Dr. Michael Maccoby, elected in 1985, reflects on funny stories, his greatest accomplishments, and more from his wide-ranging career in public service.
Reflecting on your career, what are some of the highlights?
There are a lot of highlights, both in the public and private sectors. Here are some:
- Creating union and management cooperation at AT&T when there were one million employees.
- Directing the first union-management project to improve the quality of working life with Harman Industries and the United Auto Workers. I did this as Director of the Program on Technology, Public Policy and Human Development at the Kennedy School.
Any funny stories you’d like to share?
- Lecturing throughout India under the auspices of State Department and the USIS. The administration wanted me to come back and give a keynote address to a conference of the administrators. Rather than take a long trip for a lecture, the USIS agreed to tape my talk which would be shown and a panel would call me with questions. A day before they had agreed to call, I was awakened at 6:00 am with the panel.
- Lecturing in Santiago, Chile to the business leadership before the plebiscite on democracy under the auspices of the US State Department. The next day, the liberal newspaper had a headline: Maccoby Says that Democracy is Needed for Economic Development. The rightwing paper’s headline: Maccoby Says Business Must Take the Lead.
What would you say are your greatest accomplishments?
- My work in Sweden to study leaders from government, business, military, and unions and to determine the kind of leaders needed for Sweden’s future. As a result of my work in Sweden, I was made Commander of the Royal Order of the Polar Star.
- My books on leadership, especially The Gamesman (1976), a best seller, and Narcissistic Leaders and The Leaders We Need and What Makes Us Follow, both published by Harvard Business School Press in 2007. Also Transforming Health Care Leadership (2013) and Strategic Intelligence (Oxford, 2015)
Where are you now? How do you like to spend your time?
I am now writing and lecturing (I have been lecturing to the leadership of the Indian Health Service during the last few months). I am currently teaching a seminar at the Washington School of Psychiatry which presented me with a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2016. I am the strategic leadership consultant to Nuestros Pequenos Hermanos (Our Little Brothers and Sisters) with homes, schools, hospitals and community centers in nine countries in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Looking at the present and into the future, what do you think a public administration “Grand Challenge” is or might be?
The Grand Challenge I’d like to see is the transformation of bureaucracies into Learning Organizations where people learn from their experiences, share learnings, participate in continuous improvement, and collaborate across boundaries. Learning organizations are focused on responding to the needs of the people they serve.