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Warren Bennis honored as one of the foremost scholars on leadership

Warren Bennis, University Professor and distinguished professor of business administration at the USC Marshall School of Business and founding chairman of USC’s Leadership Institute, received the inaugural FrED Leadership Award in December.

“Warren Bennis was chosen for his outstanding contributions to the fields of leadership and executive development,” said Jim Bolt, co-founder of FrED, the Future of Executive Development, and president of Bolt Consulting. “The award was created to recognize and celebrate pioneers, thought leaders, role models and ‘wise elders’ who have made such contributions.”

The award acknowledges Bennis’ lifetime achievements and his status as one of the world’s leading experts on leadership. The Financial Times called Bennis “the professor who established leadership as a respectable academic field” and Business Week named him one of the 10 most influential thought leaders in business in 2007.

In addition to his work at USC, Bennis has served as an adviser to four U.S. presidents, including John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan, consulted for Fortune 500 companies and authored 30 books widely regarded among the most important in the field, including On Becoming a Leader and An Invented Life, for which he received a Pulitzer Prize nomination. He is also currently an advisory board chairman of the Center for Public Leadership at Harvard University’s Kennedy School.

“I can’t think of anyone who has done more to advance the art of leadership than Warren,” said Bolt, who has known Bennis for 20 years. “He is clearly not only a great leader himself, but just as importantly, one of the greatest students and teachers of leadership of our time. Indeed, Forbes called him the ‘dean of leadership gurus.’ ”

Bennis was one of two award recipients honored during the first Future of Executive Development Forum, which was organized to showcase innovations in executive development aimed at improving the quality of leadership, at the Desmond Tutu Center in New York City Dec. 1-3.

Since part of the organization’s mission is “to share the experience, insights and wisdom offered by wise, exemplary leaders,” Bennis participated in a video interview, which is available online.

In addition to emphasizing some of his professional insights into leadership, Bennis mentioned cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead as a personal influence. He ended by citing wisdom from Philo the Alexandrian (20 B.C. – 50 A.D.): “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

Highlights of the interview can be viewed at

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Warren Bennis honored as one of the foremost scholars on leadership

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