Warren Bennis–leader, academic, consultant, sage–is blogging on Bloomberg Businessweek. What a fantastic gift to all of us in business as we can always benefit from some perspective and reflection on our daily work. Bennis, now an octogenarian, brings the whole of his life experience to play here in his blog. An example is the opening volley of his post, Authenticity: A Key to Management Education:
Writing this blog today, Aug. 3, 2012, excavated a memory almost seven decades old. It was my four-month training at Officer Candidate School (OCS) at Ft. Benning, Ga. In 120 days I would become a “shave-tail,” a 2nd Lieutenant, Infantry, a “replacement officer,” U.S. Army, headed for combat in Germany. It was 1944 and I was 19 and when my commanding officer pinned that gold-colored strip of brass on my epaulets, I felt like shouting, even more than the day of my bar mitzvah: “Today I am a Man!” For many years after, I would often refer to my Benning days as the “best education” I ever had…. OCS exposed and prepared me for the future I would soon face; as close and proximate to the “actual” experience of leading an infantry platoon in southern Germany. If you define a good education as that which prepares you for your next step in life, Benning was as good as it gets.
In that blog post, Bennis reflects on the meaning and the ‘weight’ of the word, authenticity, which he advances beyond the usual dictionary definition as: “closeness to the source.” And just as Bennis’ experience at Fort Benning was as close to simulating the front line as the army could provide, Bennis posits that business education must provide students with a training that simulates real business life. It’s not enough to theorize.
In another post, Mastering the Context, Bennis references a range of disparate characters–Plato, Harold Hill from The Music Man, Falstaff and Prince Hal from Henry IV, Churchill and John Kerry–to celebrate the effectiveness or impact that comes from employing context. “Terrific leaders know that “if you want to lead people, you’ve got to enter their world.”
In The Invisible B-School Curriculum, he describes mentoring as “a pas de deux of mutual attraction and recruitment.” Such apt and descriptive sentences pepper Bennis’ writing, not only in this blog, but also in his 30 books which include the classic, On Becoming a Leader, and his biography, Still Surprised which, as we raved in our Jack Covert Selects review “…like all of Warren Bennis’s books, it finds the heart of leadership. And now we get his wisdom in short reads via Businessweek.
Bennis is a leadership master, but so much more too. A storyteller, it seems. Visit his website which he introduces as thus:
Of course, this is more than the chronicle of one fortunate man; it’s filled with hundreds of colorful characters who’ve taught, influenced, and inspired me along the way. I hope you enjoy those stories as much as I have.