It was a great treat to visit once again with Warren Bennis this afternoon. It was a special way to also mark the halfway point in my journey.

Larry Spears & Warren Bennis 

Warren and I met for coffee and conversation at a hotel near the beach. As I was waiting for him, I recalled some of our previous interactions over the years.

• In the 1990’s, Warren and I had served together on the early board of the International Leadership Association, then led by Barbara Kellerman. We generally met at the University of Maryland in College Park, MD.
• In May, 2000 I had travelled to the University of Southern California to participate in a Festschrift honoring Warren. It was a wonderful recognition of Warren’s contributions to our understanding of leadership, and servant-leadership.
• In 2002 I included an essay written by Warren (“Become a Tomorrow Leader”) in Focus on Leadership (John Wiley & Sons, 2002), a book that I had edited with Michelle Lawrence.
• In 2003 I travelled to Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where I produced a videotaped presentation of Warren and conducted an interview with him that was also included as a bonus feature in a Greenleaf Center DVD. I recalled his “Five C’s of Organizational Integrity: Caring, Constancy, Competence, Congruency, and Candor.”
• Recently, Warren wrote the Foreword to Scanlon Epic Leadership (Scanlon Foundation, 2008), a book that I edited with my friend Paul Davis.

There are many other reasons why I appreciate Warren—

His contribution to our overall understanding of effective leadership has been enormous. Through his writings, speeches, and consulting he has helped many leaders and organizations to develop a deeper understanding of the complexities involved in making good and ethical decisions.

Warren is a superb writer. And, much like Robert Greenleaf, repeated reading of his books and essays yield new insights for the discerning reader—a clear sign of great writing.

In 1977, Warren had endorsed Bob Greenleaf’s first book, Servant Leadership (Paulist Press, 1977/2002) on the dust jacket. At the time, Bennis was president of the University of Cincinnati.

Warren is a living bridge to any number of people who have worked to create better organizational environments. My own understanding has benefitted from his sharing of stories of his meetings with Bob Greenleaf, Joe Scanlon, Doug MacGregor, Peter Drucker and other 20th century giants whose ideas continue to shape the 21st century.

Over the years, Warren’s occasional personal notes of encouragement and appreciation have both lifted my spirits and helped me to reframe my own work in servant-leadership.

Warren Bennis is a wise man, and the wisdom contained in his written work continues in its growth and influence on others. I am grateful for his friendship.

--Larry Spears [Thursday, Jan. 21, 2010]

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