Jean Lipman-Blumen Oral History Interviews


Part one

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SCARPINO: We are live now. As I said before I turned the recorder on, I’m going to read a statement that says who I am and who you are. Then I’m going to ask you verbally for permission to do the things that you just agreed to do in writing. Today is February 15, 2013. My name is Philip Scarpino, Professor of History and Director of Oral History for the Randall L. Tobias Center for Leadership Excellence located at Indiana University/Purdue University, Indianapolis. I have the privilege to be interviewing Dr. Jean Lipman-Blumen in her home in Pasadena, California. I am conducting this interview on behalf of the International Leadership Association and the Randall L. Tobias Center for Leadership Excellence.

We will include a detailed biographical sketch of Dr. Lipman-Blumen’s career with the recording and the transcription, so at this point I will mention only a few of the highlights. Jean Lipman-Blumen has had a long and distinguished career as a scholar and teacher and mentor and practitioner of leadership. She earned her PhD from Harvard University in 1970, awarded through the Department of Social Relations for Interdisciplinary Social Science Studies. From 1983 to the present, she has been President of the Connective Leadership Institute, formerly the Achieving Styles Institute, in Pasadena, California. She is currently the Thornton F. Bradshaw Professor of Public Policy and Professor of Organizational Behavior, Peter F. Drucker and Masatoshi Ito Graduate School of Management, Claremont Graduate University. She is also the cofounding director of the Institute for Advanced Leadership Studies.

She has published several books and dozens of articles on a range of interrelated subjects: leadership, gender, crisis management, public policy and organizational behavior. The Connective Edge: Leading in an Interdependent World (1996), was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. The International Leadership Association presented her its Lifetime Achievement Award in 2010.

I would like your permission to do the following: to record this interview, to have the recording transcribed, to deposit the transcription and the recording with the Tobias Center, the International Leadership Association and the IUPUI Special Collections and Archives, and to allow those institutions to make the recording and transcription available to patrons, including posting those materials to their Internet sites. Can I have your permission to do those things?

LIPMAN-BLUMEN The Internet site bothers me a little bit. I’m not sure I want every detail of my life up on the Internet.

SCARPINO: Well, what I would suggest is that if you don’t want people to know it, don’t say it. That sounds a little more flip than I wanted it to be, but it’s very hard once we record it digitally for this stuff not to get out.

LIPMAN-BLUMEN Okay. Will I have an opportunity to read the transcript, not that I want to read four hours of transcript, but just to make sure that it’s accurate, that they understood—whoever transcribes it understood my Boston accent.

SCARPINO: When we don’t have the recording on, I’ll explain the process that we go through. Absolutely. Usually what we tell people is that you’re more than welcome to read it, to make corrections, and if you want to add anything substantial, just add it as an addendum and we’ll stick it in there.


SCARPINO: Okay, so can I have your permission to do those things?


SCARPINO: Thank you. I want to start with your childhood and ask a few simple questions, and then I’m going to ask a few more complicated questions. We’ll start with the simple ones. When and where were you born?

LIPMAN-BLUMEN In Brookline, Massachusetts, which is a suburb of Boston, on April 28, 1933.

SCARPINO: Where did you grow up?

LIPMAN-BLUMEN I grew up right in that area. I lived in Brookline until I was seven years old. Then I moved to the town next door in Newton, Massachusetts, and lived there through my high school years, through my years of Wellesley, and I lived there after I was married for some time. I lived there I guess until 1966. So I did everything within a 13-mile radius of the hospital in which I was born until I was 36 or 37. That’s pretty sad, don’t you think? Pretty provincial. (laughs)

SCARPINO: (Laughs) Well, once your life changed though, it changed in a big way.

Who were your parents?

LIPMAN-BLUMEN My mother was Ann Perlman-Lipman. She was born in Lowell, Massachusetts. She had been a school teacher. She was the youngest of eight children and the apple of her father’s eye. She was an amazing woman; very ebullient, very smart. She had a wonderful singing voice. She played the piano. She wrote books, children’s books. She could have been a stand-up comedian.

SCARPINO: Oh, that’s a talent. (laughs)

LIPMAN-BLUMEN That’s right. She was amazing. She was amazing.

SCARPINO: And your father?

LIPMAN-BLUMEN My father was a—he manufactured boys’ and students’ clothing. He came here from Russia when he was 11 years old, by himself—makes me cry—on a boat by himself. He came to live with his older sister who was eight years older—eight or 11 years older than he was. His mother had died when he was three years old, and I guess he was sort of a mischief. His stepmother, who was his mother’s sister, didn’t know how to deal with him and shipped him off first to his grandparents and then to his sister, who was married…

SCARPINO: …and living near Boston?

LIPMAN-BLUMEN …living in Boston.

SCARPINO: Where in Russia did he come from? Do you happen to know that?

LIPMAN-BLUMEN I think I do; it will come to me.

SCARPINO: Okay. Did you have any brothers and sisters?

LIPMAN-BLUMEN I have an older sister who is three years older than I am who is still living. I spoke to her this morning. She’s in the hospital, I’m sorry to say. We are very close.

SCARPINO: One sister?


SCARPINO: What did she end up doing with her long life?

LIPMAN-BLUMEN Well, she started out to be a commercial artist and then got married and gave that up, and had a very different life doing what she wanted to do, whatever she wanted to do. She didn’t have—she wasn’t employed after she was married. So we’re quite different but quite close.

SCARPINO: What was life like for a young girl growing up in the Boston area?

