On Leadership
Video | PostLeadership | FedCoach | | Books | About |
Exploring Leadership in the News with Steven Pearlstein and Raju Narisetti

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.'

Archive: Warren Bennis

Dear Sultan or King or Your Highness

No one knows, with any certitude, how long such advances take; especially so for a royal dynasty or a charismatic dictatorship. If any of your advisors tell you they know, fire them...

By Warren Bennis | February 22, 2011; 10:35 AM ET | Comments (4)


Witness tonight's anemic Republican response...

By Warren Bennis | January 26, 2011; 10:11 AM ET | Comments (0)

The man of all seasons: Sidney Harman

"If and when I die," he once said to me, during a tennis match years ago. I took that seriously. When the business world, in particular, is desperately looking for leaders with...

By Warren Bennis | December 22, 2010; 04:12 PM ET | Comments (0)

Four questions to ask of Republicans

Regardless of party, campaigning and governing are and will always be different. As Mario Cuomo famously said when he was running for the Democrat nominee for president, "Campaigning is poetry. Governing is prose." In next week's election, the contrast between campaigning and governing will be more pronounced than...

By Warren Bennis | October 26, 2010; 09:39 AM ET | Comments (0)

Fighting the bull

Actually, I've been more concerned with Obama's team of economists than his military advisers. Virtually no member of this illustrious team has fought the bull. I would hope that President Obama would recruit at least one CEO--yes, one who had a met a payroll--one with a comprehensive understanding of markets, corporate finance and tons of experience. Even one could augment and complement the Chateau Economists who have held sway far too long...

By Warren Bennis | October 1, 2010; 10:01 AM ET | Comments (0)

The wrong return to our roots

As E.B White put it years ago in a New Yorker essay, "There is a bright future for complexity, what with one thing always leading to another." Let's hope the Tea Party and, more importantly, both of our dominant political parties speak out with clear-eyed optimism for the common good--a common good that rests on the solid grounds of democracy; that rests on a government that would not, should not, be a distributive leadership" (whatever that is); and that rests on a nation with the resources and brains and resilience to solve complex problems that demand equitable, respectful solutions and results.

By Warren Bennis | September 22, 2010; 01:37 PM ET | Comments (0)

Understanding the stakeholders

The key lesson for both public and private leaders is the significance of an in-depth understanding of their clogged cartography of stakeholders. For federal leaders especially, the media have to be among the top 5% of stakeholder salience. Why? Because their employees...

By Warren Bennis | August 31, 2010; 10:16 AM ET | Comments (0)

Our 'shut-eye' corporate sentries

Like Ken Lay before him, Tony Hayward's failing was not simply his myopia or cupidity or incompetence. It was his inability to create a company culture open to reality.

By Warren Bennis | July 28, 2010; 06:00 PM ET | Comments (2)

Size is no excuse

Blaming size is a cop out! GE, Google, and FedEx have all thrived with growth. The key is for each element of a large organization to know its common purpose.

By Warren Bennis | July 22, 2010; 12:28 PM ET | Comments (2)

Deep pockets to fire as he pleased

The famous and most quotable British physician, Sir William Osler, once said that medicine could be a science if every patient were identical. The same can be said about leadership.

By Warren Bennis | July 15, 2010; 02:21 PM ET | Comments (1)

Salvaging the mission

Fixing the mistake of a hopelessly incoherent strategy similar to but far more dangerous than Iraq, is impossible and Petraeus must know that.

By Warren Bennis | June 24, 2010; 11:28 AM ET | Comments (1)

Create jobs and tax the rich

The issue is not the false dichotomy between voters looking for a deficit reduction versus fiscal stimulus.

By Warren Bennis | June 22, 2010; 03:17 AM ET | Comments (0)

New leaders come from within

There are three general and related "laws" that make the difference between success and failure in selecting a new leader.

By Warren Bennis | June 8, 2010; 06:40 AM ET | Comments (0)

National inflection points

The biggest challenges for leaders is freshly imagining the content for future curricula and research that will sustain a healthy economy, social justice and a relatively high sense of collective well-being.

By Warren Bennis | May 26, 2010; 11:48 AM ET | Comments (0)

The power of indirect leaders

Whether first ladies are leaders or simply the pale distaff of their husband -- think Mrs. Eisenhower -- depends on the degree to which they use their voice and how much they want to amplify it.

