Warren Bennis

American leadership expert
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Warren Gameliel Bennis (March 8, 1925 – July 31, 2014) was an American scholar, organizational consultant and author who is widely regarded as a pioneer of the contemporary field of leadership studies.




  • Managers are people who do things right and leaders are people who do the right thing. Both roles are crucial, and they differ profoundly. I often observe people in top positions doing the wrong things well.
    • Bennis Warren and Burt Nanus (1985) Leaders: The Strategies for Taking Charge. Harper and Row. p. 21
  • The manager accepts the status quo; the leader challenges it.
    • Bennis (1989, p. 45), cited in: Terrence Mech, ‎Gerard B. McCabe (1998) Leadership and Academic Librarians. p. 56
  • Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.
    • Peter Drucker, and Warren Bennis, as quoted in Seven Habits of Highly Effective People (1989) by Stephen R. Covey, p. 101


  • We have more information now than we can use, and less knowledge and understanding than we need. Indeed, we seem to collect information because we have the ability to do so, but we are so busy collecting it that we haven’t devised a means of using it. The true measure of any society is not what it knows but what it does with what it knows.
    • Warren G. Bennis (1990) Why leaders can't lead: the unconscious conspiracy continues. p. 143
  • Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.
    • Warren Bennis, cited in: Dianna Daniels Booher (1991) Executive's portfolio of model speeches for all occasions. p. 34
  • The factory of the future will have only two employees, a man and a dog. The man will be there to feed the dog. The dog will be there to keep the man from touching the equipment.
    • Warren G. Bennis; As cited in: Mark Fisher (1991) The millionaire's book of quotations. p. 15
  • Good leaders make people feel that they're at the very heart of things, not at the periphery. Everyone feels that he or she makes a difference to the success of the organization. When that happens, people feel centered and that gives their work meaning.
    • Warren Bennis (1999) Managing People Is Like Herding Cats. p. 89
  • 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. And the way we become leaders is by learning about leadership through life and job experiences, not with university degrees.
    • Warren Bennis (1999) Managing People Is Like Herding Cats. p. 163


  • Failing organizations are usually over-managed and under-led.
    • Warren Bennis cited in: Cecil O. Kemp, Jr. (2000) Wisdom Honor & Hope: The Inner Path to True Greatness. p. 207
  • A new leader has to be able to change an organization that is dreamless, soulless and visionless … someone's got to make a wake up call.
    • Warren Bennis, in Reinventing Leadership : Strategies to Empower the Organization (2005), by Warren G. Bennis and Robert Townsend, p. 91
  • Leaders encourage reflective backtalk. Norbert Wiener told me, “I never know what I say until I hear the response.” Leaders know the importance of having someone in their lives who will unfailingly and fearlessly tell them the truth.
    • Warren G. Bennis (2009) On Becoming a Leader. p. 190
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