LIPMAN-BLUMEN It was easy. I was fortunate. I think my parents were fortunate. My father had started this company when he was a young man. He must have been probably in his early 20s. Then he went into the army during World War I, and he served in France in the artillery division of the army. He came back and he had promised a half-brother if he would take care of the company while my father was in the army, that he could have half of it, he would make him a partner, which my father did. My mother and father were both really honorable people. They taught me to keep my word, to have integrity even if it was painful, you know, if I had to suffer the consequences. Because my father kept to that agreement his whole life and it brought him a great deal of unhappiness and misery, really, but he hung in there. He was a very solid, rather introverted person. My mother and father couldn’t have been more complete opposites.

SCARPINO: Like you and your sister?

LIPMAN-BLUMEN Yeah, I think that was the attraction. He was attracted to her ebullience and her love of life and her seeking adventure.

SCARPINO: How did his business do in the Depression?

LIPMAN-BLUMEN It did fine. It did fine. My father never invested in the stock market until long after that. So I didn’t realize, though I was born in ’33 just when the Depression was happening, I never realized there was a Depression until I learned about it in school because my parents, luckily, weren’t affected by it because he had never invested in the stock market. He was very anti- the stock market. One time my mother convinced him to put some small amount of money in it. This was many years later. And he tortured her every day, saying, “How is it doing? How is it doing?” Finally, within about a month, she took it out. She said, “I can’t bear this. It’s not worth it. Forget it.”

SCARPINO: Did he bring World War I home in his head?

LIPMAN-BLUMEN He never talked about it. I have pictures. I have a picture in my bedroom of him in his uniform, and I think it was taken there. He never talked about it. I’ve thought about that recently, as I’ve thought about war and what people go through. He was a very introverted person.

Even though I spent a lot of time with him, particularly in the summertime because we had a summer house, too, and we used to drive back and forth from there to the city every day; and I would try to talk to him and it was always pulling things out of him. He never talked about himself or his life or his youth. If you asked him something, he’d say, “I don’t remember.” So those must have been painful memories for him.

SCARPINO: You said your parents taught you about integrity.


SCARPINO: What role has integrity played in your life as you’ve gone through your career?

LIPMAN-BLUMEN Well, integrity is important to me, both in terms of my own behavior and in terms of other people’s behavior. There is nothing, nothing that riles me more than seeing people do things that are dishonest, that are corrupt. It just—I don’t know how to deal with it, other than to call it out and say, “That isn’t appropriate.” When I had people working for me, Amy, Kristi, the first thing I’d say to them, “Please never lie about anything, to me or for me, not a big thing, not a small thing. Please, it doesn’t matter what it is, the truth is always what I want to be told to me and about me. Don’t cover up anything about me.”

SCARPINO: Do you think that integrity is an important quality for a leader?

LIPMAN-BLUMEN Oh, I think it’s bedrock. I think if you don’t have integrity, forget it. That’s why I always say to my students, “I’m up to here with charisma. Do not talk to me about charisma unless you have integrity and you have courage and you have all the other qualities. Then, as we would say in Boston, it’s the cherry on the hot fudge sundae to have charisma.” But without integrity I think you cannot be a leader. You can be a toxic leader, and I’ve written about that…

SCARPINO: …I’ve got some questions about that, too…

LIPMAN-BLUMEN …yeah, but you cannot be a leader.

SCARPINO: In addition to integrity and courage, what other qualities does a leader need?

LIPMAN-BLUMEN I think compassion and empathy for people, to understand how other people are experiencing things and feeling things and living things. I think that’s really important. I don’t think leaders can be off in an ivory tower somewhere, you know, having great thoughts about how they’re going to change the world. I don’t think that’s enough. I think you really have to have passion and compassion for people and the way they have to live their lives, the problems with which they’re confronted. I’ll just say one last thing about my father. He never invested in the stock market; he invested in real estate. So we were—I was fortunate. I had an easy childhood in that respect. And they taught me something about money, too. Money was not important to my parents. They were comfortable, but money was not something that we discussed in our house. If I needed something or I wanted something, I had to argue on the basis of why I needed it. It didn’t matter whether it was for 10 cents or 10 dollars or 10,000 dollars. I never was quite there—I never got to ask him for 10,000.

SCARPINO: (laughs)

LIPMAN-BLUMEN But the point was that it wasn’t about money; it was about: do you need it. And it was never something that you could have it because it was inexpensive but you couldn’t have it because it was too expensive. It was: did you need it? If you didn’t need it, you didn’t get it. It was that simple.

SCARPINO: Did you carry that approach into your adult life and your relations with other people?

LIPMAN-BLUMEN Well, I tend—or I think on the side of giving people—I don’t like to be stingy. I think that’s a bad quality, you know?


LIPMAN-BLUMEN Yeah, I think that’s bad. And money, as I said, was not important. My mother used to say to me, “Money is round and it rolls. So one day it may be in front of you, but the next day it may roll away and be somewhere else.” So you have to live a life that has meaning beyond money.

SCARPINO: Have you done that?

LIPMAN-BLUMEN Um, I think so, because money isn’t really that important to me. I mean, I would be less than candid if I said I wanted to live in a hovel or I wanted to—I didn’t care whether I were homeless or not. Of course, I like to feel that everybody should have enough money to live a life where they don’t have to fall asleep at night worrying about money. But once you get to that point, then your life has to be devoted, I think, to other things; and I think even before you get to that point. I think your life always has to be devoted to something beyond yourself and beyond your family. I mean, I believe in close family relationships and I do have those, but I think that your life—and I tried to teach my children this—has to be something that makes a difference in the world—not to be thanked, nothing like that—but to change things, to make things better, even if it’s a small thing. Even if somebody goes out to the local playground and puts up a swing for some kid who otherwise wouldn’t have one, I think that’s important. It’s more important than having your hair done or thinking about yourself and whatever.

