These interviews took place November 4 and 5, 2016, at the annual meeting of the International Leadership Association in Atlanta, Georgia.Learn more about Barbara Kellerman
Scarpino: Today is Friday, November 4, 2016. My name is Philip Scarpino, Professor of History at Indiana University/Purdue University, Indianapolis (IUPUI); and, Director of Oral History for the Tobias Center for Leadership Excellence, also at IUPUI. I am interviewing Dr. Barbara Kellerman in a suite in the Hyatt Regency, Atlanta, which is the headquarters hotel for the annual meeting of the International Leadership Association. This interview is a joint venture undertaken by the Tobias Center and the International Leadership Association. We will include a more detailed biographical summary with the transcript of this interview. For now, I will provide an abbreviated overview of Dr. Kellerman’s career. Barbara Kellerman earned her Ph.D. in Political Science at Yale University in 1975. Early in her career she held academic and administrative positions at Fordham University, Tufts University, Fairleigh Dickinson University, and George Washington University. From 1998-2000, she was the Director of the Center for Advanced Study of Leadership, James MacGregor Burns Academy of Leadership, University of Maryland. Since 2000, Dr. Kellerman has been affiliated with the Center for Public Leadership, Harvard Kennedy School, serving as Founding Executive Director (2000-2003), Research Director (2003-2006), and James MacGregor Burns Lecturer in Public Leadership (2006-present). Dr. Kellerman has a distinguished publication record in leadership studies. Her unpublished dissertation was Willy Brandt: Portrait of the Leader as Young Politician. Since then, she has authored or co-authored, edited or co-edited sixteen books. Among her most recent and highly influential books would be included: Followership: How Followers are Creating Change and Changing Leaders (2008). The End of Leadership (2012). Hard Times: Leadership in America (2014). She has also published several dozen articles and book chapters on leadership topics. Dr. Kellerman has received numerous recognitions for her work. For example: She has been awarded a Danforth Fellowship and three Fulbright Fellowships. She was ranked by Forbes.com among the “Top 50 Business Thinkers” and by Leadership Excellence in the top 15 of “thought leaders in management and leadership.” The Financial Times listed The End of Leadership as one of the Best Business Books of 2012, and Choice highlighted it as essential reading. The recognition that brings us here today is the Leadership Legacy Lifetime Achievement Award [resented by the International Leadership Association, November 2016.
Scarpino: Here’s my primary and that should be working. I’ve already sound-tested these so if you want to trust me, we can go ahead and get started.
Kellerman: I trust you.
Scarpino: Alright. So as I said when the recorder was off, I’m going to ask you permission to do what you agreed to in writing. I’m asking your permission to record this interview, to transcribe the interview, and then to deposit the recording and transcription in the IUPUI Collections and Archives so that it can be used by the patrons, including posting all or part of the recording and transcription to the website of the IUPUI Special Collections and Archives and the same condition with the Tobias Center and the ILA. So, can I have your permission to do those things?
Kellerman: Absolutely. No problem.
Scarpino: For the benefit of anybody who listens to this in the future or reads the transcript, I’m going to start by explaining that I’m going to begin with some big picture questions, just to engage you on the topic of leadership. Then I’m going to ask you some basic demographic questions to get it all in one place. Then, from there, I’m going to talk to you about your youth and young adulthood, sort of aimed at providing users some insight into the question: Who are you? Who is Barbara Kellerman? And then when we’re done with that, we’re going to work our way chronologically through your career focusing on leadership. What I’m not going to do is ask you about every one of your books because people can read your books. What I will do is ask you what brought you to the point where you were intellectually prepared to write the book? Okay, so let’s get started. The first question I’m going to ask you – I had some trepidation but then I listened to Ron Heifitz this morning who said that there’s a disagreement about the basic terms of reference in the field. Having spent much of your adult life writing about and otherwise explaining leadership, how do you define leadership?
Kellerman: Well, first of all, Ron was right. There is incredibly little agreement among senior scholars, not only about definitions but about how to look at this thing, what we’re even talking about. It’s a field that, in that sense, has not matured. It depends on what is one’s definition of a mature field? If maturity is equated with there are certain things that the senior people in the field think that everybody should learn, such as, for example, in medicine or in history or in psychology, certain principles, leadership has not reached that level of maturity. In other words, it transcends differences of definition. It’s much more, and the book that I’m working on now is making me think a lot about this. It’s that nobody anyplace is really teaching leadership, either how to be a leader or what is leadership in a way that is similar. Everybody’s doing their own thing without any obvious rhyme or reason, and I can speak from my own experience, as well as everything I’ve read on the subject now. Each individual institution organization, whether it’s academic or other, simply develops their own idea of how to teach leadership, how to teach about it or how to teach how to do it. So, again, Ron is absolutely right. Because, as I’m sure you know, I early on in my career have been as much interested in bad leadership as good leadership. I’m I think still one of the few in the leadership field who does not put the word good in front of the word leadership. Mostly when we talk about leadership in this country, since the development of what I call the leadership industry about 40 years ago, we assume that I’m taking a leadership course, I’m learning how to be a leader. We assume the word good is in front of it, so I’m learning how to be a good leader. I’m taking a course about good leaders, about all those things that we associate with good leaders. I do not do that. I have a value-free – this is unlike Ronny and unlike, in fact, most of my colleagues -- but having been steeped in history from early childhood…
Scarpino: Ronny is Ron Heifetz, right?
Kellerman: Ron Heifetz. Thank you. I appreciate the clarification. Having been steeped in bad leadership from early childhood on, I never in my life thought that leadership would end up being equated with good leadership. To me, leadership is sometimes good and sometimes bad. So it is value-free. My definition of leadership is if person A can get person B to do what A wants them to do, whether or not B wants to do it, whether or not B shares A’s values, whatever, whatever, if A can get B to do what A wants B to do, then A is leading. Sometimes as Mao said, that leadership power grows out of the barrel of a gun. We don’t like it, but do I consider Syria’s Assad a leader? I sure as hell do. So to me it’s a term that is value-free.
Scarpino: I’m going to follow up on that, but you mentioned the fact that leadership programs have developed all over the country in a rather idiosyncratic way, you know, each program…
Scarpino: How does somebody who is not in that discipline from the outside looking in know what to believe?
Kellerman: They don’t. The short answer is they don’t. But I assume if I’m talking too much you’ll stop me.
Scarpino: (Laughing) You’re not talking too much. Kellerman Okay. One of the things to remember about this business is how new it is. People have been interested in leadership since the beginning of recorded history, so we can go back to Confucius or whatever, Plato, Machiavelli through the ages. But this notion of leadership as a business, I call it, again, the leadership industry, is new. So what do I mean by new? I mean it’s slightly older than the International Leadership Association, but the International Leadership Association itself was a product of the burgeoning leadership industry. I go back – if you’re interested, we can talk about why this happened. I wrote a book about this, too. I wrote a book about almost everything. We can ask ourselves why this happened when it did? But there’s no question that the mid to late 1970s were the years that marked the inception of the leadership industry, which is now a huge business, which is now a multimillion dollar global business.
Scarpino: What were some of the factors that to that emergence?
Kellerman: That’s an interesting question to which I have paid some considerable attention. Why then? Why here? By here, I mean in the United States of America. After World War II, the United States, as I said, this is a homegrown industry – homegrown USA, made in the USA. It’s now spread but it originated in the USA, no question about it. So why? First of all, it’s in keeping with an American attitude which is sort of can do, how to. We have always assumed, Americans, that you can learn how to do and be most anything if you pay enough attention and you do it enough. So it historically fits in with our culture. But why at that moment? After the second world war, this country was riding high. Then came the 1960s and 1970s and in two areas – I document this in my book and write about this in my book, Reinventing Leadership, which came out in 1999. So you’ve had, in the private sector and in the public sector, for the first time in a long time, major problems; in the public sector, beginning with the assassinations of John Kennedy, Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, and then continuing to a series of failed presidencies – presidencies that include not just John Kennedy but Lyndon Johnson, who withdrew because he felt he was so unpopular he could never win again; Richard Nixon, who was, in effect, forced to resign from office; Gerald Ford who couldn’t win a term in his own right; Jimmy Carter who couldn’t win a second term. It took until Ronald Reagan until we had again what could by most measures be called a successful president, including the fact that he was elected a second time. So all these years, beginning with the assassinations, the American body politic was starting to fracture in certain ways, including a gradual decline in popular approval. The 1960s were the peak of our trust in leaders. It’s been deteriorating since then, beginning in 1970s. Just talking about public sector leadership now, if you combine trauma with distrust and failure at the nation’s highest office in some ways, important ways, you have great public dys-ease for the first time in a long time. That’s combined with what was going on in the private sector, in corporate America. In corporate America in the 1950s and early 1960s, great, unstoppable, conqueror of the world. What happened in the late 1960s and, in particular, in the 1970s, is you started to have what we now call global competition. Fairly you could say it hit the car industry first. Whoever heard of this thing called a Volkswagen? Whoever heard of this thing called a Toyota? It’s hard for us to remember that relatively recently we didn’t know such things existed.
Scarpino: (Laughing) Made in Japan used to be a joke. Kellerman Made in Japan used to be a joke and then made in Japan because equated with a fabulous car for relatively little money. These were two countries. They were, of course, the demolished countries after World War II and from that rubble arose, in both countries, formidable competition to America’s private sector. What you had, more in the 1970s than in any other decade, an amalgam of problems in the private sector and in the public sector that were causing great anxiety. And what do people do when they’re anxious? They start to think about leadership. This is a point that Ronny Heifetz made this morning. So that was the beginning, first in the nation’s business schools. It actually goes back longer in the nation’s business schools, but I won’t go into that now unless you want me to, because it wasn’t part of what I call the leadership industry. It was small, it was confined. What was different in the 1970s is that it began in the nation’s business schools, then spread to corporations, then spread to schools like the one I’m in now, schools of public administration, schools of government. The 1970s were the beginning of the industry – this idea in particular that teaching how to lead – we can talk about how I divide the leadership field in a moment into two different parts. But the how to lead part, in particular, became a driver of what I call the leadership industry and it became a moneymaker. It became a moneymaker for business schools, became a moneymaker for schools that offered executive education, became a moneymaker for the individuals, the academics, the coaches, the consultants, the trainers, you name it, who were profiting mightily handsomely from this notion that, if you give me a week, if you give me a semester, if you give me a weekend, whatever, I will teach you how to lead. Then 40 years later, this is sort of where we are, that we have this large, multimillion, multibillion dollar operation where the idea that leadership can be taught has infiltrated you name it and it has spread around the world. It is of course by no means any longer, as this International Leadership Association meeting will attest. It is now a global phenomenon.
Scarpino: Can leadership be taught?
Kellerman: Well, you ask different people, again, there is very, very, very little agreement on that. Some people assume it as a given. Most people assume it’s a given. Most people who teach leadership don’t self-reflect, don’t question, don’t measure very much. They assume what they’re doing is teaching leadership. On the other end, you have a much smaller number who says, no, leadership can’t be taught. And in the middle you have a mix – I suppose I would put myself in the middle -- of people who say that maybe perhaps under certain circumstances, certain things can be taught. But when people ask me that question, I will say, “Can playing the piano be taught?” Well, yes. Can you be taught certain skills? Even the most unmusical person can be taught over time to play reasonably good piano. Can they be taught to become a wonderful pianist? Unless they have innate skills, innate musical skills, bloody unlikely.
Scarpino: Is there value in teaching the majority of individuals who take leadership courses to be okay players of the piano (laughing) as opposed to maestros?
Kellerman: It depends on what you mean, Phil, by a majority of leadership courses. We have, for example, at the college level, as I know you know, leadership courses all over the place. Now you have to ask yourself: What do they do? They say they do lots of things. They say they train people to be leaders but, along with that, they say they give them confidence, they teach them certain skills. “I can be a better speaker, I can maybe make decisions a little better, be a negotiator.” So am I questioning that they give something? No. Am I questioning that they make leaders? Yes. We certainly don’t have any metrics that prove that. Part of the problem, speaking of definitions again, is that the word leader has become so ubiquitous and, therefore, so watered down that “Everybody can be a leader.” Well, everybody can play the piano. What meaning does that have for society as a large? It may have meaning for them personally, like I can feel comfortable walking into a room or trying to run a group. I can feel comfortable that when I play the piano I don’t embarrass myself? But is that a leader in any sense that the word was originally conceived, which is a far more lofty and noble conception?
Scarpino: How do you divide the field?
Kellerman: I divide the field always into essentially there are two halves except one half – this sounds sort of awkward – one half is much bigger than the other half, so it’s really two parts.
Scarpino: (Laughing) It’s alright. This isn’t a math class.
Kellerman: This is not a math class. So the first part – but it’s two parts. The big elephant in the room is the leadership development part. That’s the part where people, again organizations, particularly schools beginning in high school or even younger, I can teach leadership. I can learn leadership. Stick with me and you, too, can be a leader. God knows at the college level, all over graduate schools. In my book, The End of Leadership, I document how at Harvard, the word leader or leadership is in every one of Harvard’s professional – Harvard Medical School, Harvard Law School, Harvard Business School, Harvard Kennedy School, Harvard Ed School and more, they all have the word leader or leadership in the mission statement. I’m going, like, “Why?” You know, if I want an attorney, I hope he’s a great attorney. Do I give a damn if he or she is a leader? Not really. But there you go. It’s the fashion of the time. The word leader has become ubiquitous but it’s become watered down. But the idea is to make all these people leaders. The much smaller other part is what I call leadership studies. Leadership scholarship. That part has not grown the way I wish it would have. If you interviewed everybody here at this meeting, I guess there are whatever number of people, over 1000 people at the meeting, overwhelmingly they would be people who teach how to lead. The smaller number would be who do leadership scholarship. And there has not been, even if you have a certain number doing leadership scholarship, there’s no repository of serious leadership scholarship that motivates other leadership learners, students, teachers, whatever, to sort of sign on. Everybody’s doing their own thing. Somebody just came up to me this morning and said, “Gee, I would like to listen to you and Ronny Heifetz debate.” Well they were onto something because Ronny Heifetz and I do very different kinds of work. We’re at the same institution and have been for a long time. We’ve known each other 40 years. We don’t particularly collaborate. He does his thing, I do my thing, other people do their thing. So, curiously, nobody in the field of leadership has been able to exercise intellectual leadership and, either individually or institutionally, become a place to which other people go to study the subject.
Scarpino: We’re going to talk about the ILA later on, but you brought it up, so I’m going to follow up. You describe the ILA as a product of the burgeoning leadership industry.
Scarpino: How do you connect those dots?
Kellerman: Well, the ILA was, among other things, my idea and maybe some other people’s, too, but let’s say it was my idea or a small knot. We were at the University of Maryland. I looked around and other people looked around and we said, “Wow! There’s lots of people doing leadership, why don’t we try to from an association?” And that’s exactly – it’s a little like, you know, Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland in the old movies; why don’t we put on a play and see if anybody will come? And Cynthia Cherrey was involved in that very first meeting in 1998. I think it was me or maybe Georgia, whoever approached her, and said…
Scarpino: Sorenson? Georgia Sorenson?
Kellerman: Georgia Sorenson, whoever approached her, and said, “Would you be willing to host this?” She said, “Sounds good to me.” And the small number of us at the time went out to USC and we held our first meeting and, indeed, people did come. We realized there was a there there and that’s how it started. As I said, it was a product of because I looked around, we looked around, and said, “We’re not the only ones doing this so why don’t we try to have a critical mass?” If we had done it ten years earlier, we couldn’t have done it. So it was the right moment to start something like this.
Scarpino: I started all this by asking you to define leadership. How do you go about assessing the effectiveness of leaders or leadership?
Kellerman: Well, it’s the big problem. That’s the 100 or 800 pound gorilla…
Scarpino: (Laughing) Indeed it is.
Kellerman: …in the room. Indeed it is. If there’s anybody who’s done a good job of it, it hasn’t been a good enough job to persuade everybody else that they should do it. People have their own – you know, the Center for Creative Leadership, they have metrics, individual people have their own metrics, but what they’re measuring is what they’ve done in their classroom. They’re not measuring what other people have done. Among other problems is the measures are short-term. There’s no serious longitudinal – and by longitudinal, I mean over decades. You say you’re training a leader in their teens, 20s, 30s, you need to look back when they’re 50 or 70. What has happened to this person? Has that person really led? Has that person really made a difference? The complexity of measuring leadership in any serious sense has, so far to my knowledge – now somebody could be sitting here and say, “I’m doing a great job of measuring.” To my knowledge, I have never – I’m just saying, so far as I know, nobody has done it successfully. But then, I hasten to add, nobody teaches how to lead, in my view, successfully with one arguable exception which is one of the things I’m looking at now. The American military to me is the only American institution that teaches leadership in any serious way.
