Still Surprised: A Memoir of a Life in Leadership by Warren Bennis with Patricia Ward Biederman, Jossey-Bass, 272 Pages, $27. 95 Hardcover, August 2010, ISBN 9780470432389 When you look at the greatest business thinkers from the second half of the last century, Warren Bennis would have to be in the conversation. When you focus on the field of leadership, he would have to be on the top of that list.
I had been changed and enriched by the advance course in leadership the war had thrust on me. It is no accident that the war produced so many authentic leaders in the second half of the 20th century. Nobody who has to make choices that result in the deaths of others takes leadership lightly.He then used the G.I. Bill to go to college at Antioch, a small "free-thinking institution that championed both learning and social justice" in Ohio where he met Douglas McGregor, who would become his early mentor. He went on to do his graduate work at MIT. These two experiences in higher education would transform his life:
One of the first and most critical things those two institutions did for me was radically alter my definition of work. ... Work—paid work at that—could be the activity of an engaged mind or a group of minds collaborating to solve a worthy problem.So inspired, he has spent the rest of his life in higher learning. As he recounts his journey, we meet an incredible group of people—like Nobel Prize winner Paul Samuelsson, counter-culture guru Werner Erhard and writer Norman Mailer. We also find out how Bennis developed his beliefs surrounding team-focused leadership instead of the hierarchical leadership model. All of this along with the tale of a life well lived. There are no new theories here, just great stories. But, like all of Warren Bennis's books, it finds the heart of leadership.