SCARPINO: How do you think you’ve made things better?

LIPMAN-BLUMEN I probably haven’t made them better…

SCARPINO: That’s a little modest.

LIPMAN-BLUMEN …I’ve tried. I’ve tried.

SCARPINO: I’ll rephrase it. How have you tried to make things better?

LIPMAN-BLUMEN Well, I can tell you how I’m trying right now and what I’m obsessed with, which I think you may know. That is peace, because I’ve thought about it. I’ve been working on leadership, not my entire career; that isn’t how I began. In fact, I stayed away from leadership because in Boston political leadership was so corrupt that nobody would have any interest in devoting his or her life to studying that. My mother was somebody who had no use for leaders. She thought they were a waste of time. I think you may have heard me tell this story at ILA about my mother. When she was 102 she was in the hospital—not for anything of great urgency. The chaplain came in and asked her if she would like some religious counseling and my mother said, “No. No, thank you,” and she tried to politely excuse herself, but the chaplain wasn’t to be put off so lightly. So, she kept insisting and my mother kept resisting, so finally she said, “Oh well, maybe I have the wrong religion. Maybe you would prefer to see a rabbi, but I’m sorry, Mrs. Lipman, the rabbi—she’s away this weekend backpacking.” Well, for my mother, who was quite traditional and quite religious, she couldn’t even imagine those three words in one sentence; she, rabbi, backpacking. Not possible, not possible. At any rate, she said, “No, no, no,” and she finally got the chaplain to leave. My husband was standing there and said, “Well, I don’t understand, because you’re so religious; how come you didn’t want to see the rabbi?” She said, sotto voce, “I don’t need a rabbi. What I need is a boyfriend.” This is my mother at 102 in the hospital still operating on all cylinders and with her priorities straight, right? (laughs)

SCARPINO: Right. I’m going to circle back around on the subject of childhood. I’m going to try a question that it’s either going to work or it’s not. I need to set this up for the benefit of somebody who is going to listen to this recording. In October of 2011, you and I both happened to be in London at the International Leadership Association meeting. While I was there, I was interviewing Manfred Kets de Vries. In preparation for that interview, I read an article he published in 1994 titled, “The Leadership Mystique.” He wrote something in there that really struck me and I’m going to share a couple lines with you. 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, this inner theater develops. Our internal 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, you are a leader and you’re also a scholar of leadership. Here’s the question: If we use Kets de Vries’ term, inner theater, can you tell me about your own inner theater? Can you talk about the early experiences and individuals who shaped your character, that helped shape the adult leader that you became?

LIPMAN-BLUMEN Well, I would say my parents were the two really central figures in my life. And I’m not trying to be modest about this. I don’t see myself as a leader. I see myself as sort of a doer, somebody who does things, who tries to make things happen. I don’t see myself as a leader in the more traditional way that we use that word. I’ve always wanted to make things happen for some reason. I think I take after my father in that I have an immense amount of energy, or always have had until this cold. (laughs)

SCARPINO: You’re pretty zippy for a woman who’s had a cold for 10 days.

LIPMAN-BLUMEN Well, I don’t know about that. I’ve always liked to make things happen and there’s an excitement for me in that, making things happen and having an idea and seeing that you can make it come to fruition. About a month or so ago, I was at the Cleopatra exhibit and the last thing of the exhibit was a letter written in Greek. It’s the only place where they have Cleopatra’s actual signature. It’s a letter in which she is instructing a bureaucrat to let the bearer of the letter import wine without tax. At the end, right above her signature, she writes, “Make it happen.” I thought that is a leader for the ages: Make it happen. I went home and I took the subtitle of “The Peace Plan” off and made that…

SCARPINO: …is that where you got that from?

LIPMAN-BLUMEN Yeah. There’s a footnote that tells you in that, that tells you where that came from.

SCARPINO: Just for anybody who’s listening, we’re going to talk at some length about your peace plan, probably on Monday. You said you like the notion of making an idea come to fruition?

LIPMAN-BLUMEN Yes. But I think the things that come together in me: My father’s workaholic personality, because he liked to work and it wasn’t so much—he didn’t see it as work. He liked to do things, okay? He would get up very early every morning. I don’t do that. I don’t take after him quite that way, but more after my mother who could stay in bed until—I can’t stay in bed as long as she could, but I can’t get up at 5:00 either. At any rate, he would get up even on days when he didn’t have to go to work and he would be doing things, he would be making something, he would be fixing something. He could fix anything. He didn’t have to know anything about it. He collected antique clocks and made them work. And he was not a watchmaker, he wasn’t trained, but he knew how to do that. He could teach himself anything. He was very agentic in that sense, even though he was a very quiet, gentle man, with sometimes a fierce temper but that only jumped out on rare occasions. The other part of, I think, my doing, my wanting to do things is just built into my DNA. I remember my mother always saying to my father, “Take it easy. Don’t work so hard. You’re killing yourself.” He didn’t understand what she was talking about. He understood the words, but he—she didn’t get that aspect of him and he couldn’t understand what she was saying. My sister is always saying to me, “Take it easy, Jean. Don’t work so hard. You’re killing yourself.” It’s like the old scripts get played over and over again. But my mother was somebody who was always into community things. She was somebody who had a very strong sense of justice and integrity and compassion, and she took it all from her religion, actually, which was interesting.

