Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Still Surprised: A Memoir Of A Life In Leadership (JB Warren Bennis)

Still Surprised: A Memoir of a Life in Leadership (Jb Warren Bennis)

Still Surprised: A Memoir of a Life in Leadership (Jb Warren Bennis)
By Warren Bennis

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Product Description

An intimate look at the founding father of the modern leadership movement Warren Bennis is an acclaimed American scholar, successful organizational consultant and author, and an expert in the field of leadership. His much awaited memoir is filled with insights about the successes and failures from his long and storied life and career. Bennis' life and career have traversed eight decades of first-hand experience with tumultuous episodes of recent history-from Jewish child in a gentile town in the 30's, a young army recruit in the Battle of the Bulge to a college student in the one of the first progressive precursors to the civil rights movement to a patient undergoing daily psychoanalysis for five years, and later a university provost during the Vietnam protests.

  • Reveals the triumphs and struggles of the man who is considered the pioneer in the contemporary field of leadership studies
  • Bennis is the author of 27 books including the bestseller On Becoming a Leader

This is first book to examine the extraordinary life of Warren Bennis by the man himself.

Product Details
  • Amazon Sales Rank: #59992 in Books
  • Published on: 2010-08-16
  • Original language: English
  • Number of items: 1
  • Binding: Hardcover
  • 272 pages


  • ISBN13: 9780470432389
  • Condition: New
  • Notes: BRAND NEW FROM PUBLISHER! 100% Satisfaction Guarantee.
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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist
A pioneer in studying leadership and group dynamics, Bennis, at age 85, looks back on a life and career focused on realization of individual and group potential. As a 19-year-old platoon member in WWII, Bennis began a lifetime of observing the kinds of pressures that create leaders. At Antioch College, Bennis met and became the protégé of Doug McGregor, who helped get him into MIT and introduced him to group dynamics. Bennis found Antioch and MIT fertile ground for ideas and the urgency to understand collective behavior, particularly after the Holocaust and the war. He recalls a golden age of social science, meeting and working with Abraham Maslow, Erik Erikson, Robert Merton, and other pioneers in the nascent fields of psychoanalysis and group therapy. Bennis, author of the best-selling On Becoming a Leader (1989) and 29 other books on organizational dynamics and leadership, also recalls career and marital ups and downs and offers lessons and a critical self-analysis. A fascinating look at the life of a pioneering researcher and business consultant and the ties between social science and business management. --Vanessa Bush

"As a wonderfully honest reporter, Warren does not hesitate to discuss his disappointments and his mistakes, personal as well as professional. Yet this book has an excitement, an energy, a joie de vivre that is inspiring. As an essentialist, I suspect that Warren was born with an ebullient temperament. And yet at the same time, I must acknowledge that Warren is at the happiest point in his life right now, because the roles that he assumed in the last twenty years-- master teacher, mentor, writer, pundit, and, yes, guru--are the ones into which he has grown. And they have made him what he is, just as surely as he excelled in them because of who he is." (Howard Gardner, The Washington Post, August 11, 2010)

From the Inside Flap
If many of our organizations have become more democratic, more resilient, more adaptable, and more transparent, it is because Warren Bennis has provided much of the intellectual and ethical fuel over the past half-century to our most influential and successful leadership experts and practitioners.

Still Surprised illuminates how the world-changing ideas of Bennis and his colleagues resulted from the searing crucible of their own encounters, events, and experiences— not within a sterile laboratory of ideas. It demonstrates how students of leadership are formed by what they discover about themselves on roads that are opened to them by circumstances—and by the roles they choose to carve out for themselves as a result.

The memoir begins, appropriately, with the surprise of an awkward and confused teenage Warren Bennis being prodded into his first leadership position, in vicious combat during the latter stages of World War II. This child of the depression is then surprised by the opportunity to attend college, thanks to the GI Bill, at the raucous and revolutionary Antioch College. Next come a number of breathtaking roles: working alongside some of the world's most intriguing and celebrated figures, from Cambridge to Calcutta, to reshape organizational life; successfully putting his own theories into practice as a university provost and president; and coaching not only U.S. presidents and top corporate CEOs but successive waves of ambitious young women and men.

This is also a memoir of our times, seen through the prism of Bennis's own development during crucial inflection points of recent decades. His own medley of insecurity, hard work, determination to invent a new life, and growing capacity to engage others all came into play amidst transformations within our society.

The art of leading well is not based on quick formulas for moving people, Bennis has noted; it flows from becoming an integrated person, one who is able to discover and define—and redefine—oneself in the face of surprises and challenges. The annals of modern leadership would be incomplete if our foremost authority on leadership had not detailed his own journey of self-discovery, as he finally does here—to the delight of devotees and admirers around the globe.

Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful.
5Four score and counting, while his insatiable curiosity explores and his sense of wonder delights
By Robert Morris

I have read and reviewed most (if not all) of Warren Bennis' books and most of his articles. This book is different from anything he has written previously because Bennis allows his student to accompany him on a journey back in time. Written with the considerable assistance of Patricia Ward Biederman (who was also centrally involved with earlier works such as Organizing Genius, Transparency, and The Essential Bennis), this volume combines a wealth of historical information with Bennis' comments on those he believes to have had the greatest influence on both his personal and professional development as well as reminiscences on those experiences, events, successes and especially failures, defining moments, and cultural forces that serve as a frame-of-reference for the evolution of his personal and professional relationships.

