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Warren Bennis explains traits of a leader

Warren Bennis spoke as part of the Morgan Auditorium Dedication Week on Monday. Bennis, who has advised four United States presidents, including John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan, is an expert on leadership and has written several books, including his latest, “Still Surprised.” While he said there is no one trait that makes a good leader, he stressed the importance of showing respect toward others, being able to admit mistakes and having a knowledge of local culture. / photo by Warren Bessant

Genesis Miranda
Staff Writer

Organizational consultant and author Warren Bennis spoke on the topic “Memoir of a Life and Leadership” on Monday in Morgan Auditorium.

Bennis’ lecture was based his new book titled “Still Surprised: A Memoir of a Life in Leadership.”

“Leadership is all about relationships,” Bennis said.

Bennis was introduced by his friend Carol Sawyer, professor of organizational leadership.

“I have always believed that the absolutely essential foundation for organizational leadership is integrity,” Sawyer said.

Bennis told the audience some fun facts about himself, such as the fact that he is the same age as Founders Hall and that his father was born when the University of La Verne was founded.

Bennis told a story he read about Army officer Lt. Col. Christopher Hughes who, in the middle of an angry crowd in Iraq, ordered his soldiers to take a knee, keep their backs to the crowd, not to look scared and try to smile.

He said that he would describe four major points that are tied to Hughes’ story.

Bennis’ four points about leadership were that life and leadership go together, a leader must be respectful, be genuine, and be open to others’ opinions.

The action of kneeling before the crown, according to Hughes, was a gesture of respect.

“When we are in power, we sometimes forget how sensitive people are to just saying ‘hi’,” Bennis said.

Bennis also explained to the audience the importance of admitting mistakes.

“For some people, saying they made a mistake makes them feel vulnerable,” Bennis said. “Saying the truth does not make you weaker, it makes you stronger.”

Bennis then began explaining the importance of being prepared; “Is anyone ever really ready for day one?” asked Bennis, “Is (President Select) Devorah Lieberman ready for day one?”

This question that Bennis posed stood out to Dede Aguayo, associate director of corporate education.

“Everyone thinks that you go to college to prepare yourself for day one, for your career, but we will never really be ready for day one,” Aguayo said.

Bennis ended with his last point by saying that as a leader, you have to love what you do.

To La Verne alumnus Mark Morales, Bennis’ last point was very interesting.

“The biggest walk away was his point about loving what you do, you have to love being a leader” Morales said.

“Leadership is equal to being a human being,” alumna Claudia Hernandez said.

Bennis helped form the leadership program at La Verne.

“I’m really proud that he’s one of the foundational scholars for the leadership program at the University. I think many lives are changed by his book,” Sawyer said. “Warren connects with people.”

The lecture was followed by a short question and answer session in which Bennis was asked about people looking up to their leaders.

“We do harness this perfectibility notion,” Bennis said. “We want our leaders to be perfect.”

“It was a very inspirational speech about leadership,” said Monique Guzman, junior psychology major. “He kept it light with his jokes and entertained the audience.”

“He teaches us the basic principles of leadership and that respect is very important” Denise Gutierrez, a graduate student in management, said. “He is the guru of leadership.”

Alumna Noemi Ortega said that Bennis showed her that being a leader can be the most simplistic thing to be, but it is also the most difficult to become.

“We have his wisdom but we learn to find the wisdom within ourselves,” Sawyer said.

The question and answer session was followed by a reception in the Campus Center Ballroom.

Genesis Miranda can be reached at genesis.miranda@laverne.edu.

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