Scarpino: Do you think the kind of leadership that is taught in the American military, I assume we’re talking about the service academies and so on…
Kellerman: Well, in part. And that’s a subject I don’t want to get into now because it’s what I’m writing about now, in part. It’s not as if I’m writing a book about military leadership.
Scarpino: No, I actually wasn’t going to ask you to sort of out your scholarship, but I was going to ask you are those skills transferrable outside of the military?
Kellerman: They aren’t transferrable unless – they are and they aren’t. They aren’t unless you replicate the circumstances. I mean, one of the things I’m persuaded of is that the alacrity with which we profess to teach how to lead is ludicrous. Plato said, “You need a lifetime of teaching how to lead and maybe when you’re 50. If you’ve studied all these 150 different things and you put your body and your mind through all these different circumstances, then maybe at the age of 50 you can be a leader.” But this idea which, again, is rather American, that you take my course and will be a leader, in other words that you can do this kind of thing quickly and easily strikes me as idiotic. It’s not idiotic if you define leadership in some very simple, low level way. But if you associate that word with something serious and substantive, how the hell you supposed to learn it in an executive program I have no idea.
Scarpino: What would be serious and substantive?
Kellerman: Well, in this context, over time.
Scarpino: What do you tell your students when you teach leadership?
Kellerman: I tell my audiences, not just my students, “If you’re in this room expecting to learn how to lead, you’re in the wrong room.” I level with them. “If you want to learn about leadership, you’re in the right room. We’re going to have some great conversations about that.” And my classes are fabulous, but they know – I make it plain at the outside – “If you want to learn how to lead, you need to go someplace else. That’s not what I do. I have no idea how to teach you how to lead.”
Scarpino: When you teach students…
Kellerman: Can I piggyback one sentence on that?
Kellerman: I do add, in fairness to myself or to whoever, that do I think there’s a relationship – this is extremely important and that’s why I wanted to say it -- Is there a relationship between learning about leadership and learning how to lead? Absolutely. Is there a relationship between music theory and playing the piano? Is there a relationship between learning anatomy and being a surgeon? Absolutely. There’s a relationship between what you know and what you do, but it’s going to be up to you to forge that relationship. A cognitive experience is not a “how to” experience. It’s connected to the “how to,” but it is not in and of itself a “how to” experience.
Scarpino: How do you recommend that somebody makes that transition?
Kellerman: That’s a very good question. That’s what I’m working on now. That’s what I’m working on now. I feel two things simultaneously that go back to my comment about how it takes years and years and years and years. I really believe that if you’re going to be serious, you need to understand this is a life-long learning process to learn how to lead. At the same time, I’m not an idiot. I recognize the exigencies of the contemporary marketplace. People are not going to spend a lifetime. So the question that I’m working on now is what can you do in a year, let’s say? I don’t think you can do it in a weekend or an executive program. But what can you do in a year or two or three that will take you down some serious trajectory? Let’s make it parallel to law school and medical school, which are now three or four years, or even business school which traditionally has been two years, although even that’s now, as you may know, the new MBA or the new business school programs tend to be more one year programs than two years for various economic-driven reasons. But the question is what can you put in a one, two, three year, four year program that would make you serious about this as opposed to let me take a crack at it? And that’s what I’m working on now.
Scarpino: In addition to being a scholar of leadership, do you think of yourself as a leader?
Kellerman: In some ways, yes.
Scarpino: In what ways?
Kellerman: Oh, damn. I knew you were going to ask that (laughing).
Scarpino: (Laughing) You set me up.
Kellerman: Well, I know, I did. I could have said no, but that would have been a lie. Well, first of all, setting aside leadership, I did things sort of ass backward. This is a personal note, which is I had my kids very young. I had two children, the first one at 20. I had dropped out of college. Then I went back in my 20s and I got my Ph.D. when I was 36. So when I was at Yale as a graduate student, I was in political science, there had never been a woman with children, there had never been a woman who lived off campus. One senior professor said, “What are you doing in this school? You should be home taking care of your children.” This sounds antediluvian but it wasn’t that long ago. So I think in some ways simply that I’m of a generation that women didn’t do what I did at the time. If I won a Fulbright fellowship to someplace, I took it. I lived abroad, took my kids, took my dog, went there. I think in some ways simply as an early woman career, I think in that sense. But in the field of leadership, I played along the way several leadership roles, entrepreneurial roles, may be a better way, certainly at the University – beginning at Fairleigh Dickinson University where I was part of something at the time called The Institute for Leadership Studies. Then at the University of Maryland, I think I was Director for the Center for the Advanced Study of Leadership in the James MacGregor Burns. And we did, as I said, at that time we started the International Leadership. Jim Burns was, of course, affiliated with us so we had that intellectual heft at that moment, which has not been easy since to replicate in the International Leadership Association. And then when I went to Harvard, I was paired -- Ronny Heifetz, David Gergen and Barbara Kellerman. They were the founding directors. I was the founding executive director. We started this thing called the Center for Public Leadership which has had an interesting history which I won’t particularly go into. It’s not what some of us had originally hoped or imagined, but it is alive and well and that’s an important accomplishment. Many of these leadership centers die for various reasons, but this one is alive and well and it serves a function. So do I think of myself as a great leader? Absolutely not. Do I think of myself as having played some kind of leadership role in certain areas? Yes.
Scarpino: Okay. I’m going to follow up on that actually later on.
Kellerman: Oh just one – I’m sorry, one thing I want to add. Jim Burns wrote about something called intellectual leadership. I think I played a bit of a role in that by being a dissident, by writing a book about bad leadership. I’m not even saying it’s a great book. I think it’s a pretty good book, but simply writing the book – because everybody else is writing about good leadership -- writing a book called Followership, am I the only one? No. As with bad leadership, there’s one or two others that’s done it. As with followership, there’s a few others. But 99.99% of books about leadership are about good leadership; 99.9999% about books about leadership are about leaders, not about followers. And I think over time with a whole bunch of books that I’ve written in the last 10, 15 years, in particular, more than the early ones, by dissenting from conventional views of these things, I think I have played a bit of the role of an intellectual leader. Yes, I do.
Scarpino: As you were developing your career, particularly in the leadership area, did you have mentors?
Kellerman: The only one who would vaguely fall into that category was mentioned earlier. It was Jim Burns. There’s one moment that I will single out because it’s sweet and it’s interesting. I would say the only real time that he played that role, he didn’t even know he was doing it. Once I became even a bit mature, he didn’t play that role anymore; in fact, we would argue. But there was a moment. So I’m at Yale, I’m a graduate student and I’m thinking this thing, leadership – I’m in political science -- it was called elite studies. The board leadership was not even in the damned lexicon. But I was interested in leadership and I took a psych course as, again, a graduate student in political science, and in that course, I did something on political leadership and it went well. I thought, “Wow! Why isn’t it…” I went to what then was the card catalogue. I looked up leadership. There was nothing in there.
Scarpino: (Laughing) I remember card catalogues.
Kellerman: I know We’re enough in age close. So I’m this lone idiot doing leadership. So I’m looking at Jim Burns’ book, the first one, Roosevelt: The Lion and the Fox, was that the first one?
Kellerman: If you look in the back of that, it came in 1956. This is now the 1970s. But it was still around, as it is now. In the very back of that book, there’s something called Added Note on Leadership. I’m going, “Oh my God! Added note on leadership?” I’m thinking, “Wow! There’s one other person interested in leadership and, by the way, it’s James MacGregor Burns.” The book had won a Pulitzer Prize. Not some dipshit guy with a dipshit book. This book had won a Pulitzer Prize. It was widely – I looked at that note. It’s only – let’s say it’s eight pages, ten pages, I don’t remember. It still holds up, it’s still good. Nobody looks at it anymore but it’s still good. And I – I was going to say e-mailed. No. I wrote him, or called him, who knows? Whatever. I said, “Oh my God! You’ve done this thing on leadership. Can we ever talk about it?” And he said, “Well sometime when you’re up here and you come up, why don’t we talk about it?” And I met with him and he said, “Great. You’re interested in leadership.” And that was the – you know, what a mentor often does is nothing more than validate and that is the role that he performed at that moment. When I was a graduate student interested in leadership, I went – he says this is good; if says it’s good, it’s good. Nobody at Yale gave a shit. I guess there’s room for me to say this; I did have two dissertation advisors. I ended up winning a Fulbright to study Willy Brandt, who then was the chancellor of West Germany, and the title of my dissertation was a foreshadower. It was called, “Portrait of a Leader as a Young Politician.” It was his young adulthood. And I had two people, one in the Psych Department and one in Political Science, who were willing to sponsor this dissertation. So that was then the validation that I needed. But my early teaching was not about leadership. I fit myself into courses on, let’s say, the presidency because that’s how I got a job. I certainly would never have gotten the job in those early days as a leadership person. So, just to finish with Jim Burns, once he gave me that validation, that was kind of all I needed because I was that interested enough in the subject. And subsequent interactions, I would ask him occasionally for a letter of reference or something, but it didn’t make much of a difference one way or the other. What mattered is that early moment of validation. And then when I matured, as I said, we became intellectual sparring partners as much as him in any way mentoring me.
Scarpino: Speaking of James MacGregor Burns, Leadership that he published in 1978, I pulled a quote off page 2 and I’m going to read it for the benefit of anybody who uses this interview. He said, “There is, in short, no school of leadership intellectual or practical. Does it matter that we lack standards for assessing past, present and potential leaders?” Well, as you pointed out, since 1978, the whole leadership industry has exploded and so, too, has the leadership. But the question is, given the proliferation of leadership studies, have we developed standards for assessing the past, present and potential leaders?
Kellerman: No. I think I really answered that question earlier.
Scarpino: You did.
Kellerman: In spite of the explosion or arguably because of it. The industry, as I said, is money-driven. It’s not driven by people who are intellectually ambitious or curious. I’m not saying there aren’t any. I’m saying the driver of the industrialization has been money and markets, not intellectual curiosity. Jim Burns would be as frustrated now -- in the early days of the ILA, he would come to all these meetings, and I did too. I don’t now anymore but in the early days, we would all come to ILA meetings. We would all try to work on these issues. There was a Kellogg grant, which you may have heard about, which sponsored some of these early meetings.
Scarpino: And I’m going to actually talk to you about that later on.
Kellerman: Okay. But they did not lead to what he fervently hoped would be some kind of – I think he even used to call it a uniform theory of leadership. None of that. None of that. It’s much more Mao’s “let a hundred flowers bloom” and, indeed, there are a hundred flowers. Whether they’re blooming or not is a difficult question (laughing). His dream was not realized.
Scarpino: One more general question and then I’m going to put some demographics in the record. One thing that stands out about leadership studies is the proliferation of, let’s just say books, never mind the articles and all that stuff. Your own work excluded for the moment, if somebody asked you where to start, what three or four books would you recommend?
Kellerman: Oh, that’s easy. That’s easy. Really easy. By the way, to your point, Phil, those books are largely about how to lead. They’re not leadership studies books. They’re books about how to lead.
Scarpino: That’s true. I misspoke, didn’t I?
Kellerman: You did, and I want to just correct the record. I’m not sure anybody will, as you said, who’s listening but, yes, it’s an important distinction. They’re about how to lead. That’s why there are a million of them because they’re moneymakers. Well, not most of them, but the good ones are moneymakers. Who Moved My Cheese?, that billion dollar little book of years ago, Spencer Johnson. It sold God knows how many copies. It was essentially about how to lead. That’s mainly what it was about. So where to start? That’s an easy answer. I wrote a book about that, too. Better put, I edited a book. The book is called Leadership Essential Selections. It’s, to me, really interesting. Again, this is not self-aggrandizement. This is an intellectually interesting question. Because I asked myself that question. So you look around, you go to a Barnes and Noble or the Harvard Coop and you realize most of it is shit. Crap. And you go, “Is there nothing? How can it be that there’s nothing really great on leadership?” Well, guess what? There is. There is and I developed a course on this at Harvard and then I edited a book and Tom Wren did a similar book earlier, The Leader’s Companion, but he had stuff in there that is eminently forgettable. What I did was confine this book to – by the way, there’s another book out now, a much fatter book. My book is a sort of medium-sized book that has – I introduce the, I’ll say in a minute who, and then I analyze it. But what it is, the first entry in the book is “Loud Soup.” Then it goes to Confucius. I can’t remember who’s next. Let’s say, Plato, let’s say Plutarch, let’s say Machiavelli, Thomas Hobbes, John Wauck (Spelling??), Lenin, Freud, Max Weber. In other words, is there a great leadership literature? You bet. Since the beginning of time, there’s a great leadership literature. The last entry in the book – I had a test for who goes in the book. The writing had to be universal. The writing had to stand the test of time and the writing had to be great literature. It had to be all those things or it wasn’t going to be in the book.
Scarpino: That shortened the list a lot, didn’t it?
Kellerman: It shortened the list. Yes. I mean, did I leave some things on the cutting room floor? Sure. There are no religious readings in there, nothing from the Bible, nothing from the Quran. Do we need to stop?
Scarpino: No, no, no. No, we’re good.
Kellerman: Okay. But it a wonderful book because these are wonderful writings. The last entry in the book is by Vaclav Havel, who of course ended as president of the Czech Republic, but began as a playwright and eventually one of the most prominent dissidents in Eastern Europe before the fall of the wall. And he wrote wonderfully about leadership and all of that stuff. People like Larry Kramer are in there, the AIDS activist. There are women in there – Mary Wollstonecraft, Elizabeth Cady Stanton. The point is, these are classics of the leadership literature. So is there a great leadership literature? Yes. Do I think that every student of leadership should be reading some of these or at least be familiar with these great works of literature? Absolutely, yes. But they’re not. They have no idea.
Scarpino: Are they in your courses?
Kellerman: Oh, absolutely. Yes. Well, first of all, there’s one course at Harvard that I call Leadership Literacy, but because it’s a professional school, I have trouble getting students. There are diehard students who love the course but they’re there to – “I need to learn budgeting. I need to learn whatever.” So they’re there as professional students, whereas a course called Leadership Literacy is a Liberal Arts course. But of course, I feel the liberal arts ought to be the basis of learning how to lead. But I’m whistling against the wind.
Scarpino: I’m actually going to come back to that in a bit. When and where were you born?
Kellerman: New York and I’m not going to give the year. Everybody knows the year anyway but I’m not going to be – you can find it on Google or wherever. It’s all over the place.
Scarpino: (Laughing) Alright. Mom told me not to do that. Alright. So, where did you grow up?
Kellerman: New York.
Scarpino: New York City?
Kellerman: Yes, New York City.
Scarpino: Any brothers or sisters?
Kellerman: Only child. Can’t you tell?
Scarpino: (Laughing) There’s no correct way to answer that question, is there? Who were your parents?
Kellerman: They were German Jewish emigrates who came over in plenty of time in the middle 1930, but I think it was through them. They were totally secular but were conversations about World War II. It is said that the first word I said was, “Churchill.” That’s family lore. Long before I became interested in leadership, which made sense. My father worshiped Churchill. Was there stuff about Roosevelt? My earliest memories, actually, are political memories.
Scarpino: I was going to probe for that and I was trying to figure out a nice way to ask you if you were from a Jewish background. To what degree did coming out of that background and the conversations you had with your parents and the things you learned from your parents shape the adult and scholar you became?
Kellerman: 100%. 100%. Well, a very simple answer…
Scarpino: (Laughing) Put some flesh on those bones?
Kellerman: A very simple answer is going back to bad leadership. I grew up with, as I said, my parents said Churchill was my first word. But Hitler was part of the conversation. So if Hitler’s part of your conversation (laughing) and among your earliest memories, along with Roosevelt and Churchill and eventually Mao and Stalin, you get – this is a world that’s not just about good leadership, it’s a world about bad leadership. You get those complexities. So do I think those early years had a profound influence on what I ended up doing? 100%. I think there’s a personal answer. I do remember – maybe this is the only child -- being a very strong little girl and kind of watching how people responded to me, you know? I was the president of the class and so forth.
Scarpino: When did you figure out you could to that? Because you’re good at it.
Kellerman: I think there’s a personal level at which people become interested in things and then there’s an intellectual level. The personal level I think is I was a pretty sturdy and popular little girl. The intellectual level is I think I grew up in a household where I understood the importance of leadership and the good and the bad. And I think the underlying mystery, which we have every bit as much today as we did when I grew up, is how is it that we allow bad leaders to do bad things? It’s my book, Jean Lipman-Blumen’s book on toxic leadership and she comes out of the same background. Ira Chaleff’s interest in followers. There are several fairly prominent leadership scholars you could point to whose work I think was originally driven intellectually by that question. How does, you know, like, Stanley Milgram’s obedience to authority experiment. There’s a whole raft of stuff that grows out of that World War II dynamic. How did Germany, one of the most culturally developed, whatever – how did Germans turn into genocidal killers? How does that happen? And I think some of the great social psychologists as, again, I mentioned Milgram, but Kurt Lewin, they come out of a similar background. Again, just to talk about the here and now, Jean Lipman-Blumen and Ira Chaleff and Barbara Kellerman, Ronny Heifetz; I think several of us would have to trace some of our intellectual origins to those early memories, early days, parents telling us, our knowledge of people do to one another. Interestingly, most people, Jean is an exception, end up focusing on good leadership, which surprises me. Jean’s book, toxic leadership, mine, bad leadership. Those two books, in effect -- are there others that I’m missing? Those two books more than anything…
Scarpino: Not of that stature that I can think of right now.
