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Still Surprised: A Memoir of a Life in Leadership Hardcover – August 16, 2010

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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)

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Jossey-Bass; 1 edition (August 16, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0470432381
  • ISBN-13: 978-0470432389
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 0.9 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #759,408 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

Warren Bennis (Los Angeles, CA), born in 1925, is an American scholar, organizational consultant and author, who is widely regarded as the pioneer of the contemporary field of leadership. He is University Professor and Distinguished Professor of Business Administration at the University of Southern California. In the past decade, he served as chairman of the Advisory Board of the Center for Public Leadership at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government, working with David Gergen.
Bennis has consulted for many Fortune 500 companies and served as adviser to four U.S. presidents. He has served on the faculty of MIT's Sloan School of Management and was Chairman of the Organizational Studies Department. He is a former faculty member of Boston University, former Provost and Executive Vice President of State University of New York at Buffalo and President of the University of Cincinnati. His global experience includes teaching at the Indian Institute of Management-Calcutta, INSEAD, the London Business School, and IMEDE (now IMD). In 2007, Business Week called him one of ten business school professors who have had the greatest influence on business thinking. He has received 20 honorary degrees and has served on numerous boards of advisors.
Bennis has written or edited 30 books, which have been translated into 21 languages, and many articles on three of his passions-leadership, organizational change, and creative collaboration. The Financial Times recently named Leaders as one of the top 50 business books of all time.
Bennis is proud of the four years he served in the U.S. Army, 1943-1947. At the age of 19 he was one of the youngest infantry commanders in Germany and was awarded the Purple Heart and Bronze Star. His dream remains: to write a terrific one-act play.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
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 reader 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 his 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.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Mark Goulston on August 21, 2010
Format: Hardcover
"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.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By James Strock VINE VOICE on August 27, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By B. J. Hateley on February 4, 2011
Format: Hardcover
"Who the heck is Warren Bennis?" I muttered to no one in particular. The year was 1980 and I was headed back to my office at USC after having lunch with Marilyn Ferguson, author of The Aquarian Conspiracy. Several times during the course of our lunch meeting, Marilyn had quoted Warren Bennis. "Warren Bennis says this..." or "According to Warren Bennis...," she said repeatedly.

She wasn't the only one. People all across campus were quoting Warren Bennis. I'd been at the University of Southern California since 1974 - first as an undergrad, then as a grad student, and finally on staff as a program administrator - and thought I knew pretty much everyone. But suddenly, people were buzzing about this guy Warren Bennis.

When I got back to my office I called the campus operator and asked for Warren Bennis's office. She gave me the number for future reference and put me through to his office at the business school. He answered his own phone.

"Hi there," I said. "My name is BJ Gallagher and I work for the College of Continuing Education. You don't know me but I'd like to buy you lunch at the faculty center one day next week."

"Sure," Bennis chuckled. "Any particular agenda for the lunch meeting?"

"Well, yes," I replied. "Everywhere I go lately, people are quoting you. So clearly you're famous but I don't know why. I thought I'd invite you to lunch and find out."

He laughed heartily, and then gave me a date that worked for him.

We met at the faculty center on the appointed day and were ushered to our table. We ordered our food and once that was out of the way, I got down to business.

"Thanks for agreeing to meet with me," I began. "So now tell me why you're famous.
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