Warren Bennis, Leaders are made rather than born.I was saddened to hear of the passing of Warren Bennis. Over the past 30 years my views and practices on leadership have been profoundly influenced by his research and writing. After reading his personally revealing and deeply thoughtful memoirs a few years ago (“Review of Still Surprised: A Memoir of a Life in Leadership“) he almost felt like a friend or close colleague. I quoted a few highlights from his book in “Thoughts That Make You Go Hmmm…Leadership Reflections from Warren Bennis“.

Looking back at “the wisdom of Warren” quotations we still use in workshops today or I’ve published in books or The Leader Letter, here are a few of my very favorites:

“The most dangerous leadership myth is that leaders are born — that there is a genetic factor to leadership. This myth asserts that people simply either have certain charismatic qualities or not. That’s nonsense; in fact, the opposite is true. Leaders are made rather than born.”

“One of the greatest challenges a leader faces at the height of his or her career is not simply allowing people to speak the truth but actually being able to hear it.”

“An essential factor in leadership is the ability to influence and organize meaning for the members of the organization.”

“A basic ingredient of leadership is passion — the underlying passion for the promises of life, combined with a very particular passion for a vocation, a profession, a course of action. The leader loves what he or she does and loves doing it.”

“To be authentic is literally to be your own author (the words derive from the same Greek root), to discover your native energies and desires, and then find your own way of acting on them. When you have done that, you are not existing simply to live up to an image posed by the culture or by family tradition or some other authority. When you write your own life, you have played the game that was natural for you to play. You have kept covenant with your own promise.”

“Management is getting people to do what needs to be done. Leadership is getting people to want to do what needs to be done. Managers push. Leaders pull. Managers command. Leaders communicate…”

“Leaders are people who do the right thing; managers are people who do things right. Both roles are crucial, and they differ profoundly…. many an institution is well managed yet very poorly led.”

“Leadership is not so much the exercise of power as the empowerment of others. Leaders lead by pulling rather than by pushing; by creating achievable, challenging expectations and rewarding progress toward them, rather than by manipulating; by enabling people to use their own initiative.”

“Hearing ‘reflective backtalk’ from friends, colleagues, spouses, and significant others allows us to ‘true’ ourselves in relation to their perceptions. With this input we can integrate our internal conversations with data from the external world to enrich the process of knowing ourselves better.”