SCARPINO: She was Jewish?

LIPMAN-BLUMEN Both my parents were. But my mother used to say to me, “The most important part of Judaism is its ethical core; that you must treat other people well and that you must take care of the orphan and the widow and the people who are poor.” I walked every day of my young life. When I was really little, before the age of seven, my mother used to walk with me to the center of Brookline from where we lived. There was a man who was an amputee who sat on the sidewalk. My mother never passed that man without giving him money, every single day. He would offer her pencils. She would never take the pencils, but she would never pass that man without giving him money. And I learned that from her. I find it hard to walk by people on the street who are asking for money without giving them money. Those are things that your parents or your caregivers seed into you in terms of how you should be in the world. A few years back I gave a talk in Helsinki. Jim March—you know who Jim March is at Stanford. He was a professor of mine at one point. He was giving a talk right before mine. He talked about, and later wrote about, and then I later quoted him in ###__The Connective Edge. He talked about the “logic of consequences versus the logic of appropriateness.” The “logic of consequences” means it’s a very economic way of figuring things out; what’s going to bring the highest value and you bet on that or you do that. Whereas the “logic of appropriateness” says what kind of a person am I; what should a person like me do in this situation? And that’s how I try to live my life. I used to be very, very religious, but at age 37 I became an atheist. Rich Mouw, who is the president of Fuller Theological Seminary, teases me and says, “Jean, you’re a secular Jew.” I mean, I’m certainly Jewish. That, I feel very strongly. But I’m not religious anymore.

SCARPINO: Why did you become an atheist?

LIPMAN-BLUMEN Because I looked at my life at that time and I was really very unhappy. I had always tried to live in a very honorable way and tried to follow what I thought were the precepts of Judaism and the Ten Commandments, etc. I had the worst possible life. I was married to someone who is the father of my children, but let’s just say it was really very unhappy. And I said to myself, “If there really were the kind of god that I believe in, an anthropomorphic god who hears your prayers, I wouldn’t be living this way.” I felt this is—and if there is a god who sees this and lets me live this way, then I don’t want to believe in that god anyhow. So, much to the consternation of my parents, my sister, my then-husband—it was like somebody opening a door and letting me see something I’d never seen before. So, I couldn’t deny it anymore.

SCARPINO: Do you think there was any part of your religious faith that influenced the way you understand leadership?

LIPMAN-BLUMEN Yes, because I think I still carry with me that whole ethical orientation toward the world that comes from Judaism. In doing “The Peace Plan,” at the beginning there are just some quotes from different religious figures. I think it’s written in the Old Testament, maybe, it says—no, it’s in Psalms and it’s now quoted there—I had written it down and just gave it to Amy yesterday to ask her to make sure I had the right Psalm. It says something about—the essence of the Torah is: Treat other people as you would want them to treat you. That’s true in Christianity. It’s true in Baha’i. It’s true in Islam. So, I just think that’s such a fundamental rule, that you should treat people the way—not simply the way you want them to treat you, but the way a person like you should treat them. If you’re a person who believes in integrity, then act that way. Don’t just say it; do something. Make it happen the way you see that walk of integrity. I have the greatest disrespect for people who claim to be leaders who lie and who manipulate people. I get into a lot of trouble about that, because when I see that happening, it’s very hard for me to look the other way. So…

SCARPINO: You call them on it…

LIPMAN-BLUMEN Yeah. I don’t like to. I have a war within myself because there’s the Boston part of me that says: Don’t be so rude. And I try to say it politely, but I must say when I see people, whether it’s at the university or in my private life or in other things that I do, who are doing things that I think are really—I have to be convinced. I don’t just assume people are doing bad things. I really have to see the evidence. But once I see that, then I really feel I have an obligation to do something about it, that if I say nothing I’m colluding; I’m as bad as they are.

SCARPINO: I want to circle around one more time this idea of informative years of leadership, and one more time I need to set this up. In 2004, you published an acclaimed book with Oxford University Press, the title of which is, The Allure of Toxic Leaders: Why We Follow Destructive Bosses and Corrupt Politicians—and How We Can Survive Them.

Adolf Hitler, Jeff Skilling of Enron, leaders of the Catholic Church who failed to address pedophilia by priests…

LIPMAN-BLUMEN Isn’t that something?

SCARPINO: Yes, it is. And I will say even though this isn’t an interview about me that I’m Catholic and I am very disappointed in that whole line of… But you argue in there that the followers actually enable toxic leaders. You connect part of that argument about toxic leaders and their followers to formative childhood experiences. You talk about that as children, we learn to obey. We may rebel as teenagers, but when we leave the security of the family we often seek replacement for parental authority, oftentimes in leaders who promise security. Then you note that in practice, this means that people may sometimes gladly trade freedom for security, which did in fact happen after 9/11.

LIPMAN-BLUMEN I think this happens all the time.

SCARPINO: So, here’s the question. Are you basically arguing that Kets de Vries’ “inner theater” is at least partially responsible for the ways in which the behavior of followers enables toxic leaders?

LIPMAN-BLUMEN Yes, I think that’s true. I think that’s true. I hadn’t read that by Kets, but that makes sense to me because that becomes part of your unconscious, and you don’t have that much control over it. So, I think that when people meet toxic leaders, it speaks to them. They speak to them, they resonate with them on a very profound, deep level, that they’re striking some chord that is familiar to those people even though they don’t quite understand where it’s coming from. So, they feel a sense of conflict with that person.