Kellerman: Those two books more than any other go, woah! There’s this whole other universe of bad leadership and bad followership. Why are we not looking at that? Why does our field not look at that? Of course, the answer is, again, money. There’s no money.
Scarpino: Well, but the field has also defined leadership as good.
Kellerman: But it’s driven by money. I agree with you, but why? Because it’s the old line: Follow the money.
Scarpino: I’m going to ask you a question. Either this is going to be fun or it’s not going to work so we’ll see what happens here. In 2011, I had the opportunity to interview Manfred Kets de Vries at the ILA meeting in London. In getting ready to interview him, I read one of his pieces published in 1994 called The Leadership Mystique. One of the lines in there really struck home to me. He said, “All of us possess some kind of inner theater and are strongly motivated by a specific inner script. Over time through interactions with caretakers, teachers and other influential people, the inner theater develops. Our inner theater in which the patterns that underlie our character come into play, influences our behavior throughout our lives and plays an essential role in the molding of leaders.” So here’s my question. Using his term, inner theater, can you tell me about your inner theater?
Kellerman: Well, can you tell me what he means?
Scarpino: Well, I think what he means is that the experiences that we have as a child influence the adult and the leader that we become.
Kellerman: Well, if that is what is meant, I think I just referenced earlier my own memory or reconstruction how did I end up here, is, as I said, on the cognitive level and this goes back to family dynamic but it goes back simply to my earliest memories of what was discussed at the dinner table. And I think it goes back to me as a child, an only child, strong child, easily elected president of groups or organizations, strong kid in camp, a leader much more than follower. So I think it was that. But I honestly think the driver was more intellectual, like, “How does this shit happen?” And by the way, as we sit here and we, you know – after World War II, the old never again. Never again. Of course, technology has – that’s now out the window because we know everything. So what’s interesting now different from World War II is that we know it, particularly thinking of Rwanda, which is known as the most efficient genocide; not the worst but the most efficient genocide in human history, which I’ve written about and which we knew that it was likely to happen before it was happening, we knew about it while it was happening and yet we allowed it to happen. Out of that experience and others – a book that you may know about by Samantha Power, A Problem from Hell, which is about genocide, which won I think a Pulitzer Prize also. She’s now ambassador to the U.N. and is standing by and doing nothing while Syria has – you know, the slaughter and, arguably the genocide or at least the civil war, whatever you want to call it, in Syria that is going on. So as you and I sit here, that syndrome, that bystander syndrome which is a follower issue, not a leader issue, it’s the opposite of leadership, is happening as we sit here. Neither the field nor the awareness of it, not having somebody who objected to this, now Obama’s ambassador sitting at the U.N., none of this has seemed to make any bit of a difference. Certainly the U.S. has stood by and done nothing while the war in Syria has unfolded and chaos in different places. So the world – we have not – this field has not advanced anything and the world has not progressed very much. The U.N. has turned to feckless. What I’m saying is that the problem, speaking of the inner theater, the drive, the problems that some of us were trying to address 25, 35 years ago, they have been intellectually addressed, there are explanations but these explanations have not translated into actions.
Scarpino: Why do you think that is?
Kellerman: Not enough of a critical mass. As I said, I think there was an immense optimism when the ILA was founded and Jim Burns was part of that, an immense optimism that this field was actually going to make a real difference.
Scarpino: I’m going to drop back to your family and we’ll pick up on that in a minute, but what did your father do for a living?
Kellerman: He was a dentist but he manufactured a sort of dental product which he marketed and then sold.
Scarpino: He was both a dentist and businessperson?
Kellerman: Yes. Yes. He, like many refugees then and now, had to reinvent himself when he came to this country.
Scarpino: What did you learn from him about reinventing oneself?
Kellerman: I didn’t learn much about reinventing oneself, but I think I learned he was an inveterate reader and very knowledgeable about world affairs. Very, very – it was the grist for our collective mill in my small family so I think I learned that from him. Absolutely.
Scarpino: And your mother? What did she do?
Kellerman: My mother was a highly independent woman well before her time. She had multiple careers. My entire childhood she worked but at different jobs. She was well-educated, but I wouldn’t say she had a career the way we use that word now. Among other things, she did different things. But very smart and, above all, highly independent and I think I got some of my boldness and, again, a female role model who, as I said about her, I always did what she did. She would have preferred I didn’t work, I didn’t work far from home (laughing), but I did what she did, not what she said. She was a very independent woman well before there was such a thing.
Scarpino: Was there a shortage of role model independent women as you were growing up?
Kellerman: Oh, God! There was no such thing (laughing).
Scarpino: (Laughing) I was trying to be nice.
Kellerman: No, there was no--
Scarpino: Your mom…
Kellerman: Well I’m being hyperbolic when I say literally but very, very, very few. Very few.
Scarpino: Where did you go to high school?
Kellerman: In New York City.
Scarpino: Do you remember the name of the high school?
Kellerman: Yeah. Richmond Hill High School.
Scarpino: When you were in high school, I’m assuming that you were a good student.
Kellerman: Yeah, but…
Scarpino: Can I ask you that – if you were a good student?
Kellerman: Yeah, I was a very good student but I had no – there’s a reason I dropped out of college, which is that I was bored. I was bored with high school, I was bored with college. I had a baby at 20, a second baby at 22. And at 24, I started to say, “Hmm. Now what?” And that’s when I gradually returned to school.
Scarpino: So that actually leads to the next question I was going to ask you. When you were a young woman in high school, what did you imagine the future held for you?
Kellerman: Babies. Babies and marriage. No ambition.
Scarpino: That was your expectation?
Kellerman: Absolute zero ambition. Babies and marriage and whatever. The ambition came, or the consciousness of ambition – I might have been ambitious but I wasn’t aware of it. I just wanted to get out. Get out of the house, get out of this school, get out of this, do something different. I wanted something totally different.
Scarpino: So you were married at a young age?
Kellerman: I got married at 19, yeah. Yeah. Nineteen marriage, 20 baby.
Scarpino: You graduated from Sarah Lawrence in 1969.
Kellerman: Yeah, but that was much later.
Scarpino: So you made an attempt at college that didn’t work out for you?
Kellerman: Well, no, I wouldn’t phrase it that way. It sounds like that it was a failure. No, it’s what you did. That is, in my circles, you graduated high school and you went to school. So I did that, but I never regard it as a failure. I regard it as a bore – boring. Not failed. It was successful. I was doing great. It was somewhat interesting but I was restless. I wanted to do something very different. And so I just stopped and I thought, “Oh, marriage, that’ll be fun. Having a baby, that’ll be fun.” And indeed it was. I loved those years of being a young mother. It’s just that after four years of it, then I started to go, “Well, maybe there’s something else...” That’s when I thought, “Hmm. I don’t think I want to do the…” At first I thought I’d have four kids. Then after two, I went, “Well this has been great. Now what?” And if you look at my career, and I will say this now, you may want to get to it in more detail later, but you will notice a lot of jumping around.
Scarpino: I did.
Kellerman: A lot of jumping around.
Scarpino: I was trying to figure out how to ask you that and be tactful.
Kellerman: It’s about a congenital restlessness. I try one thing and then I like it but I want to do other things. That has stayed with me my adult life and it’s still part of who I am.
Scarpino: As you look back, because you take the long view which you said we should do, do you think that that restlessness has served you well?
Kellerman: Yes. Absolutely. Restless people are much more interesting. I shouldn’t say this as a blanket statement. Oh my God, scratch that. But by and large, people who try different things and do different things and keep at it, they tend to be, I think, more interesting than people who – you know, there’s some people at Harvard where – it’s the longest job I’ve ever held. It’s been fairly long. I’m in my seventeenth year, so I’m not that restless. But there are people at Harvard who were undergraduates there. Then they got their graduate degrees there and then they got an assistant professorship and now – you know, they have never left Cambridge. And I’m going, “Hmm.” That’s inconceivable to me. Living in different places, living abroad, being in different institutions, trying administration, trying teaching undergraduates, teaching graduates, writing this book, writing that, yeah, it’s all interesting.
Scarpino: What was the college that you went to right out high school?
Kellerman: Queens College.
Scarpino: What was it about the courses you took or the professors you had…?
Kellerman: That made me want to…
Scarpino: …that couldn’t hold your interest?
Kellerman: Well, I wasn’t interested in high school and in Queens College, I still lived at home so it was replicating the experience of living – there wasn’t enough money to send me to an out of town school. So it was like a continuation of high school. High school didn’t interest me that much and Queens College certainly. I didn’t rebel a lot because I didn’t, I guess, want to hurt my parents. Who knows? Maybe I was scared. I don’t know. But I rebelled somewhat. The marriage was, curiously, an act of extreme convention because that’s what women did, and it was also an act of extreme rebellion because they didn’t do it quite as young. They didn’t drop out of school and they didn’t do it quite as young as I did.
Scarpino: So you got married, you became a young mom, you had a couple of kids and then you went to Sarah Lawrence.
Scarpino: Why Sarah Lawrence?
Kellerman: Because it was geographically -- I was a dedicated, full-time stay-at-home mom. I lived in Westchester and Sarah Lawrence – two answers. Sarah Lawrence was convenient but Sarah Lawrence also had a path-breaking program for women just like me. It was called the Center for Continuing Education. It was unheard of at the time, but they welcomed women who had dropped out and had kids and never got a BA. So it was a very, very fortuitous combination and I will take you one step further. In my last year at Sarah Lawrence, at that time we had bulletin boards and there’s this bulletin board that had announcements. I looked at the bulletin board and it had something called a Danforth Fellowship. And I went, “I don’t know what the hell that is.” Again, I didn’t know what the hell I was going to do but I thought, “Oh, well. I’ll try for this.” That Danforth scholarship which I won changed my life because it paid for everything at Yale. And, again, it was designed particularly for unusual people who had dropped out, some of them women.
Scarpino: It has an interview process and all that?
Kellerman: It had an interview. It did. Yeah. And it was very rigorous and very – it was one of the best things that ever happened to me because it was at that moment that my professional life began to be set. I had no particular desire to become a professor. At Sarah Lawrence, I still didn’t know what the hell I was doing. I was majoring in Russian Studies, of all things, and, in fact, my first Yale degree was a Masters in Russian and East European Studies. So what I’m trying to explain is whether it was me or whether it was typical of women at the time, it was stumbling along. It was not, “Wow! I can’t wait to become…” I didn’t know what the hell I was doing. I didn’t know what the hell I wanted except I did want to be a mother and I loved it, but I didn’t love it enough to want a third baby and a fourth baby (laughing). Then I realized, “Gee, maybe there’s something else.” So I was lucky enough and smart enough…
Scarpino: That program at Sarah Lawrence opened doors.
Kellerman: It led me to that bulletin board and that bulletin board led me to a Danforth, led me to all the graduate studies at Yale.
Scarpino: As I understand the Danforth process, the interviews, did you have to sell yourself?
Kellerman: Every interview is selling. I’m selling myself to you right now.
Scarpino: I understand that.
Kellerman: I need to keep you awake, Phil! (Both laughing) You know? Otherwise if I’m not halfway interesting…
Scarpino: (Laughing) No danger of me falling asleep.
Kellerman: You must have – you’ve conducted – how many of these have you conducted?
Scarpino: Quite a few.
Kellerman: Quite a few. I have no doubt that of the quite a few that you’ve conducted, let’s say there’s a range of three. Some are, “Oh my God, I hope this is over soon.” Then there’s a middle with some interesting moments. And then there’s the best scenario where you’re going, “Wow! This has been a really good conversation.” So everybody who sits opposite you is trying to get into – they’re not conscious of it, necessarily, but, you know, it’s a two-way thing. You’re not just asking me questions. I need to keep you engaged. So was that interview a sales process? Absolutely. Is this exchange me selling myself? Absolutely.
Scarpino: So let’s go back to the first one. Did you learn anything from that process about the ability to persuade other people?
Kellerman: No. I think I was always good at it. I think I was always articulate. I won a debating contest in high – a national debating. No, I think I was always articulate, always a pretty good speaker.
Scarpino: When you were at Sarah Lawrence, you graduated in 1969. In 1968, they went co-ed. Do you remember that process? Did it have anything to do with you?
Kellerman: No, it had nothing to do with me. You have to understand, Phil. I had two babies, 2 and 4. I took my classes. It was not a college experience. It was me getting a college degree. I took the courses. I drove home. Then my next class I drove back. It was not a college experience. It was me getting a degree. I was raising kids.
Scarpino: But you did decide to study Russian Studies.
Kellerman: Yeah, I wanted a BA. At that original point, that’s all I wanted was a BA. I thought I might someday go to law school, who knows? These children were still very young. My husband was a physician, gone all the time, and I was their caretaker. So I had to be home.
Scarpino: What did you learn from going to school full time, raising children?
Kellerman: I learned I liked the children and I learned I liked school. I learned I liked it. And when I won the Danforth Fellowship, there was no doubt that I would take it. I didn’t quite know how I’d manage it but, of course, you do what you want to do. I learned I liked it.
Scarpino: I was going to ask you about the social turmoil of the late 1960s but if you were raising kids, I’m thinking that’s probably not…
Kellerman: I’m driving home.
Scarpino: You’re driving home…
Kellerman: Yep, forget the turmoil, I’m not part of it. I watch it but I’m not of it.
Scarpino: Sarah Lawrence is a liberal arts college.
Kellerman: It is.
Scarpino: You had a Liberal Arts degree?
Kellerman: I do. I did.
Scarpino: What did you take away from that that influenced your ideas of leadership?
Kellerman: I think, as you’ve heard me already say in this interview, I think the lack of tie between leadership learning and the liberal arts is unfortunate. I don’t mean there’s no tie at all. I’m sure there’s a panel here, at least one, on the liberal arts in leadership but it’s scant. It’s weak. It’s meager. I think you ought to learn the liberal arts whatever the hell you do. I think if you want to become a scientist, you should be grounded in philosophy. I’m a believer in the liberal arts. It’s tough but I’m a believer.
Scarpino: Why do you think a person should learn the liberal arts no matter what the hell they do (laughing)? Scientist, lawyer, whatever?
Kellerman: It’s a question that’s particularly relevant now because, as you know very well, people are moving away from liberal arts because they’re so nervous about getting jobs.
Kellerman: So lots of people other than me are rushing to fill the gap and say the liberal –including Drew Faust who’s the president of Harvard – she talks all the time about the liberal arts, as do others, as do I. Again, it’s like saying how do you measure? You can’t. This is not a metric you can measure. Do I think that someone who professes even to teach how to lead, not to speak of teaching leadership, should know something about philosophy, should know something about literature, should know something about history, should know something about several of the different liberal arts, social sciences? How can you teach leadership if you have no awareness of psychology? Or history? Or politics? I mean, of all the subjects that requires an interdisciplinary basis, leadership would seem to me to be very high on the list. It pulls – which is one of the reasons I find it endlessly interesting – because it’s pulling everything together. When I talk about contest, for example, one of the contexts I’m talking about is the historical context. Just to stick to sex for a minute, you can’t understand Donald Trump and the pussy and Anthony Weiner and the 15-year-old girl if you don’t go back to Monica Lewinsky. You can’t. So you need to set everything, including sex and the coarseness that’s associated with it, into an historical context.
Scarpino: I’ll just say, for the record, that you’re referencing the remarks that you made when you accepted your ILA Lifetime Achievement Award, so they’re not on the record.
Kellerman: Yes. Yes.
Scarpino: But if somebody is interested, there’s probably a recording of it somewhere. Part of what you said in those remarks had to do with the decline in the respect for leaders, that Bill Clinton had tarnished the respect of the office.
Kellerman: I do think that was a turning point. I don’t think it was the only thing that happened, but yes.
Scarpino: Why that and not Richard Nixon’s abuse of power and Watergate?
Kellerman: Because the level of popular prurient interest transcended. The Nixon thing was all about lawyers and senators and impeachment, you know? Whatever we do? It was all on a sort of high level. The Monica Lewinsky story was not. It was on a low level with a high level of popular involvement and a high level of exposure of a president’s private parts, and I use that literally and metaphorically. And that collision of popular involvement, popular interest, popular culture with the nation’s highest elected official, that was unprecedented. By then, of course, the media – we had Oprah. I don’t mean to single that show out, but it was emblematic of we now talk about everything. We’re talking about incest. We’re talking about pederasty. We’re talking about adultery. We’re talking about things that we never even used to talk about.