By Warren Bennis | May 13, 2010; 02:00 PM ET | Comments (0)

Painfully simple failure

Toyota's leaders forget to obsessively remind their people about what's important: safety and reliability.

By Warren Bennis | February 11, 2010; 10:01 AM ET | Comments (1)

'Populist bigotry'

"I should have recognized earlier the desperate and futile barriers my opponents have built. My 'restless dream' has turned into a nightmare for the American people."

By Warren Bennis | January 27, 2010; 06:09 AM ET | Comments (1)

Five 'musts' for leaders

You are not alone. Abandon the dangerous delusion that you alone can solve the problem with one wave of the wand.

By Warren Bennis | January 8, 2010; 06:52 AM ET | Comments (0)

Four leadership lessons

You want to be a hero, a leader, a celebrity? Great. Then are you ready to sacrifice and give up what the rest of us can get away with?

By Warren Bennis | December 10, 2009; 09:27 AM ET | Comments (2)

Loaded with substance

Symbolic choices are certainly not "devoid of substance." Had President Bush shown up at Katrina the day it hit rather than "a few days later," would his sudden drop in approval ratings -- perhaps a turning point in his presidency -- have occurred?

By Warren Bennis | November 30, 2009; 06:13 AM ET | Comments (1)

The West Point effect

My four months in Officer Candidate School in 1944 was superior to all the corporate management training programs I've observed and consulted for over the last 25 years.

By Warren Bennis | November 3, 2009; 09:55 AM ET | Comments (3)

Pivotal for Success?

Before I personally agree to attend any meeting, I run it through my template of five questions.

By Warren Bennis | October 6, 2009; 06:52 AM ET | Comments (0)

Neither Hamlet Nor Bush

If President Obama is reconsidering our policy in Afghanistan, that is the essential act of a leader -- not an "about face."

By Warren Bennis | September 24, 2009; 06:15 AM ET | Comments (39)

Not in the Quiver

Fear won't work for this president at this this time because those Blue Dog Democrats and some Republicans are fearful but not of the president.

By Warren Bennis | August 18, 2009; 10:30 AM ET | Comments (2)

The Distorted Loudspeaker

Our president may have learned that he has to weigh his words carefully, most especially when uninformed or not carefully briefed on all the facts.

By Warren Bennis | August 4, 2009; 10:05 AM ET | Comments (1)

Obsessive Communication

Just as FDR spent more than a year winning bipartisan support for his Social Security Act, so Obama must keep communicating the importance of his health care plan.

By Warren Bennis | July 29, 2009; 10:25 AM ET | Comments (2)

Freeze Top Salaries

It would be smart for bank leaders to announce that salary increases to the top-third salary earners be frozen until the banks show four consecutive quarters of profits.

By Warren Bennis | July 20, 2009; 02:32 PM ET | Comments (2)

Leadership Pop Quiz

What is the best predictor of bad judgement?

By Warren Bennis | July 13, 2009; 03:37 PM ET | Comments (0)

Putting the "I" in "iPhone"

Isn't it ironic that one of the early mavens of transparency, with his lap tops, iPhone and iPod, has been himself one of the least transparent leaders, especially about his own medical problems?

By Warren Bennis | June 23, 2009; 09:19 AM ET | Comments (2)

Spiritual Doubts

I respect Jackson's character but doubt that spirituality on the hard wood of a basketball court would make much of a difference.

By Warren Bennis | June 15, 2009; 11:57 PM ET | Comments (0)

Roosevelt's Story

If you consider American presidents of this and the past century, almost all of our successful ones had a strong narrative which the public could identify with and made them feel understood.

By Warren Bennis | June 9, 2009; 06:28 AM ET | Comments (0)

Stay Involved

The government--and taxpayers--must play an important role in choosing top GM's top leadership and stay involved in matters like oversight, transparency, and emissions. We must ensure that GM is using our investment to make cars people want to buy.

By Warren Bennis | June 2, 2009; 10:19 AM ET | Comments (1)

National Consequences

In the Michigan affirmative action case, Justices Kennedy or O'Connor showed flexibility, taking into account the national consequences of the decision. A new Supreme Court justice should be able to straddle principles and consequences.