SCARPINO: One thing that strikes me about much of what you’ve written—and I’m going to be a little presumptuous here maybe, but it seems to me that a lot of what I’ve read that you’ve written can be interpreted on more than one level. I mean, one way to look at it is advice and insight for leaders or people who want to understand leadership. The other way is that you also challenge people and the larger society to think carefully about what they value and how they act. I think that much of your work is a call for social change. Is that a fair reflection?

LIPMAN-BLUMEN Oh, absolutely. Absolutely.

SCARPINO: So, here’s the question then. If you had said no, I would have stopped right there. But given what you argue about followers enabling toxic leaders and the role that basic childhood social and cultural experience plays in their behavior, what has to change to address the problem of toxic leadership?

LIPMAN-BLUMEN A lot. A lot. I mean, that is such a profound problem because from organization to organization, or even within families, you see so much of this and you see people explaining it away or tolerating it. I see this in various groups that I work with. For example, in one area where I could see some really what I felt were corrupt things going on and decisions being made quietly behind the scenes and then being presented to the group as if everybody had been in on it, I tried to do my homework. So, I spoke to everybody who was involved and said, “Did you know about this? Did you know about this? Did you know about this,” because I didn’t know about it. Most of them said no, they didn’t know about it. One of them said no and then later wrote me a thing, saying, well, he did know about it, and explained how he had known. But it was interesting that when we went into the meeting, and I raised the issue because I felt I knew where everybody was coming from on it, I spoke up. And people sort of weakly agreed. They were afraid to agree. It isn’t because of having the security of tenure, because these other people had the security of tenure. It goes beyond that. So, they let somebody do things and they look the other way, and they don’t even want somebody who—well, afterwards, they all came up to me and said, “Oh Jean, that was wonderful. Jean, that was great.” And I said, “Well, why didn’t you speak up?” I heard Phil Zimbardo speak the other night. You know who Phil is?

SCARPINO: I don’t know.

LIPMAN-BLUMEN Well, he’s at Stanford. He did the famous prison experiments that were really infamous at Stanford, where they took students who volunteered through an ad in the paper to be in a prison experiment, and they would make some guards and some prisoners. And the guards treated the prisoners much more negatively than they had been told to or been given permission to. When one prisoner spoke up and complained, the other prisoners punished him. Isn’t that interesting? I had forgotten about that until Phil talked about it the other night at a session that he was doing. So, toxic leaders, yeah, I think there is so much to be done. You have to speak out, but you have to do your homework. If you just speak out, you get your head chopped off. Because a single person cannot change very easily or very effectively a whole organization. You have to do your homework. You have to speak to every single person. You have to understand how they see it and get more information. You may not have all—and you usually don’t have all the information, but you get more information from both sides of the picture. I think you have to raise people’s awareness that this isn’t acceptable, and that you have to have the courage to speak up. It was interesting that when Phil was talking the other night, he started a whole new thing on—his new thing is on, well, he calls it being a hero. But he was talking about having courage, you know, to speak up, and say—you know, the emperor is naked, the emperor has no clothes—and we can’t live this way. This is beneath our human dignity, our intellectual dignity, our social dignity, our emotional dignity.

SCARPINO: So, good followers need to have courage as much as leaders do.

LIPMAN-BLUMEN Oh, absolutely. Absolutely.

SCARPINO: So, given what you…

LIPMAN-BLUMEN …but, well you need policy changes, too. It’s not just getting people—but policy changes come about through people.


LIPMAN-BLUMEN So, it’s a very long process and it means it takes a lot of work, a lot of energy, and you have to speak to everybody.

SCARPINO: Here’s one of the things that I keep thinking about when I reflect on this whole business of toxic leaders and followers enabling toxic leaders. We live in a society in which we argue that the ultimate source of political power is the people. If people are willing to trade liberty for security, which we have done repeatedly in the history of this country…

LIPMAN-BLUMEN …in the world…

SCARPINO: Then, how do we address the problem? Where do we grab the thread in the tapestry and pull on it and make a difference?

LIPMAN-BLUMEN Well, I think that we have to have enough people. I think Phil is right. You have to have enough people who have courage to speak up. And courage is something that you can learn. I don’t think you’re born with courage. I think you learn courage. The more you speak up, the more you realize that you can speak up. You’ve set a model for other people to follow to speak up. I think it’s contagious. Just as fear is contagious, so is courage. I think that it’s important to set examples for your children, for the people you work with. And it isn’t fun. You know, I get annoyed at myself…

SCARPINO: So, where does this come from?

LIPMAN-BLUMEN Where does what come from?

SCARPINO: The idea that people should speak up and that they shouldn’t simply defer to a leader who offers security. Where does it start?

LIPMAN-BLUMEN What do you—what are you trying to say?

SCARPINO: Okay, I’ll ask the question in a different way. In an open society, how do we identify and establish the appropriate boundaries between freedom and security?

LIPMAN-BLUMEN I think that’s something that we have to talk about from the time the children are tiny. I think that’s more important than teaching kids all kinds of things in elementary school. I think we should teach children about ethics, about peace, about the values that we want in the society, what it takes to secure those values, to protect those values, and to study things that have gone on. The holocaust; I mean, how could something like that happen? And it’s happening again and again in smaller ways, and it’s hidden from us. The press doesn’t want to talk about it very much. So, I think we have to keep studying history. If we don’t study history, just as Toynbee or whoever it was who said it, says, “We’re condemned to repeat the mistakes of the past.” I think we kind of turn away because it’s so horrible to look at. It is horrible to look at. Last night, I was debating with myself because I was cleaning off my desk, because I didn’t want you to see my usual mess. That is a book I’m working on, so I feel I’m entitled to leave that mess.