Bennis was born on March 5, 1925, and grew up in Westwood, NJ. However, he does not follow a chronological sequence when developing his narrative. In the first chapter, "The Crucible of War," he focuses on his World War Two experiences in the U.S. Army at age 19, "the rawest second lieutenant in the U.S. Army." Following the conclusion of the war, he realized that he didn't want his old life back and probably could not have had it even if he wanted it. "I wanted to invent a new one." The next chapter focuses on his years as a student at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio. The contrasts between the indescribable horrors of the battlefield and the pastoral innocence and serenity of a liberal college campus are especially striking. Although deeply grateful for the experiences both worlds provided (especially what he learned from mentors such as Captain Bessinger and Douglas McGregor) but ever restless, Bennis and his newlywed wife (the former Lucille Rose) relocated to the Boston area where he continued his formal education at MIT.

To this point and indeed until the conclusion of the book, the reader tags along as a companion to whom Bennis confides without hesitation but with selection of what (then or now) most interests him as well as what perplexes, irritates, and even angers him. At times, at least to this reader, he seems 85, at other times the age he was in a given situation or stage of his journey. The nature of the memoir is that it consists of what the memory recalls, to be sure, but also what it selects to share. Bennis remembers more than he shares, for obvious reasons, but the accumulative effect is one of candor. He maintains an informal, almost conversational tone with his reader without seeming disingenuous or self-serving.

He discusses his year abroad studying at the London School of Economics, his renewed association with MIT and the intellectual community in Cambridge, his involvement with the National Training Laboratories and its T-groups, the Institute for Management and IMEDE in Lausanne, the State University of New York at Buffalo, the University of Cincinnati, and the University of Southern California; also time on the faculties of Harvard and Boston University, the Indian Institute of Management Calcutta (IIM-C), INSEAD and IMD. He also discusses his service as chairman of the Advisory Board of the Center for Public Leadership at Harvard University's Kennedy School, as a visiting professor of leadership at the University of Exeter (UK) and as a senior fellow at UCLA's School of Public Policy and Social Research.

If there were a Mt. Rushmore monument for the business world, Bennis would probably be among the honorees (surely joined by Peter Drucker and hopefully by one of my intellectual heroines, Mary Parker Follett). Although Bennis shares a number of personal details, such as those concerning his various marriages, I have no interest in them as a reviewer of this book but mention those disclosures merely to suggest that -as is also true of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln - Warren Bennis is an imperfect human being.

As the title of this review suggests, I very much admire his insatiable curiosity that continues to explore and his sense of wonder that continues to encounter delight. With book in hand, and as an eager companion, I hope to share at least some of the new adventures that await this pilgrim who is "still surprised."

To those who share my high regard for this book, I also recommend other memoirs such as Peter Drucker's Adventures of a Bystander, Andrew Grove's Swimming Across, Alfred Sloan's My Years with General Motors, and John Whitehead's A Life in Leadership.

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful.
5Read at Your Own Risk
By Mark Goulston
"One of the best things about hearing people say such nice things about you is that it gives you something to live up to" - Warren Bennis speaking at a USC event honoring him and after a number of people spoke to talk about his impact on them.

Warren Bennis is not merely respected by the people whose lives he has touched, he is beloved. To so many -- including Howard Schultz at Starbucks, David Gergen of CNN, Sidney Harmon of Harmon Kardon and Betsy Myers advisor to President Obama -- he is not just that mentor or friend that makes you want to be a better person, he is frequently that parent you wish you had. For those who were homesick for a home they never had, and sick from the one they did, Warren's loving mentoring provided them with a home at last.

What does this have to do with this engaging, heart warming, and uplifting memoir? If you read it, Warren doesn't tell you how to be the kind of leader, parent and mensch that the best part of you wants to be, he shows you how with a story that is seasoned with humanity and spiced with humility and is so memorable that it will easily serve as a guide and template for you.

I don't want to give away too much, but one story that makes me smile was about Warren having a conversation with undergraduate friends at Antioch about meeting a German woman in a bar in Germany at the end of WWII and going back to her room to do what you do in such a situation. He explains that going to such a bar, meeting such a woman and going back to her room was not something one such as he should do. He then talks about waking up the next morning and with the sheets pushed to the side realizing she had a prosthetic leg. When he shared this with friends at Antioch they told him that he must publish it as an essay in one of the school's publications. He did that whereupon he was suddenly launched into "superstar" status for the rest of his years at college.

Why "read at your own risk" as the title for this review?

As you read this book and understand how Warren more than grew up, but evolved into such a beloved person, it may give you an ache to have had him as a mentor or parent if you haven't had either. And if the lack of either is great, that ache can be profound. On the other hand there will be few other books that you will read that will help you to become the parent or mentor to others that you never had. And if you can do that, the ache will go away and you too might become someone who is beloved by others. And there is no better transformation for you than to give onto others what was never given onto you.

If my lack of objectivity is betrayed by my love and appreciation for him, that's MY story and I'm sticking with it. It is also why I dedicated my book, Just Listen: Discover the Secret to Getting Through to Absolutely Anyone to him which in great part is an elaboration of something he has taught me by who he is much more than what he does: "When you deeply listen to people, get where they are coming from AND care about them when you're there, they're more likely to do what you'd like them to do."

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful.
5Outstanding Work by an Outstanding Leader
By James Strock
I'm one of the many who regards Warren Bennis as a leadership hero. He stands in a unique place--one he created--at the intersection of theory and practice.

'Still Surprised' is a warm, engaging, enveloping memoir of a life well-led--with a lot more ahead. As the title says, Warren Bennis continues to learn, maintains a durable optimism, enabling him to make an amazing contribution.

I would refer you to Robert Morris' fine review for additional, serviceable detail and perspective.

I'll simply add: Don't miss this book. No matter how much you have learned from or about Warren Bennis, you'll still be surprised....


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