Scarpino: Things that people wouldn’t say out loud or on television…
Kellerman: Things that people wouldn’t say out loud, we’re now whatever. And with Bill Clinton, I’m going to put this down – I’m sorry if you find it crass but it’s part of the public – it’s the New York Times, it’s not me. Just the way the New York Times printed the word, pussy, which they had never done before, after Trump’s declaration, at that time, they printed stuff about the blue Gap dress and Bill Clinton’s semen that was found and the hard evidence, which is another thing. We have the science now. You need DNA evidence to do that. So this coming together of the media and hard science and popular culture and television and 24/7, not to speak of a little bit later social media, that has changed the universe for leaders and it has never returned since then and it is not likely to return to the good old days.
Scarpino: How has it changed the universe for leaders?
Kellerman: Well, it has made it much harder for people to lead because it has debased them. This thing that Ronny Heifetz talks about, this authority, good luck, you know? It’s tough to retain authority when the gap between – if leaders – I’m showing you my two hands – and I offer that for the recording -- if leaders were up here and followers down here, (smacks hands together) that gap has now closed. And we ordinary people have no hesitation saying anything. The internet has fueled that coarsening – the anonymity also of the internet has fueled that coarsening so that nothing is out of bounds anymore. Look, if I had come to Atlanta even a decade ago and I wanted somebody to say, “What’s the best Chinese restaurant in Atlanta?” I probably would have bought some guide written by an expert that would have said what the best Chinese. Now what do I do? I go online, I go to Yelp and the like, and they’re not experts, they’re just ordinary people who were saying this is the best restaurant. So it’s all over the place. If a doctor tells me to take a blue pill and I heard somebody else was taking a pink pill, I’ll go online. Is my doctor – so every figure of authority has been diminished and debased across the board. And, as I mentioned earlier this morning in my remarks, when you have a scandal that cuts across a whole leadership class, such as the scandal in the Catholic church, that has profound implications. That scandal which people sort of treat, if you’re non-Catholic in particular, as a bit of a sideshow. First of all, we know that sexual abuse happens not just in the Catholic church, but whether it’s Penn State or whether it’s Horace Mann, an elite private school, lots of places, institutions have gotten ensnared in this. So I’ll say to my students, “Why did the scandal break in 2002?” By the way, a couple of years after Monica. That’s been going on for a long time. Child abuse wasn’t new in 2002. Why did it break in 2002? Presidents having sex with people other than their spouses is not new; why did we find out about it in 1999? What was different? You need to look at lots of different things which is why I’m increasingly, and I don’t know much you want to do this now or maybe – I know we’re meeting again tomorrow, I am leaving the leadership model as a way of explaining the world. If I had to name this organization now, I might not even call it the Leadership Association because I think leadership is an increasingly weak way of explaining what’s going on. Too many other things.
Scarpino: How do you explain it?
Kellerman: Well, what I call it now is the leadership system. It’s a system. It’s got lots of moving parts. I keep it down to three but those three encompass just about everything, as I said this morning. Leaders, followers or, if you don’t like that word, constituents, others, stakeholders, I don’t care. People other than the leader – everybody other than the leader, so leaders, others, and what’s going on in the multiple contexts? It’s not just a single context. So we’re sitting in the United States. We are also in Atlanta. We’re also in the International Leadership. We’re also in a room where it’s just the two of us talking. Lots of different contexts.
Scarpino: So how in the world does someone manage to lead in an environment where the most important thing is the perception of results? So then you’re tempted to lie or whatever to create that perception and where you’re not rewarded for honest, you know? “I can’t fix this in 24 hours, I’ll look into it.” Those are not acceptable answers in our world.
Kellerman: I think Ronny Heifetz’ idea is that if you just do this and this, then that’s the way to tackle it and fix it. But the Greek guy that’s going to be talking tomorrow, as Ronny himself said, he’s an example of doing what Ronny Heifetz suggested and failing. So I don’t think there’s an easy answer. I’m not sure there’s an answer. I think you’re looking – this is the answer in 2016, that democracy is in trouble. We see it in this country. We see it famously, as I said this morning, in England. We see it in virtually every liberal democracy. I’m excluding just about none…
Scarpino: Colombia voted down its own peace treaty.
Kellerman: Colombia voted down its own – I blogged. I’m a regular blogger. I blogged about that. A result, by the way, of a referendum.
Kellerman: So this notion, “Well, we’ll have referenda,” Brexit, as I’m sure you know as well, David Cameron being a complete idiot, and saying, “Let’s have a referendum on this,” not dreaming that he could possibly lose. Guess what? You have a referendum? It’s possible you’re going to lose. So referenda, not exactly the answer. There is no country – Australia where I actually go with some frequency and have gone, same thing in different ways. Trouble. Hard times leading. Why? Because leaders are weaker and followers as others are stronger. Everybody is shooting their mouth off. The internet is killing everybody. And what you have, again as I said this morning, what you have in the rest of the world is a return to the kind of strong man rule that we thought was out when the Wall fell. And why are they returning to that? Because they’re figuring correctly it’s the only way to guarantee that they’re going to stay in power.
Scarpino: I’m going to take a risk here and ask you a question about the current election. Do you think there’s any possibility that at least some American voters believe that one of the two candidates represents a sort of strong man?
Kellerman: Well, we know that there are plenty of people who are scared to death of Donald Trump. We know that. With, I might add, a fair amount of evidence (laughing). This is not some hallucinatory figment of their imagination. Donald Trump – you know, you have to – when I teach Mein Kampf which, of course, is Hitler’s autobiography, I say, “Every now and then, you might want to take somebody’s word seriously. You might want to assume that they mean what they say.” So if you apply that rule for the sake of this exchange to Donald Trump, that instead of shooting off his mouth or being out of control or shooting from the hip, that he actually might mean some of what he says, be careful.
Scarpino: I’m going to back up here. From Sarah Lawrence you mentioned, you went to Yale on a Danforth and have a Masters in Russian Studies, and then immediately after that you were…
Kellerman: How long are we going?
Scarpino: I figured about an hour and a half because we started late.
Kellerman: Until when?
Scarpino: Let me hit pause. (Turns off recorder)
Scarpino: (Turns recorder on) There we go. Okay. You got the Masters in Russian and East European Studies and then you turned right around and got another Masters in Political Science. So what was going on there?
Kellerman: Okay. You asked me at one point: What did I learn at Sarah Lawrence? And I said I learned that I liked it. And the same thing at Yale and, by that time, I was also getting ambitious and I realized you can’t really do very much with a Masters. The way Yale worked at the time is if you switched – they didn’t offer Ph.D. in Russian Studies and I realized – it was still the Soviet Union at the time – I couldn’t take my kids, I wasn’t going to go without my kids and that to do it right you would need to live there. So I said, “I’m not going to go on with Russian Studies.” But I did want to switch for a Ph.D. into Political Science. That’s when my ambition kind of gelled. And the way Yale did it at the time was you switched into – they had to accept you, you had to apply, you had to be accepted. Then in Political Science, you first got the Master’s degree and then if you did a dissertation, you would get the Ph.D. So at Sarah Lawrence, my ambition had not yet gelled nor – not my ambition, the extent of it nor the direction of it. But once I got to Yale, it was clear that I wanted to be not a lawyer, not a psychologist, not other things but, indeed, an academic.
Scarpino: You mentioned at one point earlier on that while you were at Yale, you were living off campus, you had two children, you were commuting, you were juggling family and studies and that some of your professors were sort of aghast at what you were doing.
Kellerman: Aghast. And hostile. Not simply aghast, much more to the point hostile.
Scarpino: At that point, political science was still largely a male field.
Kellerman: (Laughing) Indeed. Mild understatement. And how!
Scarpino: What made you decide, “I want to be a political scientist. I’m a mom with two kids and I’m going to do this”?
Kellerman: Even once I was in political science, they wanted to shove me into what was beginning to be known as women’s studies. This was then a very male – well most things were male professions, but certainly this was. Psychology was somewhat more female. Education, of course, was somewhat more female, but I wanted to do politics. As I told you earlier, I grew up in a political household, it’s what interested me. Then leadership started to interest me. It was, at that point – now I’m interested in all leadership. At that point, it was political leadership. And that was political science. And that was going to be my home and it was very hard. Those were very hard years. People didn’t get it. They didn’t understand it? I couldn’t have done it without a supportive family, supportive husband, children. And you had to be resilient. You had to be tough, and I was tough enough.
Scarpino: What did you take away from that? Resilience? Toughness?
Kellerman: I didn’t think I took it away. I think I was it originally. Otherwise I would have never survived. I think I took away little from Yale other than the degree and how not to behave. How not to behave. Yale was a hostile – by the way, it was well-known and even in retrospect, Yale, more than Harvard for example, was known to resist women. Dartmouth was maybe of the Ivy Leagues the last to come along. These places were generally hostile to women. The undergraduate level, faculty level, they still, if you look at the percentage of tenured faculty, as I’m sure I don’t have to tell you, what is it? Less than a quarter of faculty at Harvard and these institutions tend to be female.
Scarpino: Let me turn that around a little bit then. What did you take away from having experienced an environment of hostility toward women that stayed with you and shaped not only your career but your attitudes about leadership?
Kellerman: Well, I think the hostility to women was endemic and I found it at Harvard, as well. It’s not as if Harvard was exempt. But I hasten to add, it’s not the only thing I took away. What I took away was that this was what I wanted to do, that I liked the writing, although I didn’t write my first book until after, of course, like most of us, but I liked what I did on Willy Brandt, the chancellor. I loved living in Europe. I loved winning a couple of Fulbrights that supported me and, again, encouraged me. Once I started teaching, I found I liked that. So, you know, the positive thing that Yale gave me is that it confirmed for me, not that anyone else did it, but it confirmed for me that I was doing something that I liked.
Scarpino: Just for the sake of a future user of this, and I can’t say Willy Brandt with the German accent, but he was German, became a socialist in the 1920s. In 1933, he fled to Scandinavia to avoid being arrested by the Nazis. Then he’s back in West Germany after World War II, mayor of West Berlin, Berlin wall built in 1961 and then becomes the chancellor of West Germany. This is a pretty interesting guy. Won the Nobel Prize.
Kellerman: He’s a super interesting guy and…
Scarpino: How’d you pick him?
Kellerman: Well, that’s the question I’m about to answer, which is that the title of my dissertation, as I believe I mentioned earlier, was “Willy Brandt: Leader as a Young Politician.” So the word, leader, was in there. The years that interested me, because I was looking for a good German, were his exile years. He wasn’t actually in Germany in those years. He fled, as you just said. In 1933, he fled to Norway until 1940 or 1941. Then the Nazis invaded Norway and then he fled from Norway to Sweden and he didn’t come back to Germany until the war was over. But the focus of my dissertation was the time of his exile, first in Norway and then in Sweden.
Scarpino: Does your desire to do a German topic have anything to do with your own heritage?
Kellerman: Yes. German was my first language.
Kellerman: Yes. I grew up speaking German and I spoke German before I spoke – I didn’t learn English until I went to school.
Scarpino: My goodness. We’re going to talk some about your postgraduate career. You had Master’s degrees in Russian and East European Studies, Political Science, a doctoral degree in Political Science and then, looking at your CV, you started teaching.
Kellerman: I started teaching.
Scarpino: Pretty traditional academic career.
Kellerman: But without – as you can tell from the CV, without a traditional tenure track ladder job.
Scarpino: You were at Fordham and then you were at Tufts. Between 1980 and 1991, you were Assistant Professor and then Professor of Political Science at the Institute for Leadership Studies at Fairleigh Dickinson, so I’m assuming at that point you were in tenure…
Kellerman: I did get the – yes. That’s correct.
Scarpino: It looks like you skipped Associate Professor (laughing).
Kellerman: I did. All true. It’s true.
Scarpino: So you must have been doing quite well.
Kellerman: Well, I did extremely well but by then I was into leadership. And to this day, you find a job (laughing) that is – oh we give tenure in leadership; it’s rare. Rare as hen’s teeth. So as I said earlier, the way I got into teaching in the first place is out of sheer chutzpah, I said, “I can teach the Presidency and the Congress.” And that’s what I started teaching at Fordham and then at Tufts and I was a good enough teacher, which requires – you have to always stay a step ahead of your students but you don’t have to be way ahead of your students…
Scarpino: (Laughing) I understand.
Kellerman: I’m sure you do. I was able to get away with it until I could really settle into leadership. It took about four years or so for me to go from getting the Ph.D. to become – four to six years to become a real leadership person. And since then I’ve never stopped. Since then it’s been full tilt.
Scarpino: And that opportunity presented itself at Fairleigh Dickerson?
Kellerman: It did. Yeah. That was a – it’s not known as a great school, a great university, but this Institute for Leadership Studies was a fabulous place to do what I did during those years, which is to teach about leadership and teach how to be a leader but also to do a lot of writing.
Scarpino: This was between 1980 and 1991. What was going on at Fairleigh Dickinson that caused them to develop this rather unusual program at that time?
Kellerman: It was extremely unusual. It was actually educational leadership which is not uncommon. Many of the few existing leadership degrees are still in the schools of educational and they’ll call them educational leadership. But we had a relatively light – it was this institute of multidiscipline. It was great. It folded, by the way, as most of these things are going to do. But at the time, for about ten years, it was great and it afforded me the time to start really aggressively writing. I wrote a book in those years that came out in 1984, I think, called, Leadership: Multidisciplinary Perspectives, where I knew I was really – and again I looked around, there’s nothing like it. So I had an anthropologist and a philosopher and a psychiatrist and an arts person. That book still sells to this day. I still get – very modest – but I still get royalties because there’s nothing else like it where you take scholars from different disciplines and you look at leadership. And it’s great. Some of those scholars – two of them were people that I was working with at the time at Fairleigh Dickinson. I hasten to add, if you’re asking about my career, the last three years of my stay at Fairleigh Dickinson, I had won another Fulbright Fellowship to the Haifa University in Jerusalem and I was all set to take it when I was offered a job, an administrative job, which was Dean of Graduate Studies and Research at Fairleigh Dickinson.
Scarpino: I saw that on your CV.
Kellerman: And I took it. I opted to reject the Fulbright and to take this. Why? Not because I was dying to be a dean but because I was eager to see if I wanted to go onward and upward in academic administration, be a dean and then a president and run a college or a university. So I did it and the answer was no. And at that point, I actually dropped out of academia altogether. You’ll notice there’s a hiatus there.
Scarpino: I’m glad you brought it up because I was trying to think of a tactful way to ask you about that. But first, you spent 11 years at Fairleigh Dickinson.
Kellerman: I did.
Scarpino: So that was a while.
Kellerman: It was great.
Scarpino: Your kids must have been…
Kellerman: Yeah. Now by then – now the kids are now…
Scarpino: Rocketing into college by then.
Kellerman: Yeah, yeah. The kids and – by the time – certainly by the time I finished, I can’t even remember the exact years, but the point is the kids were a factor at Yale and at Tufts somewhat, but by the time I got to Fairleigh Dickinson, that was finished. Yeah.
Scarpino: What did you learn about studying leadership or teaching leadership after 11 years?
Kellerman: Kind of what James MacGregor Burns did, that this was great. Even then, we were supposed to teach how to. Even then I didn’t do it. But the field? To this day, it interests me as it did 30 years ago, whatever number of years ago. It’s great. It is multidisciplinary. It’s about everything. It’s about families. It’s about organizations. It’s about politics. It’s about what makes the world work. It’s about historical causation. It’s endlessly intellectually interesting.
Scarpino: But what you just described, is it really the way the field has unfolded? It tends not to be so interdisciplinary.
Kellerman: And it tends not to be so intellectually interesting. But if we’re lucky as academics, very lucky and fight hard, we can make our own path and I have been able to do that. Not without fighting, by the way, just for the record, not without fighting. But with fighting, I have been able to do exactly what I wanted to do when I wanted to do it, including now.
Scarpino: With tenure committees and deans and…
Kellerman: Fighting with the academic – well fighting, in the beginning, to even stay in school. As I said, at Yale they were going, like, “What are you doing here?” So fighting first even to stay in graduate school and then fighting to have what could broadly be called a successful career. Yes.
Scarpino: When did you first realize that you were self-consciously blazing your own trail?
Kellerman: Probably at Yale. Sarah Lawrence was a girl’s school originally and this was a cocoon. But when you get to Yale, the cocoon’s gone. No cocoon whatsoever at Yale.
Scarpino: There must have been some other women there.
Kellerman: They were younger than me. They didn’t have – you know, when you have children that you care about and you’re their caretaker and you live 40 minutes from campus, again at Yale I did what I did at Sarah Lawrence. I took my course, got in my car, drove home. The other women – there were some women there but they were not in my status. I wasn’t the first woman in the Political Science Department. I was the first woman to live off campus and have children in the Political Science Department. That was a big deal.
Scarpino: Did you realize what a big deal it was going to be when you took it on?