SCARPINO: I understand how the piles work. (laughs)

LIPMAN-BLUMEN Thank you. I was looking at a thing from the Museum of Tolerance. I think the word “tolerance” should be stricken from the English language. We shouldn’t think about tolerating other people. We should think about accepting and learning from other people. If I say, “I tolerate your religion,” that means I put up with you; I don’t really like it, but I’ll stand it, I’ll take a deep breath and try to hang on. But, I think we have to go beyond that. I think it has to be more about acceptance, understanding, learning from other people. I said I was a Bostonian and I am to my very core in I think both good and bad ways. At any rate, I was looking at this thing from the Museum of Tolerance here in L.A. in which they were offering a whole set of videos of one horrible thing after another. The holocaust, this and that, things of that ilk, and I thought, you know, I should really buy that and watch it. And then I thought, well, I don’t think I can bear to sit there and weep. I thought—and I was having an argument with myself, “You really should watch it.” “No, it’s too horrible to watch.” And I think that we do want to look away. We want to forget it. When politicians say something over and over again, once you notice it, you can’t help hearing it all the time. When something bad happens, they say things like, “Well, let’s put this behind us.” They don’t explain it. They don’t tell you how they got into that, how they got us into that mess. They just say, “Okay.” I mean, this sponge; I accept responsibility, now let’s put it behind us. Yesterday, my admin person was telling me that a meeting had to be postponed because—see those two big notebooks there—that she had sent them out to reviewers and had not told them to return them. So, she had to make new ones for the committee at home. And she said, “I take responsibility.” I said, “Kathy, forget it. Who cares? You don’t have to feel that you have to tear your soul out to take responsibility.” I mean, that’s become such a thing about people in a very sort of pro forma and abject way, saying, “I take responsibility.” Yeah, she did it; it was—but that’s not a big thing. But I think we do need to think about being responsible for our own actions, particularly in ways that affect other people. And virtually everything we do affects other people.

SCARPINO: Does our current public education system do much of a job along those lines?

LIPMAN-BLUMEN I think it’s pathetic, totally pathetic. One of the things I think we really need to do is get in there and redesign public education from K through 12, and higher education, too. Because until we do that, we’ll still be glorifying war, we’ll still be teaching all the wrong values. I have one daughter who has been studying bullying for many years. One night as I was falling asleep, I thought, you know what she needs to do; she needs to print up t-shirts that say: “Bullies are not cool.”

SCARPINO: Peter Drucker would have liked that idea. He said, “If it fits on a t-shirt, it works.”

LIPMAN-BLUMEN Yeah. But I just think that we have to start when kids are little. You can’t take someone who is 26 and very easily turn them around. I remember one of the most shocking things. There are only two times in my 25 years of teaching—30 years of teaching at this point—that have shocked me, things that students said. One was said one day in class by a young man who was sitting up there in the next to last row. I was talking about ethics. He raised his hand and he said, “Well, I think ethics are irrelevant.” I’m sure my jaw probably not only metaphorically but probably physically dropped. I was astounded; astounded that, one, that he would think he and two, that he’d be stupid enough to say it even if he thought it. I mean, wouldn’t you think, shouldn’t I think about what that’s going to sound like, the impact it’s going to have on people? At any rate, when students—and with rare occasions that they say things that I really disagree with, I very rarely, I never, in fact, respond directly. I usually say, “Well, what does the rest of the class think?” And I let the class respond. Then at the end, I came back and I said, “Well, what do you think is relevant?” He said, “Incentives.” And I was like, what? He came up to be after class and I said—my second husband used to say to me, “Jean, you’re always stepping out of role. Just be their professor; you don’t have to be their mother.” But I said to him, “I cannot believe that your parents brought you up to think that ethics were irrelevant.” He said, “Oh yes, they did. My father is across the street in his office. You can go talk to him right now. He’ll tell you.” And suddenly—it was only like the second or third class meeting and I didn’t connect his last name to this person across the street, who is without question the most reviled member of the faculty. Everybody detests this person. He is such a bully. He is so obnoxious. He is so disrespectful of everybody.

Then my heart went out to this kid because I thought, how could he have been anything else if you’re brought up that way? I think caregivers, and that includes teachers, from the very beginning we have to change the way people look at the world, the way they look at themselves, the way they look at one another. I don’t expect parents, myself included, to be perfect. I don’t expect my own parents to have been perfect. We all have our strengths, we have our weaknesses. But at the same time, I think that it’s really important for us to try to instill in kids through education, I mean education can offset a lot of bad parenting. I don’t know how you get at teaching parents unless you begin when they’re little and by the time they grow up—it’s a long business, a long trajectory. At any rate, I think it does have to be done. It has to be in every aspect of society. It has to be in the political realm, too, where we don’t put up with leaders who are charming but corrupt. I wrote about—I think in the toxic leader book I wrote about a real case about this person who was utterly charming. He was the president of the university. Utterly charming and completely corrupt. It got to the point where if he told us that today was Friday, we would think it was any day but Friday. Everybody felt that way toward him. The woman who worked for him did not see this for a very long—well, nobody saw it for a long time. Everybody was charmed by him. But she and I happened, through other very weird circumstances, we became very good friends. When I realized how corrupt he was, I had an ethical dilemma. I felt, I can’t let Mary keep seeing this person as an admirable, you know, charming—he was extremely charismatic, okay, extremely. So I asked her and another friend—we were all good friends and they both had worked with this guy—I invited them to lunch. I told them what I knew, what I had discovered. I felt awful telling them. It was one of the saddest days of my own life because I hate disillusioning people and I knew this would be a huge disillusionment, particularly for Mary. Once she saw it—once you see the embedded rabbit in the landscape, it’s hard to go back…

SCARPINO: …it’s hard to turn your eyes away.

