Warren BennisPosted: August 5, 2014
This guy, a professor who specialized in the study of leadership, died the other day.
Once I took a class Warren Bennis co-taught with David Gergen, it was called something like “Art, Culture and The Politics Of Leadership.” I loved the class. I wrote my paper about Robert Sherwood, a playwright famed for “Abe Lincoln In Illinois,” who went on to write speeches for FDR.
Sherwood stood six feet eight inches tall. Dorothy Parker, who was five-feet four-inches, once commented that when she, Sherwood, and Robert Benchley (who was six feet tall) would walk down the street together, they looked like “a walking pipe organ.” When asked at a party how long he had known Sherwood, Robert Benchley stood on a chair, raised his hand to the ceiling, and said, “I knew Bob Sherwood back when he was only this tall.”
(Sometimes the Algonquin Round Table gang seems like they must’ve been pretty insufferable to be around.)
Anyway, I remember something Bennis used to talk about. When Bennis was 19 he was commissioned as a lieutenant in the Army and sent to Europe. It was 1945 — the troops he was sent to command were seasoned veterans already. They’d just survived the Battle Of The Bulge. He was just a kid rookie. Imagine that situation.
What he said happened was, the soldiers in his platoon “taught me how to lead them.”
What a profound thought. Will have to see if it comes up in Bennis’ autobiography:
(Badass thing to name your book).
Bennis also co-authored this book:
which is full of interesting stuff. There’s a story about Walt Disney, after he decided to make a feature length animated movie, the first ever, Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs. Disney gathered 200 or so animators and artists in an auditorium, stood up on stage, and acted out the entire movie for them. The whole thing, two hours. He “did” the witch and stuff, exactly how he wanted it drawn.
That was “visionary leadership,” says Bennis.
That was the same class in which I was made to do improv games with David Gergen.