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Leadership: Warren Bennis, leadership pioneer

The sad news came over the weekend that Warren Bennis has died. For us at HBR it is the loss of a long-time author and friend. Many, many more will miss him, too, as a teacher and adviser.

Let’s define “long-time”: Warren’s first piece in HBR appeared in 1961. It was called a “Revisionist Theory of Leadership,” and that is what it delivered. A half-century later, its message does not sound so revisionist: that in a business environment marked by increasingly complexity and constant change, organizations require not autocrats at the top, but leaders with more humanistic, democratic styles. (For shorthand, Bennis liked the phrase from “macho to maestro.”) At the time, however, corporate titans were very unlikely to see things that way.

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