LIPMAN-BLUMEN …to not seeing it anymore. Later, when I saw her—and we’ve been friends for years—I saw her sometime later after he had left and somebody else was in his place, who was really an honorable decent guy. I said something about our new president. She said, “Oh, but I really miss the old one. He was so much fun.” She’s putting her finger on this quality of excitement. I’ve often thought from my days in the White House, that there’s something that I think of as the Garden of Eden. It’s that area around the leader that people want to be in and be part of, and they don’t want to be thrown out of the Garden of Eden.

SCARPINO: So you’ll do what it takes to stay there, even eat the apple.

LIPMAN-BLUMEN Right. Precisely. When I was in the White House, not that I was there during a corrupt time, but I saw the great lengths to which people would go to work in the White House. There were people who worked there as volunteers who came in at 7:00 in the morning, worked until 10:00 at night, paid exorbitant parking fees, babysitting fees, just so they could be in the White House. Well, some of them I think did it because they felt they would get a job subsequently. Some of them did, but others didn’t. And they stayed there and stayed there. I couldn’t believe it. When I was there, I was invited to the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences. I said, “Okay, I’m going.” When I said I was leaving the White House, the people in the White House thought I’d taken leave of my senses. They couldn’t conceptualize that somebody would leave that place voluntarily. That was a good learning experience. I think people should have to do government service because you learn something about how a country is run. That’s important because it gives you a handle, an understanding.

SCARPINO: What did you learn about how our country was run that you took away from there?

LIPMAN-BLUMEN A lot. I learned a lot. I learned that you can have an impact on policy and that you can make things change, you can make things happen, and how to do it.

SCARPINO: You were in the Carter White House in 1978?

LIPMAN-BLUMEN Right, but I was not a Carter appointee in that sense. I was already in the government. They asked if I would move from where I was to an Advisor to the Domestic Policy staff, which I did. And it was. I mean, even before I got the White House working at NIE, it was a great learning experience. I learned how you can influence policy, what you have to do, the hard work that goes into it, and what the pitfalls can be. I think everybody should do at least a year with the federal government. We all have to deal with the federal government the rest of our lives. At least have a sense of how does this come together? How do they get to do this to me?

SCARPINO: I’m going to ask you one more general question and then I’m going to drop back in a chronological sequence. As we’ve been talking for ten minutes or so generally, if I were to conclude that you’re not satisfied with the way we educate people to be citizens and related to leaders, would I be drawing a correct conclusion?

LIPMAN-BLUMEN Absolutely. Yes, you would.

SCARPINO: We talked a little bit about your family in the Depression. You pointed out that you really didn’t know there was a Depression going on because your parents were reasonably well off and insulated you from it. I also notice, because I did a little arithmetic, you officially became a teenager in April of 1946, just about eight months after World War II ended. Did living through the home front of World War II have any influence on the person you later became?

LIPMAN-BLUMEN I don’t know. I’ve never thought much about that. Certainly I remember being frightened by it. My father was an air raid warden. I think we all believed that we could be bombed. I remember the newspaper the day that the war was over. We were down at the beach at our summer place. I remember how happy we all were. I brought the newspaper to my mother and she was so happy and thrilled. I think that was a frightening period, but nothing like the way people lived in other countries, not the way people must have been frightened by it in Germany and Europe and other places, or even in Japan.

SCARPINO: You were a teenager during the early Cold War. Did that experience have any impact on the person you later became?

LIPMAN-BLUMEN Well, I think later on the Cold War had an impact on me because I visited the Soviet Union. I visited the Soviet Union during the Gorbachev years. I remember they took my passport at the hotel. I was walking around Moscow without a passport. I felt totally, totally at ease. I didn’t feel the least bit concerned and I was aware of it. I thought, isn’t that interesting that here I am in the country that we think is the big enemy and I feel totally comfortable about this. I think—and I see it now more and more, I see it with China—that we make a bugaboo out of other countries for our own internal purposes. I’ve been trying to work with a former student of mine who is the dean of a business school in Nanjing because he’s in the communist party there. I want him to do something to make his government officials communicate with the White House because I think it would be great if the U.S. and China signed a peace treaty that the rest of the world could be blown away by. We would stop making them the enemy. They would stop making us the enemy. There’s only everything to be gained by working together.

SCARPINO: Just following up on that, something just jumped into my head as you were talking; one of the most unusual and maybe brilliant but ethically corrupt presidents we ever had opened the door to China.

LIPMAN-BLUMEN Right. You know, there people who are ethically corrupt can have other qualities. They often are brilliant.

SCARPINO: Richard Nixon, for the benefit of anybody who is listening.