Kellerman: No, I don’t think so. No. I think not. I think I didn’t. I thought, “Oh, great.”
Scarpino: In 1990, you leave Fairleigh Dickinson and you mentioned that you…
Kellerman: Yeah, I think there was one year in there where I was a Visiting Professor at George Washington but that was – the real other thing to say about that period is that I left academia. I left my tenured job. I was going to start a magazine with a partner. See, you don’t know that.
Scarpino: No, I don’t. What was the subject of the magazine you were going to start?
Kellerman: Well, what do you think the subject was?
Kellerman: And, indeed, it was called Leadership. And by the way, when I got to Harvard, I did it again. I started a magazine. That one was called Compass. But we needed to raise a lot of money. I wasn’t the money person. The other guy was the money person and he never did, so it was a failed – interesting failed venture. It was going to be for the private sector. It was going to be for business, government, leaders across the board, all kinds of interesting articles about leadership. But we had in mind a glossy, beautiful magazine when magazines were still glossy and beautiful.
Scarpino: When people still read magazines.
Kellerman: Yeah, and they held them in their hand. But it never went anyplace. And as much to the point, I realized, hmm, I missed academia. And we can, if you want, end with this question unless you have one or two more, but one way of ending this conversation would be to say I did realize -- it wasn’t just about the failure of the magazine --what I missed was a place to go, a home. And I said to myself, “How the hell am I ever going to get back into academia?” So the way I did it was to apply for yet another Fulbright Fellowship and I won this Fulbright. This is now 1994, whatever, 1995. I won it. I was chair of American Studies at Uppsala University in Sweden. While I was there, I get an email, I’m supposing it was – yeah, I think email, by then it was probably email…from Georgia Sorenson who says, “We’re doing this Kellogg; in the event we win it, can we include you?” And I didn’t know what the hell I was doing. I knew I was at Uppsala, this was going to be great, had nothing planned for when I returned and I wrote, “Sure.” I never gave it any thought until sometime later I got a message that said, “Guess what? We won it. And, guess what? Can you come?” And I did.
Scarpino: This is the multi-year grant that Larraine Matusak was…
Kellerman: Yeah. Correct.
Scarpino: Okay. The best that I can figure on that grant, it looks like it was 1993 to 1996, it was a multi-year grant, Kellogg Foundation.
Kellerman: Yeah. It was longer than 1996.
Scarpino: Do you know how the University of Maryland became the home for that grant?
Kellerman: Suffice it to say, here, since this is for public consumption, Georgia and Larraine – there was a real relationship there and that’s where Georgia and maybe one or two others – by then Georgia and Jim had established a friendship or connection.
Scarpino: And she was at the University of Maryland.
Kellerman: She was, at the time, at the University of Maryland. And Jim, then, ended up getting an appointment part time, something at the University of Maryland. But for the details of that, you have to ask them. More to your point, (laughing) and I’m saying this with a laugh…
Scarpino: I am going to talk to Georgia probably.
Kellerman: Yeah. Well she’s won this thing, too, so I guess she’s part of your thing so she’ll tell you her version. More interestingly, not how it got there but how it left there is when I left the University of Maryland to go to Harvard, that was a not happy – I assume you’ve heard this before. It was not a happy parting. I’m saying this for the record. Everybody knows this who has been at all involved.
Scarpino: I will probably ask you to say whatever you want to about that tomorrow. But, I mean, yeah…
Kellerman: It was not a happy parting and then soon after that, it just folded – what was called the Academy of Leadership, I think, or whatever. So it was a great time but, as I said at one earlier point, Phil, in the early days, let’s say the 1980s, when Kellogg gave the grant, so into the 1990s, this was a field filled with hope and optimism. We’re going to change the world. We’re going to train leaders. We’re going to learn about leadership. It’s all going to be great. And for a constellation of reasons, I would argue, others might disagree, that those early dreams were not realized, and so we have now this fragmentation, lots of people doing different things in different places.
Scarpino: We talked about this off and on, but to get it in one place, what do you think the constellation of reasons entailed?
Kellerman: I’ll give you just two for the sake of – for this purpose. One is the resistance of the field itself. Contrary to what James MacGregor Burns had hoped and anticipated, the field really does resist organization, clarity, logic, agreement -- maybe that’s the best word-- agreement on not just definitions but what would be a good sequence of learning? Which is much more important than definitions. So the field is somewhat resistant to that, but not that resistant. One could imagine a situation where agreement could have been reached, which brings me to my second point, the political problems. By that I mean personality problems of getting the group of originators, and you can include Kets de Vries in that, by the way. It’s not all Americans but it includes Georgia Sorenson, Ronny Heifetz, Barbara Kellerman, plus a larger cast of characters. The ability to get these people to work – to play together well was simply not there, for whatever constellation of reasons. The Jepson School, as you know, has been a bit of an exception to this general rule, but it hasn’t broken – even the Jepson School, it’s had longevity, but it hasn’t broken through. People aren’t rushing to the University of Richmond to follow the Jepson model. In fact, I just heard here that Joanne Ciulla, one of the originators, is leaving Jepson. Jim Burns was briefly at Jepson but he didn’t stay at Jepson. There has been no single group of individuals or institution or institutions that has been able to bring together this disparate group of people and to solidify the field of leadership studies or, for that matter, leadership development so that, in consequence, the original fantasy of, “We’re going to make a real impression, we’re going to change the world,” in my view has not come to pass. The International Leadership Association is what it is. It’s great in many ways, but do I think that in 10 years or 20 years it’s going to be, wow, – break down barriers? Maybe. But I’m not sure. I’m not sure.
Scarpino: I’ll close by telling you (laughing) and with a teaser, I have had a chance to read some of the progress reports written to the Kellogg Foundation. Jim Burns helped out with some of those and so on.
Scarpino: They express an astonishing degree of optimism…
Kellerman: That’s what I said.
Scarpino: …for the future (laughing) across a broad range of topics.
Kellerman: That’s in keeping with my own memory. It was filled, as I said, with optimism, which you’re sort of confirming, and I don’t know that anyone could look back on that, including you, and say those original dreams were realized.
Scarpino: Well, I look forward to talking to you a little bit more tomorrow about some of those original dreams. Before I get these things completely shut off, I’ll say thank you.
Kellerman: Thank you, Phil.
Scarpino: Let me hit stop on this one.(Turns recorder off)
Scarpino: Good morning.
Kellerman: Good morning.
Scarpino: This is the second session with Barbara Kellerman and we’re in the Hyatt Regency Hotel in downtown Atlanta, both attending the meeting of the International Leadership Association. I am interviewing her because she is the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award for the International Leadership Association. Just to be on the safe side, I would like to ask you permission to record this interview, to have the interview transcribed. We are then going to deposit the recording and the transcription in the IUPUI Special Collections and Archives with the Tobias Center, with the International Leadership Association, with the understanding that they will allow patrons to use it, including posting all or part of it to the internet.
Kellerman: Yes, that’s just fine. I might note that this is, I think, November 5, 2016, so we have down the day we’re talking.
Scarpino: It is, yes. Good. The history guy should’ve noted the date, shouldn’t he?
Kellerman: We should have a record of the day.
Scarpino: Alright. Thank you. We had a wide-ranging conversation yesterday, but chronologically where we left off is that you had taken a stop-over to teach American Studies. I want to ask you sort of a big picture question, just to kind of pull things together about you. You took a Master’s degree in Russian and East European Studies. Then you went on for a Ph.D. in Political Science. You had a stop-over in Sweden to teach American Studies. Can you talk about the intellectual journey that brought you to the point where you realized that you wanted to study leadership? How did you know when you reached that point?
Kellerman: I think it was when I was a – you know, there were intimations, I think, early in my life in ways that we discussed yesterday. I was always interested. I think I took Russian and East European Studies it was called at Yale in my graduate work, as I described yesterday, I sort of stumbled into that because of a major amazing fellowship that I won that I certainly was going to use to go into graduate study. And I think it was really during the years of graduate study at Yale that this crystalized. I do remember very vividly and, of course, it was a psych course where the work that I did was on leadership and, as I described earlier, there was incredibly little work on leadership in political science. It was stupefying to me. It was called Elite Studies. But the idea that people would actually focus on a single leader was curiously unknown at that particular moment in the of political science. It was really only with the encouragement of James MacGregor Burns who, as I said yesterday, at one point I met with because of his very brief appendage on leadership to his first volume of his well-known Pulitzer Prize winning two-volume work on Franklin Delano Roosevelt. He then said, “Yes. This is legitimate and you should do it if it interests you.” And virtually single-handedly that was enough that I needed to pursue what was becoming very interesting to me. In those years at Yale, the focus on leadership crystallized to the degree that I did a dissertation on a leader and the word “leadership” appeared in the title. But I also recognized I could not get employment doing that. So in order to get employment, in order to get my first job, I sort of fudged what I did. I certainly did not say leadership because nobody was teaching leadership courses in political science. By the way, they still aren’t. So I said I taught the American Presidency, and that was certainly close enough and, indeed, the first book I ever wrote was, in a way, about presidential leadership. It was the very first book I wrote. It was in 1980. And a subsequent book I did, which was a moderate success, was in 1984 and it was also called, The Political Presidency: Practice of Leadership. At that point, I forged my interest in leadership to a very commonplace course in American Political Science Departments, which was the American Presidency and I also taught the American Congress. The leadership work I did at the time was subsumed under American Congress, American Presidency in order for me to get employment and, indeed, I did.
Scarpino: As you moved in the direction of studying leaders and leadership, were there others that you turned to for advice or inspiration other than James MacGregor Burns?
Kellerman: I would say there was never anyone else. There was no other inspiration, mentor, role model. Jim was, to a degree, but I think many of us, once we get into a subject, we chart our own path. I think no one, even Jim – he remained more of a political scientist than I am. I now write about leadership across the board, and I have done that now for some years. I don’t just write about American leadership. I have written about leadership not only in the United States but globally. I’ve written about leadership, not just political leadership, certainly corporate leadership. Virtually everything I do is across the board both in terms of sectors and in terms of cultures and countries.
Scarpino: You mentioned yesterday that you drove up to Williams and met with James MacGregor Burns in person while you were still a graduate student at Yale, which must have been a little bit like going to see the oracle.
Kellerman: Well, I had dropped out to have children, so I had an interruption in my career. So I was not a kid and I was always a fairly self-confident person, so I don’t have any memories of that. What I do have memories of was him being nice, as everybody agrees, he was a lovely man. But mainly what I needed was his academic and intellectual imprimatur and I got it.
Scarpino: In 1960, Walt Disney Productions released a movie called “Pollyanna,” which starred a child actress named Hayley Mills. That movie was at least in part about her astonishingly optimistic and bright-eyed view of the world. You may have seen that movie once upon a time.
Kellerman: It’s a well-known movie.
Scarpino: Yeah. In some ways, it seems to me that leadership studies is a little bit like that movie, focusing on good leaders, positive outcomes as opposed to dictators and tyrants and demigods. We talked about that off and on yesterday, but to get it in one place, why do you think the field developed with a focus on good leaders and positive outcomes?
Kellerman: Because unlike Jim Burns and Barbara Kellerman, the field went in a somewhat different direction which was not the intellectual study of leadership; it was the practice of it in the sense that most of my colleagues are in the business of teaching people how to lead. They are not in the business, as Jim Burns was and as Barbara Kellerman is, of exploring leadership as an intellectual phenomenon. This has become a field more practical than purely intellectual. And once you impinge on leadership a practical component, you’re obviously teaching people how to be “good leaders” as opposed to bad leaders, or at least competent leaders as opposed to incompetent leaders. Not sure we can train them to be ethical as opposed to unethical; separate conversation. Many people do feel that, I’m not sure. I’m certainly not one of them who is as certain of that. But again, I cannot emphasize enough how driven the field is by the pursuit of money. The fact that it has become such a moneymaker, not through the kind of work that Jim Burns or Barbara Kellerman do, but by the kind of work that most of our colleagues in leadership do, which is to teach how to lead given the market for people of all ages; young people in high school and colleges, all the way through to people who are senior professionals. Everybody wants to learn how to lead and manage. Obviously the desire to learn how to lead and manage is to learn how to do so wisely and well, or at least competently as opposed to incompetently. So once you have that, it is clear to see why the field left what I certainly think is extremely important and what Plato thought was extremely important. Plato wrote as much about the tyrant as he did about the – we remember Plato as the guy who talked about philosopher kings. Guess what? He talked even more about what he called the tyrant. These people, Machiavelli, the most famous writers, theoreticians of leadership, were well-aware of man’s proclivities to do bad. When they studied leadership, you name them, Mao to Confucius – all those great early thinkers -- they were very aware of and wrote about man and when I say man, I mean humankind’s capacity to be bad, as well as good. But the field has, in the last – what I call the leadership industry – in the last 40 years has evolved in a way where those deeper thoughts are set to the side while the practice of teaching people how to lead has become paramount.
Scarpino: We do have a tendency, I think, to mine the past for those things that reinforce what we believe in the present.
Kellerman: Well put. Yes. But, by the way, those thinkers are generally not part of leadership learning. I, as you may know, Phil, have put together a book of what I call the great leadership literature and it does go all the way back. But to my regret, that kind of learning is not part of what leadership learners typically take on these days.
Scarpino: Again, this next question is something we talked about off and on yesterday. But to get an answer in one place, in 2004 you published a well-received book called Why Does Bad Leadership Matter? And people, of course, can read your book and I invite them to do so. But why should we care about bad leadership?
Kellerman: Because it’s ubiquitous.
Scarpino: There are a lot of things that are ubiquitous but…
Kellerman: Look. No. If we were studying plumbing, I would say we don’t need to think about either bad leadership or good leadership. But if we say we’re in the business of leadership, whether it’s as a student of leadership or practitioner of leadership, why would one exclude the dark side? I don’t understand it. If you’re learning how to be a doctor, do you focus only on health or do you look at the entire picture, which includes not only disease, as well as health, but it includes bad medicine. It includes malpractice. It includes how to do it badly. You’re learning not only how to be a good physician but what does it mean to be a bad physician? So why would you exclude – there’s no logic to excluding it. And as I said, it is ubiquitous. If we lived in a world in which bad leadership, however defined, represented a small fraction of total leaders, that would be one thing. But since the world of bad bosses, mean bosses, corrupt bosses, bad political leaders, intemperate political leaders, even evil political leaders, not to speak of incompetent ones, is full of such kinds of animals, and I mean that as the human animal, why would we who are students of leadership, even if broadly defined, exclude the dark side, the bad side? I have no clue. That book has sold as well as any of my books, bad leadership, which raises the question of why. First of all, people, by and large, get that this is like, okay, we should think about this, and there’s virtually no competition. I mean, there’s one – Jean Lipman’s book on toxic leadership. She says it’s really about followership, which is true, but of course I believe you can’t separate the two. So I would say those two books, to this day, they’re now whatever, a decade plus old both, and they remain really the only solid, reasonable books on a subject that would seem to me everybody should be interested in. But, as we just said, people are taught how to be good leaders and that does not seem to include thinking about bad leadership.
Scarpino: I’ll have to admit that the program at your university that I know more about than yours is the business school.
Scarpino: They use the case study method.
Scarpino: Do you do that in your leadership classes?
Kellerman: I do not and I have increasingly read that business schools – this is an aside – are beginning to use the case study method less and getting students to kind of develop their own cases more. But, no, I have never used the case study method.
Scarpino: I was just wondering if you had cases on bad leadership?
Kellerman: No. No. Look. We study bad leaders but I don’t – there’s a difference between looking at bad individuals. By the way, they are always, to me – by now you know that I always think in – that book, the way – I will take a moment to say something about that book because it foreshadowed what I’ve now reified. That book – each of the chapters about bad leadership were actually about context, leader and followers. Through that book, I learned in my head and in my belly, viscerally as well as intellectually, you can’t have bad leadership without having bad followership and you need to understand it in context. It doesn’t make sense to talk about Hitler in the context of Brazil. When I found I had to divide it that way, each chapter in bad leadership, I never talked about bad leaders anymore or any leader without talking about followers. And Followership was the book subsequent to bad leadership because, as I would say to people, “It is said of Hitler that he killed 6,000,000 Jews.” And then I would say, “How many Jews did Hitler kill?” Well, the smart ones in the audience immediately get that the answer is none. So there were some intervening people. These were, arguably, just let’s say for the sake of economy, they were followers. How can you understand Nazi Germany without looking for sure at Hitler but at the German people more generally? So that really then formulated forever in my mind: You can’t talk about leaders without talking about followers, whether bad or good, and you’re far better off understanding what happened if you place them in context.
Scarpino: Given your contextual view of leaders and followers, does it make sense that such a thing should be taught more broadly then in leadership classes? Should this be a part of civic training, civics for high school kids?
