Reflections from the Leadership Guru

The distinction between leaders and managers is crisper thanks to Warren Bennis who said, “The manager accepts the status quo; the leader challenges it.”

Bennis, often called the father of leadership, died last week at age 89 after a life of advising business executives and U.S. Presidents from John F. Kennedy to Ronald Reagan.

I often referenced Bennis in my strategic communications course for MBA students at Willamette University, citing his belief that leaders are made, not born. “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.”

Bennis believed leaders embrace failure, using it as motivation for eventual success.