch president Douglas McGregor, considered one of the founders of the modern democratic management philosophy, would take Bennis on as a protégé, a scholarly relationship that would prove fruitful when both later served as professors at the MIT Sloan School of Management. Bennis earned his PhD from MIT in 1955, majoring in Social Sciences and Economics. 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.[2][5] He was inducted into Omicron Delta Kappa in 2002 while at USC.

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.[11]

He has also spent time on the faculties of Harvard and Boston University and taught at the Indian Institute of Management Calcutta (IIM-C), INSEAD and IMD. In addition to his posts at USC, Bennis served as chairman of the Advisory Board of the Center for Public Leadership at Harvard University's Kennedy School. He was 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.


The Wall Street Journal named him as one of the top ten most sought speakers on management in 1993; Forbes magazine referred to him as the "dean of leadership gurus" in 1996. The Financial Times referred to him in 2000 as "the professor who established leadership as a respectable academic field."[citation needed] In August, 2007, Business Week ranked him as one of the top ten thought leaders in business.[12] [13]

His work On Becoming a Leader, originally published in 1989, lays the foundation that a leader must be authentic, i.e. author of one's own creation;[14] a combination of experience, self-knowledge, and personal ethics. This need for an effective leader to remain true to their self-invention would be further expanded upon by others into what has become known as the authentic leadership approach.[15]


Warren Bennis has written approximately 30 books, many with co-authors. Here is a selection:


  1. ^ a b Center for Public Leadership, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, Fall 2005
  2. ^ a b Center for Excellence in Teaching, University of Southern California
  3. ^ USC Experts Directory, University of Southern California
  4. ^ Bennis, W.G. (1961), "Revisionist theory of leadership", Harvard Business Review, Vol. 39
  5. ^ a b Center for Public Leadership, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, Fall 2005
  6. ^ Rifkin, Glenn ong. "Warren G. Bennis, Scholar on Leadership, Dies at 89", The New York Times, August 1, 2014. Accessed October 28, 2015. "Warren Gamaliel Bennis was born in the Bronx on March 8, 1925. He grew up in Westwood, N.J., during the Great Depression."
  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 Excellence in Teaching, University of Southern California
  12. ^ "Center for Public Leadership - Gergen: Different paths on Georgia". Archived from the original on 2012-07-10. Retrieved 2009-04-22.
  13. ^ Center for Public Leadership, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, Fall 2005
  14. ^ Bennis, W. (2009), On Becoming a Leader, New Youk: Basic Books, p47-48
  15. ^ Carpenter, M. (2010), Principles of Management, Irvington: Flat World Knowledge, p273

Further reading

Academic offices Preceded byWalter C. Langsam President of the University of Cincinnati 1971 – 1977 Succeeded byHenry R. Winkler
  1. ^ Calacanis, Jason. "Interview with Dr. Warren Bennis". This Week In Startups. Retrieved 15 March 2013.