Kellerman: I am writing a book about that now and I think one of the problems with leadership classes is that they’re focused on the leader. That’s a necessary but by no means sufficient part of learning about leadership, whether it’s as an intellectual pursuit or whether it’s about practice.
Scarpino: Do you think that – you know what I’m saying – theoretically representative of government like the one that we have that voters should understand that they own the leaders?
Kellerman: Totally. And I think, you know, we used to have something called civics and civic education which was actually much more encompassing than what we – we’ve dropped civics. We’ve brought leadership into it, but by dropping civics and bringing leadership into the curriculum and conversation, we are omitting that much larger picture, which civics does include leaders, followers and context by definition. That’s what civics is about.
Scarpino: Just to get this in the record, in 2014, you did an interview with SUCCESS, publisher Darren Hardy. The introductory copy for this interview noted that Peter Drucker once said – I assume he actually said this – “Effective leadership is not about making speeches or being liked. Leadership is defined by results not attributes.” In his Success Achiever’s Series interview, you will hear Barbara Kellerman who talks about the need to evaluate leadership, how we have to look at the whole picture and what you need to be equipped to lead and to follow. So it seems to me that whoever wrote this heading here sort of captured the essence of what you were thinking at the time: Evaluate the whole picture, be equipped to lead and to follow. So if these are sort of essential windows into your thinking on leadership, I’m going to follow up on each one a little bit. This mentions the need to evaluate leadership and I assume that you would agree with that, but how would it be possible to do that?
Kellerman: Yeah. Well, as you know, Phil, the issue of metrics in leadership is the Holy Grail and it’s forever the elusive Holy Grail. On that subject, though, I think one of the words you used when you just read – I believe I heard the word success in there.
Scarpino: Yes. That wasn’t your word, by the way.
Kellerman: It was Peter Drucker’s word, I think, right? So I would have said to Peter, were I sitting opposite Peter, “Can you tell me what you mean by success?” Now the Harvard Business Review has, for years rated leaders according to their metric and their metric was success, which raises the question of: How do they define the word success? Well, they define it pretty simply, which is by financial performance. Makes sense, it’s the Harvard Business Review. That’s what their definition of success is. Which raises another question. Would that be your definition of success? Would it be my definition of success? Is it a sufficient definition of success? Or should metrics of successful leaders be more complete, even corporate leaders, than simply financial performance? So it’s great to say a leader is successful if the stock price rises. Stockholders are happy. Various stakeholders are happy. Employees are presumably happy. Their jobs are more secure. Boards are happy. CEOs are happy. Salaries of CEOs go up and everybody is smiling. But that doesn’t mean that, for example, people who work in this particular enterprise are satisfied, properly rewarded financially and in other ways. It doesn’t mean that the product that they’re producing, assuming there is a product, is one that is any way particularly socially beneficial. One of the reasons this is so difficult to measure – only one – is because we have different conceptions of what we mean by success. You, Phil, could easily define it one way and I, Barbara, could easily define it another way. It’s yet another problem for leadership because, wow, so and so is a great leader. Well, so and so may be a great leader as far as you’re concerned but not as far as I’m concerned.
Scarpino: Do you think that it’s possible to develop metrics to measure the success of leaders? Or just to evaluate leaders? Let’s take the word success out of there.
Kellerman: Whether you mean metrics that are widely agreed on…
Kellerman: Tough. Because it’s dependent on our values. The metrics grow out of our values. So if I say the most important part of running an organization is the level of satisfaction of those who are in the organization. Even if the organization doesn’t do that well, even if it isn’t widely admired, if those who clock in every morning and then clock out at the end of the day are saying, “I’ve done a good day’s work, I’m earning a living wage, this is a good life for me,” one could argue that is a really successful organization. Or one could look at the one in the building right next to it and say, “The workers here are much less happy, much less satisfied, they’re browbeaten more by their superiors but, man, are they churning out products quickly and easily.” I mean, I’m thinking as I’m speaking of someone like Jeff Bezos, whose mantra now is “the customer-driven company.” He’ll say that at every turn. It’s emblazoned on Amazon’s whatever, which is great because you’re thinking, “Wow! He’s serving the customer,” which is, of course, how he has succeeded so brilliantly. But as is well-known about Jeff Bezos, working for him – I’m not saying anything particularly novel or secret – is no fun. Most people – you know, it’s been measured before. It’s really hard work. You don’t get paid very well. Those warehouses – he ups the numbers enormously at Christmastime because shipping needs are huge. But are these a bunch of happy workers? No. But the company, of course, has done brilliantly. So, what one could do, Phil, is have different metrics of success. Then the consumer of these metrics could say which ones are most important to me. But we would need to define what we mean by success each and every time. We could develop – instead of having one, we could have, let’s say, five. And it may be that someone like Jeff Bezos would be sky high on one but not, obviously, sky high on every one. But nobody’s done it.
Scarpino: We have talked at some length about the need to look at the whole picture. The final thing that you mentioned in this, just to remind the listener, is what you need to be equipped to lead and to follow. So what does someone need to be equipped to lead? And then I’m going to ask you the same question about to how to be equipped to follow.
Kellerman: Well, since you know me a little bit by now, you will know that I will answer, “It depends.”
Scarpino: That’s a fair answer.
Kellerman: Again, context is part of this. What I needed to leave New York City in the days immediately after 9/11, what my followers needed – let’s say New York City residents – what they needed at that moment was entirely different from what was needed for me on September 10, 2011. If I’m running Amazon, to go back to a company I used a moment ago, a skillset that’s needed for me is entirely different from if I’m running Harvard University. Those people who come up, and they’re all over the place, with this is what you need: Integrity and capacity to communicate and whatever. There are plenty of positions where the capacity to communicate is unimportant. If I’m running a science lab, what is most needed from me is that I’m probably a really good scientist, that people admire my expert power. Do I need to be great at negotiation? Probably not. There’s probably somebody else to do that for me. No single answer – and that’s one of the problems with all these books and all these courses because they, in effect, provide – unless they’re saying “it depends,” people who ask for answers, the professor, teacher, trainer should say “it depends.” What you need to learn, what you need to be depends on the situation in which you find yourself. Certain sets of skills are very important in some situations and completely unimportant in others. Are there some basic skills: Communication, negotiation, capacity to decide reasonably and intelligently? Sure. But which ones get emphasized depends on the circumstance, depends on the task at hand, depends on the context, the situation in which you find yourself. There are skills that are mostly transferrable. There are no skills that are always transferrable. Same with characteristics and traits. You could say, well at least a leader should be honest, at least the leadership have integrity. Well, how many examples do we have, including presidents of the United States, whether it’s Roosevelt or Lincoln or whoever, where integrity was broadly speaking there but where they lied a lot and they lied at important moments in American history? And they lied for what they considered to be higher purposes and probably correctly so. So even integrity and honesty – its’ not enough – we go, “Oh, well, of course.” However, there are moments when it is perhaps smarter for a leader to be somewhat careful as to what is said out loud.
Scarpino: Same question about followers. How is it possible to equip people to be followers?
Kellerman: I was just on a panel yesterday with Ira Chaleff and two other people and, again, there certain things that we would teach. Ira’s book is called, The Courageous Follower. I have written a book called, Followership, and the other people on the panel train people to be good followers. So there’s, for example, speaking truth to power. So a good follower, if the leader’s doing something bad is generally encouraged to speak up. Generally, again, that’s a pretty good piece of advice. But do I think that in every – both leaders and followers similarly have to understand what the circumstance is. If you’re a follower who’s constantly speaking truth to power, you’re going to be fired. You’re going to be gotten rid of because people don’t want that. So you have to learn, as a follower, if that’s what you believe in, you might do it occasionally. But if we use that idiosyncrasy credit too often, people are going to tune us out. Again, this idea that we can simply teach these basic little things and they’re valuable across the board, no. It doesn’t work that way. Consider the context. Consider the situation. Consider who’s around you. Consider the players. Consider the task that you are being asked to undertake. Consider the history of your interaction and then make a decision as to what you should do and when and how.
Scarpino: At this point, I was going to ask you to reflect on your Liberal Arts background, but I’m simply going to say we did that at some length yesterday and so somebody can go back and have a look at that. When you first began writing about leadership – I assume thinking before you started writing, you were a relatively traditional scholar in the sense that the leader was as the center of what you were doing. How did you evolve beyond that? What contributed to you really stepping outside the mold?
Kellerman: Yeah. I think, probably more than anything else, it was actually writing. I suggested this earlier and I think it’s the answer to the question that you’re asking. I have stepped out of the mold. I did begin by writing about – all my early books, including my dissertation, have the leader at the center of the action. I think it was Bad Leadership, which is – I have written about 17 books and Bad Leadership is probably in the middle. I can’t remember. I’d have to count the number of books before and after. But it’s sort of in the middle. I wrote a good number of books before and I have written a good number of books since. I think it was Bad Leadership in ways that I earlier suggested that made me realize that you can’t do bad leadership without bad followership and you can’t get any of it unless you have some sense of where this is happening, of the situation in which it’s imbedded. And as I said earlier, that book was really – each chapter was divided into three parts and everything I have written since. I didn’t gel until later. That wasn’t conscious. I just, when I told the story, I realized, I can’t – let’s say with Hitler, because it’s so easy, I realized that if I was going to write intelligently about Hitler, I couldn’t write about Hitler without writing about his henchmen. I couldn’t write his henchmen without writing about German military. I couldn’t write about the German military without writing about the German people. And suddenly I had before me a very large cast of characters broadly called the German people, including bystanders, including people who left Germany. You can’t understand what the hell was going on without all of it. And you can’t understand all of it without imbedding it in German history, German culture, German ideology. There’s been many books written about the subject and all of them pertain. Only with this fuller understanding do you begin to understand leadership. Again, when I wrote the book, I didn’t know that. That evolved out of the material. But I will add that ever since then, and as I mentioned earlier, Followership came immediately – I said, “Why aren’t people writing about others? What’s the matter?” And like bad leadership, I mentioned there’s, like, two good books on bad leadership and there’s two or three or four on followership to this day, 10 years later. The field – we’ve pushed it a little bit at the margins, but has the field really aggressively moved? No. But people get it in a way I think they didn’t previously. Anyway, after several years, I realized this is the template. But the systemic idea, and I hasten to add this is not Barbara Kellerman inventing rocket science, notions of contexts – contingency, circumstance – they’ve been around since the beginning. The point that followers matter, it’s not Barbara Kellerman’s invention; it’s been around. What it hasn’t been and what I’m trying to put, kicking and screaming, is people haven’t held onto it as a necessary part of understanding leadership. So as I say to audiences, and I may have said yesterday, I now am at the point where I never talk about leadership anymore. It’s always about the leadership system. The leadership system contains the leader, that leaders remain important, followers and context. Those are the three touchstones. They’re equally important. The leader is no more important than the other two. I now have written this summer, Daedalus, which is the Journal of Arts and Sciences – has an article of mine, I think it’s called “It’s the System, Not the Person” or whatever it is. So I’m really driving that point home much more deliberately and consciously in the last couple of years. It’s the course I’m teaching now at Harvard. It’s called: Leadership System: Leaders, Followers, Context. The book that I’m writing now – it’s going to be leadership systems – it’s not called that but, I mean, it’s going to have that. That’s going to be the template. And yes, I think everybody who learns leadership should be made conscious - often you can’t learn in school, let’s say, about followers because when you graduate, even if you’re at the Kennedy School or the Business School, you don’t know exactly what context you’re going to be going to. So that’s called raising contextual awareness. Raising awareness. And then when you get to your workplace, or whatever your situation, then you put that template and then you understand that this is not just about me developing my own skills, it is about me understanding, yes, I need to do that but I need to…okay who’s around me? Who are the stakeholders? Who do I need to watch my back? So everything I do now is with this larger perspective. It is not, for me, about leadership anymore. And if I were starting this organization today, I would have to really think: Do I want to call it the International Leadership Association? Is there any other language? Is there something else we should be thinking about before grafting that word, leader, or leadership onto every damned thing we do?
Scarpino: Would it be reasonable for me to conclude that your own intellectual journey has been evolutionary rather than the aha moment that some people experience?
Kellerman: Absolutely. And I suspect it’s still going on. I’m not young anymore but I don’t think, you know, if you keep on working, which I’ve done with pleasure, I think it continues. Really only in the last year or two have I firmed what I began what I began a decade earlier with Bad Leadership, which is to understand, I believe in my view, that focusing only on leaders is simply wrong-headed.
Scarpino: You have noted that you went to Sarah Lawrence as an older student and you actually were going through the entire graduate process as older than your peers. So this question is not about chronological age, it’s years in the field. Alright? So as a relatively junior scholar, even though you were older than your peers, did you ever worry about challenging your field and whether that could harm your career?
Kellerman: My career was under threat at every – I would say only in the last few years have I felt it’s not under threat. I dropped out of academia, quit a tenured job and then had to figure out how to get back in. Then I came to Harvard to do, in the last 17 years or so ago – they brought me in as -- I was faculty when I was brought in but that’s not why they brought me in. They brought me in as an administrator. Then after three years, I didn’t want to administrate anymore. I really wanted a full time faculty position because I wanted to go back to writing and that transition was not so easy. And leadership remains, it’s not just about me, about being a woman, although I think all those things contributed, but the real point perhaps is that leadership, again in spite of our earlier fantasies of 40 years ago where leadership gets really accepted and really part of the traditional curriculum, that has not happened. It remains a stepchild, partly because of our own work, which hasn’t evolved very much, but partly because the academy generally resists new fields and leadership remains a stepchild. Very much a stepchild. Most schools do not – this meeting here is misleading because we see the Department of Leadership or a leadership program. But guess what? In the real world (laughing) of the ILA, wherever leadership programs do exist, they tend to be, not always, but they tend to be more marginal than central, sometimes in schools of education. The military takes leadership seriously. That’s different. But every other institution does not – academic institution – does not integrate leadership, leadership studies, even leadership practices – it’s often in Student Affairs and they’ll do leadership this or that. So it has not become a widely accepted part of the curriculum, certainly at the nation’s top schools and, by the way, who are much underrepresented at a meeting such as this one.
Scarpino: Yes, they are. So as part of the background research for this interview, I talked to Ronald Riggio?
Kellerman: Riggio. Yeah.
Scarpino: Riggio. Okay. I asked him what distinguishes you as a scholar of leadership and he brought up Peter Drucker. He said people used to say about Peter Drucker that he could look out a window and see what no one else saw. That he was a keen observer. And he said one of the things that distinguishes you is that you can look out the window of your discipline and see things that no one else sees; that you’re a keen observer. Is that a fair assessment of you?
Kellerman: I think it is, yes.
Scarpino: Do you see things that other people don’t see?
Kellerman: I believe I do. I think it’s possible that my political science training, and I’ll mention an affinity with Drucker in a minute, has equipped me to do that. I tend to look at the world, the world at large. I’m as interested in what’s going on in Russia, as in Egypt, as in Turkey, as in the U.S., as in Canada and Brazil. And my leadership work does cut across the board. It’s not confined to the private sector or the public sector. I think there are global trends and I think I am pretty good at that, but the personal note that’s worth injecting here, I’m not saying Peter Drucker and I are the same. I’m not comparing myself to him.
Scarpino: Ronald did that, actually.
Kellerman: Yeah, I know. But I want to be clear that I’m not. I understand. But what’s interesting is that Peter Drucker and I have exactly the same background. Peter Drucker was a Viennese Jew who eventually left Vienna and fled. I think he may have been in England first and then came to the U.S. with a very broad intellectual background. Very broad – very interesting intellectual family. And my own father was also born in Vienna and left Vienna and then – my mother’s from Dusseldorf, Germany. They both happened to leave their individual homes and live in Paris and they eventually met in Paris and married in Paris but decided, as I said yesterday, I think around 1936, 1937, that they would be wise to get out of Europe. So I mentioned that. It is possible that – and this is just speculation, but it is possible that the capacity to look broadly, to look out the window in Ron Riggio’s words, has something to do with this background. I’m not sure it’s an accident that someone like Drucker and someone like myself came from essentially – Drucker is older than I – but came from essentially similar backgrounds.
Scarpino: I’m so glad you brought that up. I was trying to think of a way to do that without leading the witness. But you do attribute that similarity of background to him?
Kellerman: I think it’s important as opposed to unimportant. I think it’s not happenstance. Again, we’re very different. He ended up focusing much more on the private sector than I do, interestingly, I might add.
Scarpino: Well, and he also didn’t use the word leadership. He talked about managers – I mean, even though there was sort of a synonym.
