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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.'

Student View: Even Twins Are Different

Caroline Goodson, an undergraduate student in Warren Bennis's course, "The Art and Adventure of Leadership" at the University of Southern California, co-taught with USC president Steven Sample, weighs in with her opinion. -- Ed.

It is tempting to imagine that people who appear similar in one way share similar personality traits as well. Yet examples of leadership in the real world show us the difference lies in the individual. My professor, Dr. Bennis, often refers to his two older brothers - twins. One of them led so well, he could probably herd cats, but the other, however, couldn't even organize a pick-up game with the neighborhood boys. These two are twins; they have nearly identical DNA yet behave so differently. With this evidence and more, how can one argue that 50 percent of the global population definitively acts a certain way simply because they all have two X chromosomes?

Look at leaders Margaret Thatcher, Mary Robinson, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Aung San Suu-Kyi, Benazir Bhutto, Gro Harlem Brundtland, Hillary Clinton, Tzipi Livni, Ingrid Betancourt, etc. Some are known for their hard power, others their soft power. Some have a record of corruption, aggressive war, rebellion, or establishing and maintaining peace, and all of these traits are based in context and individual background. These women are as dynamic and different as any group of male leaders, and if women actually had access to top positions on Wall Street, one cannot say with certainty that they would handle the situation in a different way. If we knew the individuals, we might have a better answer.

Our social construction of gender unfairly and irrationally categorizes people based on their sex. There was a time when people thought members of the same race behaved identically, but our society is (slowly) overcoming this fallacy. The time has come for this realization in terms of gender. Grouping may be easy, but discovering what distinguishes individuals from their peers is a far more practical exercise, especially when it comes to leadership.

Women, as individuals, should be allowed equal opportunity to these Wall Street leadership positions, and while some females may appreciate being considered a preventive measure to a financial crisis, I find it sexist and unrealistic. -- Caroline Goodson

By Warren Bennis

 |  March 11, 2009; 9:45 AM ET
Category:  Women in Leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: Only Two Percent of Fortune 500 CEOs Are Female | Next: Compensation Limits


Please report offensive comments below.

Having an opinion is easy. Everybody does.Having an informed opinion is trickier.
How refreshing then to hear the informed opinion of a (smart) student like Caroline Goodson who brings hard facts into the debate, thereby saving us from a manichean view of the world !
This young woman speaks the truth.
She will move very soon into a leadership position. Hope so at least.

Posted by: cnuguezguangzhouvxiangang | March 16, 2009 5:13 AM
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