Warren Bennis was one of the great pioneers in the field of leadership. Small in physical stature, he was a giant in his intellect, his heart, and his spirit. Just as Peter Drucker was the father of management, Bennis was the father of leadership.
Bennis transformed our understanding of what it means to be a leader. He was the first scholar who said leadership is not a set of genetic characteristics, but the result of a lifelong process of self-discovery. Rejecting the notion that leaders are born with certain traits, he opened the door to the real source of leadership: within you. He wrote:
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.
He showed how leaders develop through their life experiences, are shaped by their crucibles, and emerge ever stronger to take on responsibilities of leadership. He said unequivocally, “Leadership is character,” adding,
It is not just a superficial question of style, but has to do with who we are as human beings, and with the forces that have shaped us. The process of becoming a leader is much the same as the process of becoming an integrated human being.
Bennis's early life was deeply influenced by his association at Antioch College and later at the Massachusetts Institute ...