Thursday, November 15, 2007

Warren Bennis: ‘Do You Really Love Your Job?’

Here is a story from my recently launched online book, Making Life Decisions: Journey in Discernment.

If you like the story, there are plenty more like this on the theme of decision making or discernment and you can click on the link below.

In our last reflection we saw how Parker Palmer was spared the discomfort of taking on an ill-fitting job. In a similar story, which again values the scrutiny of others, management guru, Warren Bennis, tells how he accepted an invitation to head up a university but realized later that he had done it for the wrong reasons.

Bennis was delivering a lecture at Harvard University. He was a seasoned speaker and he loved the thrill of working a crowd. At the open time to follow, a question came from the Dean of the School, who was a respected figure in education. Bennis thought his experience at responding to questions was sharpened to a fine point after so many years of teaching and media work. His secret conceit was that there was not one question that he could not respond to in a convincing and winning way.

The question came “like a long, high lob floating lazily over the audience and masking its astuteness in that self-effacing (and deceptive) mid-western drawl of his. “Warren,” he asked, “Do you love being the President of the University of Cincinnati?” Bennis said he did not know how many seconds passed before responding. The room was suddenly so quiet he could hear his heart beating. Finally, he looked up at his questioner and haltingly said, “I don’t know.” Actually, that was the moment he knew the answer but had not yet told himself. The truth is that he did not love it and did not have the passion for it. He wanted to be a University President but he did not want to do university presidency.

A question from an interested observer had made Bennis aware that administration was not for him. It was this epiphany that led to his calling as an adviser and coach to leaders in corporate, government and academic life.[1]

Often by a question or a story (invited or uninvited), another person can help us discern our thoughts and trawl through our motives so that we may admit our mistakes and discover our genuine passions. To welcome and submit to regular, loving scrutiny is a key discipline in the ongoing pursuit of one’s call or vocation.

The link to this Warren Bennis story is here.

To arrive at the Home Page and see how this book can be used by individuals, by couples (even through email if they are on opposite sides of the world) and then by larger groups, churches etc here is the link:

Making Life Decisions: Journey in Discernment

Do mark this web site as a favorite for an easy return to this resource.

Pass on the link to anyone you know that is seeking directions and wrestling with discerning the way forward.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Warren Bennis

[1]Warren Bennis, Managing the Dream: Reflections on Leadership and Change, (Cambridge, Mass.: Perseus, 2000), xxv-xxvii.