By Warren Bennis | May 18, 2009; 03:31 PM ET | Comments (0)

Carter's Example

"Formers" can be very useful if they are trusted by both parties and are seen as men and women of good will, interested in the common good.

By Warren Bennis | May 12, 2009; 10:15 AM ET | Comments (0)

Neither Hard Nor Soft, Just Plain Smart

What a relief to hear a reasonable president discuss unreasonable problems -- like North Korea's aborted missile launch -- with composure, tact, and strength.

By Warren Bennis | April 7, 2009; 11:32 AM ET | Comments (0)

No Other Choice

This isn't like firing a coach after one bad season. This firing a leader who has been losing every season of this decade.

By Warren Bennis | March 31, 2009; 09:50 AM ET | Comments (0)

It's Not About "Moments"

Talking about "leadership moments" is another stupid example of the quarterly "short-termism" of Wall Street. We should think in terms of leadership months and years; this is going to be a long haul.

By Warren Bennis | March 22, 2009; 10:12 PM ET | Comments (0)

Student View: Even Twins Are Different

While some females may appreciate being considered a preventive measure to a financial crisis, I find it sexist and unrealistic, writes Caroline Goodson, an undergraduate student of Warren Bennis.

By Warren Bennis | March 11, 2009; 09:45 AM ET | Comments (1)

Gender No Silver Bullet

Wall Street became a system run amok because of group think, greed, sloppy and lax regulation, and close to zero transparency. Unfortunately, DNA or brain circuitry or sex hormones can't solve these serious design flaws.

By Warren Bennis | March 9, 2009; 04:01 AM ET | Comments (2)

Surprising Student Votes

Undergraduates in Warren Bennis's USC class on leadership cast their votes for best leadership films: "Soul Food," "Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory," and "Harry Potter."

By Warren Bennis | February 18, 2009; 11:22 AM ET | Comments (3)

The Ingredients of "Milk"

Sean Penn's character, Harvey Milk, had all the necessary ingredients of remarkable leadership: He was a terrific recruiter who sensed that the people he was fighting for needed, most of all, respect.

By Warren Bennis | February 17, 2009; 01:40 PM ET | Comments (0)

Ease the Pain

There is of course no "right" way of downsizing, but a few methods will help its victims make a smoother transition.

By Warren Bennis | February 9, 2009; 10:20 AM ET | Comments (0)

The Tuchman Folly Syndrome

Cultural blindness and a high level of hubris often cause blind spots in organizations and leaders.

By Warren Bennis | February 2, 2009; 03:05 PM ET | Comments (0)

Coaching Up Underperformers

Think of the 57-year-old pilot who saved almost 160 lives by his careful maneuvering of his aircraft into the Hudson River. Before last week, most aviation experts would have doubted that a rookie pilot was capable of such an accomplishment.

By Warren Bennis | January 26, 2009; 04:47 PM ET | Comments (5)

Reaching the Millennials

Obama's inaugural address called us all to pitch in, and his message resonated with the young, tech-savvy generation.

By Warren Bennis | January 22, 2009; 10:40 AM ET | Comments (0)

Calm, Cool and Collected

He handled himself with grace through the campaign, and so far, he's managed to keep it up.

By Warren Bennis | January 15, 2009; 10:45 AM ET | Comments (0)

Perversely Beneficial

It was Bush 43 who made possible the election of Barack Obama, and for that we should thank him.

By Warren Bennis | January 7, 2009; 10:11 AM ET | Comments (4)

Tampa Bay Rays Manager Joe Maddon

Maddon brought his team out their 2007 basement to win the 2008 World Series, all while keeping costs low and demonstrating candor, taste and plain common sense.

By Warren Bennis | December 30, 2008; 10:29 AM ET | Comments (1)

Santa's Leadership Essentials

Santa has the magic quality no great leader can do without.

By Warren Bennis | December 22, 2008; 10:36 AM ET | Comments (0)

Commit Acts of Candor

There is only one way to deal with allegations or illegal behavior and that is total transparency.

By Warren Bennis | December 15, 2008; 01:55 PM ET | Comments (1)

The Deadly Hand of Habit

Success is great -- until it kills you.

By Warren Bennis | December 10, 2008; 10:11 AM ET | Comments (46)

RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2011 The Washington Post Company