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Warren Bennis

Warren Bennis

Warren Bennis is University Professor and Distinguished Professor of Business at the University of Southern California. His newest book is 'Still Surprised: A Memoir of a Life in Leadership.'

Santa's Leadership Essentials

In the first session of the undergraduate class I teach on leadership each year, I show my one and only PowerPoint slide. It lists about 50 leaders, all of them well known: Mandela, Churchill, Bill Gates, FDR, Lincoln, Eisenhower, Truman, Meg Whitman, Gen. Petaeus, Jack Welch, Kay Graham, Barack Obama, Sergei Brin and so on.

After the class reads through this list, I pose a simple question: "What is the one distinguishing quality all these leaders have in common?" The students shout out their answers. These leaders have a vision. They inspire trust, have authenticity, competence or integrity. They are compelling speakers. They demonstrate judgment, taste and so on.

These are familiar answers, and important ones, but I press the students further. I point out members of the list who lack some of those qualities. What qualities, I ask, do they all share? Finally, I give the "correct" answer: All these leaders have inspired, willing followers. The response from students is usually a groan.

Given Santa Claus's global millions of willing and inspired followers, queuing up in the cold to buy presents for loved ones, how can there possibly be a singularly more powerful leader in the world than Santa!

By Warren Bennis

 |  December 22, 2008; 10:36 AM ET
Category:  Leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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