Kellerman: But, Phil, I was about to say, you and I both know that fudging, uncertainty about what does leadership mean and what does managership mean? What is a leader? What is a manager? In the book I’m writing now, I trace that a little bit. It goes all the way back. Essentially the word, manager, is the word that was originally used. Originally all of this was management education. The word leader is relatively new. In today’s parlance, Drucker was writing about leadership, not managership, but that’s today’s parlance. When he was – even still, he wasn’t using that thought, you know? It’s not that far back but originally this was all under management. Then the word executive also entered into it for a time. It’s actually a problem that somewhat bedevils the field, also, because there was a time Warren Bennis, whose name you may know, he wrote, and others as well, comparisons between the manager and the leader and the leader always came out better than the manager. The leader was a bold, creative, amazing, wonderful person, whereas, the manager was much more of a routine whatever. But originally, and as Peter Drucker used the term, that’s not how Bennis defined it. Originally you could say, in today’s parlance, the manager was the leader.
Scarpino: In no sense that he was avoiding using the word leader because of the bad taste in his mouth left by people like…
Kellerman: Very good question. In German, of course, the word, leader, is fuhrer and fuhrer equals Hitler. And Drucker, being that much older than I, might have particularly shied from that. But he also was in the mainstream of what that was early on, which was management education and not leadership education.
Scarpino: Just for the benefit of anybody who’s looking at this or using this in the future, I had several questions here that I was going to ask you about things like context and leadership system and so on, but we talked about those in detail yesterday and I’m not going to ask you to repeat yourself. But you’ve not only written about leadership in general but also women as leaders. Either this is going to work or I’m going to get myself in a lot of trouble. Are there similarities and differences between the way women lead and the way men lead? Or are there similarities and differences in the way you would teach leadership to women or leadership to men?
Kellerman: Well, too bad you weren’t at one of my panels yesterday.
Scarpino: (Laughing) I was here all day yesterday.
Kellerman: I know, I’m kidding. One of the panels yesterday that I was on was called: Women in Leadership. I’ll give you two answers to that. I’ve taught Women in Leadership at Harvard for many years and I’ve taught Women in Leadership at Tuck at the Dartmouth School of Business for many years. About a year or two ago, I decided I didn’t want to teach it anymore because I found it boring. The subject, as far as I’m concerned, there is very little new on the subject. You know, every now and then a book comes out like Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In. People get hysterical. But essentially that kind of stuff has been around for at least the last 20 years. So have the solutions. Let’s do a part time thing, let’s do flex time, let’s have sponsors, let’s have mentors, let’s do whatever. There’s been a whole range of solutions and yet the numbers are still stubbornly low. So even yesterday’s conversation was largely -- I’ll tell you another way how I’m looking out the window or just an irritating contrarian depending on (laughing) how you want to see it. Yesterday’s discussion was, again, about the barriers to women’s equity. And one of the reasons I quit teaching it is because that’s what the conversation persisted in being about. Gender bias, workplace structure, you name it, all those external – again, all of which are accurate. However, since we’ve been talking about this stuff for 20 years and the numbers of women in leadership roles, in this country we rank really low – in the United States – but it remains a problem globally, you know? Some countries do better than others but the higher up you get, the more likely it is that those positions are held by men. So, my question a couple of years ago was: What the hell is going on here? Is there some other possible explanation for this rather than the old standard ones? And I had, for my own interest and curiosity, not because I’m teaching about it and I do write about it but little, I will blog about it and I will occasionally – Deborah Rhode and I just finished an article called The Pipeline as Pipe Dream, which is coming out in a journal or magazine of some kind. But it’s not a central focus of my interest. So this was really more my own curiosity; what the hell is going on here? So I have come up with a different explanation. Do you want me to say what it is?
Kellerman: Okay. I, instead of looking to external barriers, have started looking at internal barriers, although I’m not even sure the word barriers is correct here. What I’ve become interested in is mothering – let me de-gender that – parenting in animals, primates. How does parenting happen in primates other than the human animal? Well, sure enough, in most primates, parenting is very much a mother/child bond. The human animal can talk about paternal involvement from now until doomsday, the natural impulse for most mammals is very much for the mother to stay close to the baby. We say to ourselves, “Why might that be?” Well guess who carries the baby, in the case of the human animal, for nine months? It’s not an inconsiderable – it’s a long time. Have you ever done it, Phil?
Scarpino: (Laughing) No I haven’t.
Kellerman: Well I have. It’s long.
Scarpino: I’ve been there but I haven’t done it.
Kellerman: Then the baby’s born and guess who has the capacity for all the parental involvement? And boy, it’s fashionable now, dads are taking care of the kids, but one thing they can’t do is to feed that baby. It is the mother. So I have wed my understanding that there are some things that mothers can do – female parents can do -- that fathers, male parents, cannot do that tie the mother to the child, usually for a fairly long period of time. This is not days we’re talking about or even months. We’re talking about years, and in some cases many years. And this probably is not completely irrelevant to why there’re so few women leaders, because they are biological, physiological, emotional, whatever differences between men and women. Now one further comment. There is a new literature emerging which suggests that women are actually somewhat less ambitious than men, that they’re aware of these roles and they want to get close to them and they want to do well professionally but that they don’t have the same drive to get all the way to the top that men do, that they just have that drive less. This is, as I said, a rather new contribution to the literature, not particularly well-known yet or even discussed. I think it’s really important because my guess is it’s true. And my guess is it relates to what I was just saying. My guess is that women are programmed, hardwired, whatever language you want to use, to be less ambitious for the very top role than men are and that the reasons for this difference are in the areas in which I suggested a few moments ago, that is the biological, physiological, evolutionary if you will, differences between men and women that go all the way back.
Scarpino: Is that something that we need to be concerned about?
Kellerman: Need to work on? Well, one reason I think it hasn’t entered the conversation is not because people are stupid. Again, I’m not a genius, I can’t be the only one who’s thinking about this, and I asked myself: Why is nobody talking about this? Well, I’ve run it by audiences now for the last year or two and I can hear it in the people who are listening, which is that well that means that we don’t have it in us to be equal with men? Is that sort of defining who we are? We’ll never reach equity? And I go, “How do I know? I’m not a student of science. I am just telling you how primates generally raise their young; it’s generally through the mother, not the father. And I’m raising for your collective consideration the possibility that this has something to do with the numbers because the numbers have stayed stuck, even though many companies and many organizations are trying to change those numbers.” And I point, by the way one last thing on this, to the Scandinavian example, which is often thought of as la la land for Americans – they’re doing everything right, they give a year off, not six weeks off or eight weeks off. They’re equity right and left. When you look at the numbers of women leaders in Scandinavia, certainly in the private sector, they are woefully low. I think 6% of women CEOs in Scandinavia. Six percent, maybe a few percentage points higher than in this country are CEOs. They do somewhat better in the public sector but there are other reasons for that. Women do better in the public sector here, too, and even better in the non-profit sector for various reasons.
Scarpino: In 1986, you wrote a volume that dealt with women in leadership but that clearly was not the last time that you wrote on the subject.
Kellerman: No, no.
Scarpino: Some of the titles of your articles and chapters are quite interesting and I’m going to put these in the record for people who haven’t seen your CV. You’ve Come a Long Way Baby -- and You’ve Got Miles to Go, in a volume you edited with Deborah Rhode, Stanford Press, and then Women in Leadership: The State of Play and Strategies for Change, which you also co-edited with her in 2007. Then Women in Leadership: Partway There, again co-edited with Deborah Rhode in American Psychologist. Women at the Top: The Pipeline Reconsidered, also co-edited with Deborah Rhode, and it goes on. But one of the things that stands out about those pieces is the way you describe them and I don’t think that’s an accident; is the glass half full or is the glass half empty? You’ve come a long way but you’ve got miles to go. What’s that all about?
Kellerman: By the way, Deborah Rhode, for the record, is a lawyer and a professor of law at Stanford University and has just come out with her own book titled, Women in Leadership, by the way. Yeah, you know? It’s about – again, the women in leadership literature is – it on the one hand describes the difficulty of the situation, but it usually ends up being prescriptive, you know? You do these things and you, too, will become a leader, or you, too, will succeed in a way you’re having trouble doing now. Again, when I write about it, generally I try to write grounded very much in the reality. That long way to go, I can’t remember what year that was, but I can tell you if I were writing an article now, I probably would have a very similar title. I wrote a blog for the Harvard Business Review which I used the word, manifesto, for it. And I think one of the points that I sometimes make and it was in that article is that failing a women’s movement which we haven’t really had for a long time, progress on these kinds of issues is going to be very, very slow. There is absolutely progress. Are the numbers better for women now than they were five, 10 and 20 years ago? Sure. But that progress is evolutionary, not revolutionary, and at this rate, it’ll be, God knows, 100 years or something before there’s anything resembling equity.
Scarpino: I can’t resist asking you this question. Why don’t we have a women’s movement now?
Kellerman: Really good question. As with all good questions, there’s no single answer. Probably the best answer, and it’s by no means an adequate answer, is that women see themselves – especially younger women. They don’t see – if you interview them – here’s an example. In this election, we’re sitting here in 2016, just a few days before election day. As you well know, Bernie Sanders was big during this presidential campaign. And as you also likely know, a lot of his supporters in those early, enthusiastic days, were young and a lot of them were women, so much so that Gloria Steinem made the scandalous remark saying that they were active in the movement to catch a man. When these women were interviewed – “Hillary’s running, you’ve got a woman, it’s going to be completely great.” They looked at these interviewers like, “What are you talking about?” They didn’t see a problem. They didn’t perceive a problem. The young people do not get the way their mothers and grandmothers did, that there are barriers. They will someday discover those barriers, but they will only get to that much later. For example, students in medical schools roughly 50/50 now. Students in law schools roughly 50/50 now. They’re not really aware of barriers and they won’t be until earliest childbearing age. The students I had at Tuck who were in business school, they were starting to get it. Many of them were still single. Let’s talk about the women students. Most of them were still single. They’re, let’s say, 30 for the sake of this conversation. They’ve all been in the world of work already. They go back to business school. They’re late 20s, 35, 38, many of them not married. Many of them wanting to be with a partner of some kind, many of them wanting at least one or two children. They’re starting to get this tradeoff between being married and having a child and being ambitious. But when you’re 25, you don’t get it. This is not the making of a movement. The young driving forces don’t get it. The middle ones, the 30-somethings, they’re more concerned with their careers and developing their personal lives than they are about a political movement. There’s no obvious repository of feminism now, with the young ones not even fully understanding that there is a problem of any kind.
Scarpino: I want to talk to you some about followership. We could follow up on this particular subject at great length. We can start with the seminal volume, Leadership, 1978, James MacGregor Burns. He writes in the introduction, “One of the most serious failures in the study of leadership has been the bifurcation of the literature on leadership and the literature on followership.” “Surely,” he said that “it’s time that the two literatures are brought together, that the roles of leader and follower be united conceptually, that the study of leadership be lifted out of the anecdotal and the eulogistic and placed squarely in the structure and process of human development and political action.” In some ways that book, Leadership, is a little bit like the Bible, you can find anything you want in there. But he did say it and it’s in the beginning so you don’t have to read very far in there to find it. Why do you think it took so long for leadership scholars to follow up on something this man suggested in 1978?
Kellerman: Well, among other things, he, himself, didn’t follow up on it.
Scarpino: That’s also true.
Kellerman: I mean, you, yourself, just made a very good point that the book is like the Bible, you can find anything. And of course, he knew enough to stress the followership. And in his definition of leadership, the follower and satisfying followers is an integral part of the definition. But he was a man of his time. He was a biographer of not only FDR but Teddy Roosevelt and others. He was focused on the person at the top and the book, Leadership, however wonderful it is and seminal it is, believe me, it was focused on the person at the top. He didn’t forget about the people – the book brings in women and certainly when he wrote his great, three-part volume of the United States, it was very modern and politically correct and brought in a range of other players. But let’s get real. His passion and his demographic, meaning he was a man of his time, he was a very forward-looking man of his time but he was a man of his time, means that he just didn’t do – he said it needs to be done but he didn’t say, “And now I’m about to do it.”
Scarpino: No, he did not do that.
Kellerman: And everybody else – as we’ve now said, everybody else is going, you know, “What matters to me is leadership intellectually,” and even more important, as I’ve now said several times, the people who were learning – see Jim Burns was totally removed, as I am, removed from this large majority that you see running around downstairs. The large majority down there – they’re teaching how to lead. That’s what most of them do. I’m not saying they don’t also do scholarship but, by and large, the courses they teach and how they see themselves is as teachers of – teaching people – what I’m teaching my students, in companies, in high school, in college and in professional schools, what I’m teaching them is how to lead. I’m not teaching them – I’m not taking an undergraduate course at Williams College. I’m an undergraduate here. Leadership is that of student services and they want to teach me how to lead and I want to learn how to lead. Or, I’m at a professional school and I’m taking a leadership course because I want to be a lawyer who knows how to lead.
Scarpino: I had the privilege to meet Jim Burns once and interview him, but he taught about leadership, not how to lead.
Kellerman: That’s my point precisely, which is exactly what I do. I am one of the very – and I think when I got that Lifetime Achievement Award, whoever it was, was it Ron Riggio who said, “She’s…” I can’t remember, but I think there was a parallel made between me and Jim. What’s the parallel? I’m not saying I’m like him at all. I’m saying we are both about leadership. We’re not teachers of how to. That is not what Jim did. For him, this was a natural – he was a political scientist. He’s often called a historian, which he was not. But he had a deep and abiding interest in leadership as an area of intellectual curiosity, and that is exactly how I would describe myself. I’m interested in leadership as an area of intellectual curiosity. I do not train people how to lead.
Scarpino: I’m going to follow up on followership. I’m going to do this by mentioning the Kellogg study, but then I’m going to come back to it again and ask you about it connections to ILA and so on. Just for the benefit of someone using this interview, the Kellogg Foundation, led the efforts of Larraine Matusak, awarded a multi-year grant to facilitate dialogue among leadership scholars. And I have, thanks to Ira Chaleff – I know I mispronounced that – I saw some of the progress reports which were highly enlightening that were written to Larraine Matusak, one in particular dated January 12, 1995. This report indicates that the group has divided itself into three working groups: Transformational leadership convened by Bernard Bass, Ethics convened by Joanne Ciulla; and Leadership and Followership convened by Ed Hollander and Lynn Offermann. Did you play a role in that?
Kellerman: I didn’t get my degree until 1996. So I did, but later. I was not there in 1995. And then, I’m trying to think of the exact chronology – no wait a minute. I’m sorry, what year did you say that was?
Scarpino: Well this was a report for…
Kellerman: What was the date? Just the date.
Scarpino: January 12, 1995.
Scarpino: It would’ve been a report covering what they did in 1994.
Kellerman: Yeah. I’m trying to think of – yeah, those were the years that I was still not in academia and then went for that year to Sweden and then came back to the University of Maryland. In 1994, I was in Sweden. I think I was in Sweden from 1995 to 1996 or even 1996 to 1997. As I think I described yesterday, when I was in Sweden that one year which was either 1996 – I think it was probably 1996 to 1997 or 1997 to 1998…
Scarpino: We put it in the record yesterday.
Kellerman: Yeah. Whatever it was. It was that year that somebody got in touch – the answer is I was not involved in the Kellogg grant in those early stages. I was either out of academia, what would have been the first year, and then back in via Uppsala outside Stockholm. And only upon my return to the United States, which I think was in 1997, did I then join on and become active. I may have been at one of those early meetings but I was not in those early – I don’t think you would find my name in any of those groups. I was not part of any of those groups.
Scarpino: Did the work that they did, that working group on followership, have any impact on you?
Kellerman: Zero. Negative zero. Ed Hollander was somebody who was much more – he wrote a book, I think it was called Group Dynamics, paid a lot of attention to followership but, like my own work, it didn’t push the discipline. It didn’t push people and, in his case, no, I knew about it but it had no impact on me whatsoever. My own thing came out of my own writing of Bad Leadership. As I said earlier, I recognized you just can’t do this without …
Scarpino: Ira Chaleff wrote, The Courageous Follower: Standing Up To and For Our Leaders.
Kellerman: That was after, too.
Scarpino: 1995. It came out in 1995.
Kellerman: Did it come out in 1995?
Scarpino: If I looked it up right, it did. Did you know him?
Kellerman: I never knew Ira Chaleff.
Scarpino: In 2006…
Kellerman: By the way, the first person to coin the word, followership, was Robert Kelley. That’s a name you’ve probably heard.
Scarpino: In 2006, Ira Chaleff was a leader in organizing the first national conference on followership at the Kravis Leadership Institute at Claremont.
Kellerman: Yeah. I was at that one.
Scarpino: Jean Lipman-Blumen helped to organize that? Ronald Riggio?
Scarpino: You were obviously invited because they knew you were working on the subject.
Scarpino: In 2006. My book came out in 2008. So, yes. I’m sure that that’s right.
Scarpino: Did the discussions that went on there…
Kellerman: I mean, I think what they do is…
Scarpino: Well, I’m glad I asked you this because I saw all these dots and thought wow, but…
Kellerman: No. I think what happens is when you’re doing your own work and you think, “Oh, Wow, it matters.” And then you’re at a place like this and other people are also talking about it, it is reaffirming that you’re going, “Okay, I’m not a complete outlier idiot.” So I don’t mean it’s completely irrelevant, but if you’re talking about a specific impact in a specific way, no.
