University of Southern California

WARREN BENNIS: BUSINESS DOESN'T INTEREST ME AT ALL
January 22, 2010 • by Warren Bennis

Dear Friends of Marshall:

It's true. Business doesn't interest me, but there is no better lab or wide-angle lens to understand the DNA of organizations and their underlying human dynamics. The issues that do interest me are power, ambition, transparency, integrity and cultures of growth. At bottom, my hope—and the USC Marshall School's mission—is to educate future leaders with the capacity to bring out the “better angels of our nature."

I've spent 60 plus years studying leadership, and when I think about it, these past three decades at USC Marshall have helped me deepen and broaden my understanding of the mysteries and promises of exemplary leadership. So what have I learned?

  • That the process of becoming a leader is similar to the process of becoming a fully integrated human being.
  • That giving and receiving respect is a basic human need and crucial to strong leadership.
  • That embedded in the definition of leadership is collaboration, that none of us is as smart as all of us.

What do I not yet understand?

  • I don't understand why empathy is in such short supply.
  • I don't understand why generosity is in such short supply.
  • I don't understand why acknowledgment is in such short supply.
  • I don't understand why time for deliberate reflection is in such short supply.

I wake up every morning and do an inventory of my blessings. It's a Zen-like drill that allows me to think about how blessed I am by my family, my friends, and my "day job" at USC Marshall. It has given me the gift of colleagues who bring out the best in each other, and who awaken our most creative selves. It's an environment that lives up to my image of a vivid utopia. Imagine a job where you get paid for the pleasure of finding things out! On top of that, it’s the opportunity to guide, teach and learn from our terrific students! What could be sweeter?

That's what USC Marshall has meant to me. And that's worth supporting. As we begin this new year and this new decade, please join me in continuing to make USC Marshall a school that harvests and passes on to our students an education that will better our human institutions. That does interest me, very much.

Yours truly,

Warren Bennis