Scarpino: I know that you did decline to have a paper in the volume that came out of that because you were pushing your own book.
Kellerman: I think I probably was still writing my own book. I never do chapters for books when I’m busy with my own projects.
Scarpino: That makes sense. So your own book, Followership: How Followers are Creating Change and Changing Leaders, Harvard Press, 2008, just to put that in the record. We’ve talked about the next few things related to this. So now I would like to talk to you about the Kellogg Leadership Studies Association, the Kellogg Leadership Grant and the International Leadership Association.
Kellerman: Yeah. I just want to make a comment about what you just said, Phil. You’re reminding me of that Claremont conference, for example, and the fact that there was a small knot – Ira and Ron and Jean – and they did do that edited volume, Barbara, Robert Kelley, a guy who has – he’s not left academia but he didn’t stay really mainstream. There were some of us – there were a small group of people that were pushing this, and this was in the mid 2000s, and here we are a decade later and the followership thing has moved along. Absolutely. There is more interest now than there was, but it’s still really at the margins. It is at the margins of a marginal field. So it’s no wonder that there’s not been an outburst of interest in it.
Scarpino: Why do you think that leadership studies, or studying leadership is a marginal field?
Kellerman: Well, first of all, it’s highly interdisciplinary. In other words, what it really does is pull from so many different disciplines; and when you’re that interdisciplinary, people don’t love you. People say we love interdisciplinary…
Scarpino: It doesn’t fit in the academy very well, does it?
Kellerman: Precisely. They say they want it and they encourage it much more than they used to – institutions encourage it – we love interdisciplinary work because life is interdisciplinary, but then the reward system within the academy is for excelling within a discipline, not for being interdisciplinary. That’s one part of it. And the other part of it, as we said yesterday, maybe it’s the first thing we talked, the field itself has not particularly matured. If I said to you, “Who were the five best people in the field of leadership today?” you’d have trouble coming up with five names. With Jim Burns dead and a few of the other people either old or dead, you know, Bernie Bass is dead, some of the giants of the field in the whatever, 70s and 80s, they’re no longer with us. And it’s not as if we identified, wow, these 10 or 20 younger scholars, aren’t they amazing? They’re doing little narrow things in little narrow bands. What was interesting about the Basses and the Burnses and Bennis, to an extent, is that they were very wide-ranging.
Scarpino: And you, I’ll add, by the way.
Kellerman: Thank you. They’re very wide-ranging. Now you see articles, you have the Leadership Quarterly and this is all estimable work but it’s not work where you’re going “this is a way of seeing the world.”
Scarpino: If I put words in your mouth, I’m sure you’ll tell me that I’ve done it.
Kellerman: I will.
Scarpino: If we look at the evolution of the field, it appears as though what’s happened is it’s gone from people who saw the big picture who could think interdisciplinarily, could think capaciously, and becoming an academic field, people have slipped back into those silos.
Kellerman: I think to some extent that’s very true. And partly it’s a generational thing. Certain generations think more capaciously because of the way the world works, because of the system that they grew up in and I include myself in that. I’m not as old as Jim or Bernie or Warren Bennis. But I’m more of that generation than I am of a 30-year-old. So I think it’s partly how they grew up and were trained, partly what the reward system is now. Many of them are in departments where they either have tenure or need still to get tenure and the reward system is not for writing some global – even leadership. Burns’ book. You and I can say, “What a great book.” But it’s all over the place. It includes, as you said in your opening crack, you can find anything you want in there which is…
Scarpino: I didn’t mean it as snarky as it sounded.
Kellerman: Of course you didn’t. But the point is you’re right in the best sense of that word, in the best sense of that word. That’s why that volume lingers today. Because it’s capacious, to use your apt word.
Scarpino: There’s still stuff in there that will speak to us.
Kellerman: And it has a lot. It’s a very ambitious book in the very best sense of that word. So there you go. You want to do the Kellogg thing.
Scarpino: Yes. I do. I actually got on the airplane believing that the first meeting of the ILA was in 1999, but I have since learned that a bunch of you met in 1998 in California.
Kellerman: We did.
Scarpino: You were in Sweden. You were invited to come back to the United States to the University of Maryland and you were being asked to take charge of that…
Kellerman: I was the head of something called the Center for the Advanced Study of Leadership in the James MacGregor Burns – I think it wasn’t even called the James MacGregor Burns Academy then. It was called the Academy of Leadership. Within the academy, they wanted to have something called the Center for the Advanced Study of Leadership, which is – that’s what they brought me in to direct so that there was a scholarly imprimatur. Now I’m remembering, it was 1996 to 1997 that I was in Sweden because I came to Maryland in 1997 and I stayed there until 2000. The money was coming from the Kellogg Foundation which thought all this leadership stuff was great, and Larraine was the connective tissue between the foundation and the academy. Later, through Georgia, who was very tied in every emotional and whatever aspect…
Scarpino: Georgia Sorenson?
Kellerman: Georgia Sorenson, changed the name of the academy. Some of us didn’t think that was such a good idea for reasons that I don’t have to go into. Not because of anything against Jim Burns, but because when you name something, it usually precludes other donors who may want to see their name or whatever. But, in any case, the decision was made to name it the James MacGregor Burns Academy, but I believe that when I came on, it was not that. I believe it was the Academy of Leadership, and the Center for the Advanced Study of Leadership was to be within the Academy of Leadership.
Scarpino: What did they bring you there to do? What did Georgia have to do with the Kellogg grant?
Kellerman: As I’m trying to reconstruct it, Phil, I think they wanted a scholarly channel. It’s kind of what I then tried to also do when I got to Harvard. The scholarship, as we have said, in this field is scant. It was scant then, scant now. The only way you can bulk it up is to – I’m not sure I would have formulated it this way then -- but the only way you can bulk it up is to bring together people who were doing it, no matter where they would be in the university. So as I remember my task, and I worked with a guy named Scott Webster, we were to have the Academy of Leadership have some scholarly heft. And, indeed, the International Leadership Association grew out of my desire to bring together scholars from initially around the country, but we called it the International Leadership Association because it was becoming clear that scholars around the world were doing this. It was originally intended as a scholarly organization just for people who were doing scholarship in leadership. We certainly didn’t exclude people who were just teaching how to lead, but the hope was that by assembling a critical mass of scholars, we would, again, give heft not only to our own Academy of Leadership but to the field more generally.
Scarpino: And that’s what took place in California in 1998?
Kellerman: Correct. Correct.
Scarpino: Do you remember where that meeting was?
Kellerman: It was at the University of Southern California and Cynthia Cherrey was my partner. And Warren Bennis, who was at the University of Southern California, was a supporter. She had his imprimatur, which enabled her to get support from the university.
Scarpino: And that was a gathering of scholars?
Kellerman: It was. I’m sure there were people also teach – I don’t mean everybody was a scholar, but my purpose just as it was, and I did not succeed, when I came to Harvard, was to try to give this field some scholarly heft. And I would have liked for this organization – this has been a difference between me and the organization -- to have done much better in terms of its scholarship. Again, you’ll notice that the schools represented here tend not to be the top tier and I would have done everything in my power to not have that happen.
Scarpino: When I read the progress report for the year 1994, it lists Judith Addington, University of Maryland Foundation, as Project Director, did you know her and what her role was?
Kellerman: If I’m remembering correctly, I recommend that you delete her from the record. I think…
Scarpino: She’s on there so…
Kellerman: I think she was – could have been Jim’s friend at the time who – there was some idea of making a move or a TV show and I think she had been a moviemaker or something. She was, I believe, of no consequence whatsoever. I think Georgia would remember better than I exactly what her role was, but I believe it was completely at the margins.
Scarpino: So I don’t need to follow up on that.
Kellerman: You do not.
Scarpino: Then out of that grant developed the Kellogg Leadership Studies Project.
Scarpino: That was clearly a group of scholars or mostly a group of…
Kellerman: It was.
Scarpino: You were involved in that?
Kellerman: I was one of the scholars involved in that, yes. Its relationship to the – again others will remember better. It wasn’t part of the James MacGregor Burns Academy of Leadership. It was sort of next to it. The integration between that and the academy was not entirely connected to -- the KLSP, I think Kellogg Leadership Studies, met, whatever, once or twice a year I think maybe at Maryland, but it wasn’t part – again, they’ll do better than I at telling you what the administrative relationship was, but I can tell you as my memory reconstructs it, it was connected to us but not part of our daily…
Scarpino: As I understand it, it was an effort on the part of the people involved in that grant to continue the conversation.
Kellerman: I think that’s right. That’s right.
Scarpino: But when you were thinking in terms of adding scholarly heft, the way you were doing at Maryland, and promoted the creation of what became the International Leadership Association, most of the people who were in that program became part of the International Leadership Association.
Kellerman: Oh, absolutely. Totally.
Scarpino: They had been talking about an organization, as well. I mean, this wasn’t an alien idea to them.
Kellerman: No, but nobody had had the idea of an inter – you know, the parallel here was to – like the American Political Science Association. That was my template. They have their own professional association. Why don’t we leadership people have our own professional association? The only thing I did different was use the word, international.
Scarpino: So the idea for the International Leadership Association was yours?
Kellerman: I think we would want to be careful how we frame that.
Kellerman: I would not say anything to that effect on the record.
Scarpino: And you were at that first meeting. Alright. The James MacGregor Burns Academy of Leadership, which probably assumed that name after you got there, what was its purpose? What was it supposed to do? You were trying to get the scholarly heft but it was there before you got there.
Kellerman: That’s what I was doing. But I think people would answer – again this was Georgia and a woman named Nance Lucas who doesn’t seem to be connected so much anymore to this enterprise, but Georgia will fill you in on that much more precisely than I because that was her thing, really. The purpose, as I understood it, was some combination of we’re going to teach this stuff and we are going to study this stuff. It was sort of both; the center that I was directing was the scholarly part, as its name would suggest, and the rest of the academy encouraged courses and there were some leadership courses. And there were some faculty – Ron Walters was one of them – who were pulled in to teach various courses, and Nance Lucas had her own program, but I am not the best person to fill you in on those larger Academy of Leadership or James MacGregor Burns Academy of Leadership tasks because I wasn’t involved in them. I just did my thing. By the way, I lived very far away, so I would fly down because I live in Connecticut. It’s not as if I was in and out of the physical plant on a regular basis.
Scarpino: I’m going to respect your time and wrap up exactly when you asked me to. I was going to ask you a few questions about The End of Leadership and Professionalizing Leadership, but I’m simply going to say that I’m going to skip that and people can read your books. But I want to ask you some wrap-up questions.
Scarpino: We talked a little bit about this, but what’s next for Barbara Kellerman? Where are you headed from here?
Kellerman: I’m writing a book now that’ll be out in about one year. It’ll be published by Oxford University Press and it will, again, make some people unhappy (laughing) but it is intended…
Scarpino: (Laughing) No disrespect…you’re good at that.
Kellerman: (Laughing) I’m good at that, yes. I intend them for the greater good. It’s not against any single individual or institution. It’s just stuff for us to think about and this next book is in that same vein. When that book is done, which will be about March – I’ve written six out of eight chapters and it’ll be done in a few months -- I don’t know. I keep saying there’s no other book in me about leadership. I’ve said that for the last few books and maybe this time it’s true, I don’t know. I will continue to teach. I do teaching which I have really grown to love and my courses are really a lot of fun, and I’m pretty good at it and we have a great time. And I’d like to talk to different groups. So I would say more of the same. It turns out, who knew, you know? We start in a line of work and sometimes we stumble into it, as I did, but it turns out that for me I stumbled into the correct line of work. It never doesn’t interest me. We’re sitting here as we talk a few days before the election of 2016. How can I not connect my own work to what’s happening around me? I blog very regularly. My blog gives me a way of expressing my ideas and opinions about what’s happening in the world. I have a modest readership but some people do read it. And so I remain very active and engaged and, from what I can tell, as long as I am able to do that, I will continue to do the same.
Scarpino: You were at Fairleigh Dickinson and then you dropped out of an academic position. You mentioned yesterday what you were doing. Then you went to Sweden and you came back and you were at the University of Maryland. And all of a sudden, you’re starting a new center at Harvard.
Scarpino: You’ve actually been there for 17 years.
Kellerman: Yes, almost, yeah. Sixteen and a half.
Scarpino: Do you ever look back over your shoulder and go, “Oh my God! What happened? How did I get here?”
Kellerman: How did I end up at Harvard? Well, you know what it is in life. You know that as well as I do. It’s a combination of luck, being at the right place at the right time, and hard work. It doesn’t fall into your lap. The field is not full of people who are very good at what they do. It happens that, and I hope I don’t sound immodest, I happen to be a pretty good scholar but I also run things well. I’m a good organizer. I’m efficient. And so those positions that I held at Maryland and in the early years at Harvard were primarily administrative positions. The first years that I got to Harvard, I had a faculty title but I did no teaching at all. I started the center along with Ronny Heifetz and David Gergen, I started -- but I was Executive Director so I did the work.
Scarpino: But it was your work at Maryland that called Harvard’s attention to you?
Kellerman: Yes. Yes. And also with the International Leadership Association. Ronny knew about me because I was at the University of Maryland, head of the Center for the Advanced Study of Leadership but also because of the International Leadership Association which, by 2000, was already clearly something that was going to be, at least for some time, sustained.
Scarpino: We’ve talked quite a bit about the field. What, in your opinion, remains to be done in the field?
Scarpino: Everything, alright. As you look back on your…
Kellerman: Internal development and external acceptance. And it’s not clear to me that that will happen.
Scarpino: As you look back on your career, what are you most proud of?
Kellerman: Well, in recent years the teaching, along with the body of work that I’ve written. I think I’ve written some interesting works which deviate from – some interesting books that I write in very plain English, widely accessible to anybody who wants to read about that subject. In recent years, those books have been contrarian and some of them are about important subjects that nobody else or, better put, hardly anybody else is writing about. Most of them, including the most recent ones really all demand – and the one that I’m writing now are all quite critical of what we’re doing and how and suggest that there are ways that we might get better at doing what we do and how.
Scarpino: As you look at your career, if you could have a do-over, is there anything you’d change?
Kellerman: I think – you couldn’t – you can’t change anything because…
Scarpino: No, I know that.
Kellerman: …because you live when you live but I don’t – you know, people look at me now and they go, “Oh, wow, how great.” And I’m going, yeah, but those early years, we talked about them yesterday, when I was a woman at Yale and they were all looking at me as if I was from some alien planet and I needed to run home and wanted to run home and take care of babies, they were not easy. So it’s been hard work getting here but, by and large, work that I’ve loved.
Scarpino: Three quick questions and these are quick. What would you like your legacy to be?
Kellerman: The books I’ve written. Yeah.
Scarpino: Is there anything that I should have asked you that I didn’t, given the time constraints and all that?
Kellerman: I think you could’ve asked me, not that it’s part of whatever, what struck me about being here is that we’re at this unbelievably interesting moment in history and I don’t think there’s a single panel that’s devoted directly to the 2016 presidential election. I keep talking about leaders, followers and context. So this particularly leading is imbedded in this particular moment in time. We are in the United States of America five days before what most people consider a very important, if not historic, presidential election and subsequent to an unprecedented presidential campaign and it’s a leadership conference. So it’s curious to me that so little energy here is being spent on the situation within which, whether Americans or not, we find ourselves. Because what happens in this country has, as we know, a very major impact on what happens in the rest of the world.
Scarpino: But that’s been a criticism of your field in general about its unwillingness or inability to engage with the present in a meaningful way.
Kellerman: You mean with the press, did you say?
Scarpino: With the present, I’m sorry.
Kellerman: With the present. When you say “your field,” do you mean leadership?
Kellerman: Well, that may well be so, Phil. I would just say – I haven’t actually heard that but let’s – I’m going to grant you your point. It appears to be true because this meeting would seem to – you know, there are wonderful things going on here, but if I were planning this meeting and knowing it was going to be just before this all important leadership event, followership event, contextual event of global significance, would I have made it a point to focus this conference more precisely on what’s been happening? Yeah.
Scarpino: Last question. Is there anything that you wanted to say that I didn’t give you a chance to say?
Kellerman: No. Absolutely nothing. And it gives me a chance to say, Phil, thank you so much for your very, very thoughtful and thought-provoking questions. And I do plan to write to Cynthia Cherrey and to suggest that you or someone like you, preferably you, but if you can’t or won’t do it, do something with the material that’s been collected so far, maybe including next year, so that for the 20th meeting of this particular organization, there is a presentation of some kind on what you have accumulated. Because it would be a shame to just have it sit and gather dust. So, thank you very much.
Scarpino: While the recorder is still on, I thank you on behalf of the Tobias Center and the International Leadership Association and me for sitting with me for all this time, thank you.
Kellerman: Thank you. Thank you very much.