LIPMAN-BLUMEN They often are brilliant or they wouldn’t have been able to think it up in the first place, and carry it off in the second place. So, I don’t think that toxic leaders are unattractive or lacking in other qualities. The sad thing is, and this is true of criminals too; many of them are brilliant. I often think, why do criminals spend so much of their energy and their brainpower thinking up criminal activities where they’ll eventually—most of them, not all, but most of them will get caught—why don’t they put that to a more constructive use and they could have a different life and create something good for the society. I think there’s an excitement element that takes over, too. But I think you can be just as excited by doing something that’s a positive force in the world. I mean, that excites me, the idea of talking to people, convincing people that we could do something in a different way, in a way that would make a positive, constructive difference, that would change the direction of where we’re going. And I do believe that’s possible.

SCARPINO: In 1954, you graduated from Wellesley College with an AB in English Literature. I’m guessing that you started there in 1950?


SCARPINO: I hope that people listening to this recording will know that Wellesley was and remains an exclusive and demanding college for women located in Massachusetts just west of Boston. Why did you pick Wellesley and why English Literature?

LIPMAN-BLUMEN I didn’t pick Wellesley. My mother picked it for me from the time I was three years old. I had nothing to do with it.

SCARPINO: (laughs) Were you happy with the choice?

LIPMAN-BLUMEN No. Yes and no. I was ambivalent. I had been accepted at Radcliffe and Smith and a few other places. I wanted to go to Radcliffe because my best friends from high school were going there, but I felt I couldn’t disappoint my mother. She had her heart so set on it. You know, I’ve had sort of a love/hate relationship with Wellesley because I always want them to do more than they do.

SCARPINO: I’m going to ask you about that in a minute, but why did you study English Literature?

LIPMAN-BLUMEN Because I used to write poetry. When I was in high school I wrote poetry, and at Wellesley, too. I was the editor of the creative writing magazine and I was editor of the newspaper, and at Wellesley, too.

SCARPINO: So, you were a really good student?

LIPMAN-BLUMEN I always thought of myself as a poet.

SCARPINO: Do you still think of yourself as a poet?

LIPMAN-BLUMEN No. No, not really, although I care about writing and I know when my writing is good and when it isn’t. I just have a visceral sense of it. So, I’ve always written from the time I was quite young.

SCARPINO: Do you think that’s important?

LIPMAN-BLUMEN To write well?


LIPMAN-BLUMEN Absolutely, yes, I do. I think there are two things that students have to learn. One is to write well, to be able to express themselves orally and in written language, too, to articulate their ideas in a clear and appealing and meaningful way so that you get through to other people.

SCARPINO: So, you were accepted at Radcliffe, you were accepted at Wellesley, and anywhere else?

LIPMAN-BLUMEN Yes, Smith, Bryn Mawr. My mother would not allow me to apply to anything other than the Seven Sister colleges. If I didn’t get in to one, I wouldn’t have gotten in to any of them probably, because they all have pretty much the same—So, that was a risky strategy, but she didn’t want to hear about Radcliffe or Smith or any of those. I had heard about Wellesley from the time—she never took me to visit even though it was one town away. I never saw it until I went there for an interview.

SCARPINO: Your mom did not have a college education?

LIPMAN-BLUMEN My mother had been accepted to college and her father died, and she felt she couldn’t leave her mother. She was the only one living at home. My mother took over her father’s business. My grandfather imported tea and coffee and spices. My mother felt she had to stay closer to home so she went to teacher’s college, and that’s now called Lowell University.

SCARPINO: You must have had a pretty amazing cohort of friends in high school if they’re headed off to Radcliffe and you’re going to Wellesley.

LIPMAN-BLUMEN Oh well, I went to Newton High, which at that time, and I think may still be, which sort of amazes me—at least it was for many, many years considered one of the top high schools in the country. For many years it was number one in the country. They had Curriculum 1, Curriculum 2. Curriculum 1 was for people who were going to four-year colleges. So, I was with an amazing, an amazing cohort of students who went to all of the top colleges.

SCARPINO: Knowing that high schools track their students pretty vigorously.

LIPMAN-BLUMEN Yeah. And most of us went—you know, Bostonians, myself included then were—I don’t know if they still are—very provincial. Everybody thought, you know, you didn’t go far. I mean, here were all these colleges. In my family, all my male cousins went to Harvard. The dumb ones went to Yale.

SCARPINO: Oh my. (laughs) I hope none of the dumb ones are listening.

LIPMAN-BLUMEN But the thing is that it was a provincialism. Who would ever think that?

I wouldn’t think that today. I think that’s ridiculous.

SCARPINO: I grew up in northeastern Connecticut. I understand what you’re talking about.

LIPMAN-BLUMEN Then you understand.


LIPMAN-BLUMEN People in New England, I don’t think, think about going to the west coast. When I told my mother that I was going to go to Stanford as a post doc, I’ll never forget it. We were walking on the beach at our summer place. She looked at me and gave me a look and said, “Well, you never did ask for advice.” Which was hilarious because I was always the goody two shoes who did anything I was supposed to do so that I wouldn’t disappoint her.

SCARPINO: When you were about to enter college in 1950, how did you imagine your life was going to turn out? What did you think the future held for you?

LIPMAN-BLUMEN I think I had a very limited view of what I was going to do, really. I didn’t really understand what graduate school was until I was pretty far into college. I had cousins who had gone to law school, but somehow that didn’t connect in my head. I think I was very sort of dimwitted.

SCARPINO: That seems hard to believe. (laughs)

LIPMAN-BLUMEN No, but I think I didn’t—by the time I was midway through, by the time I was a junior, I wanted to switch and take medical school subjects and go to medical school. But then I met the person that, my first husband, and I was married as an undergraduate. I was married when I was a senior at Wellesley.

SCARPINO: That would have been 1953?

LIPMAN-BLUMEN In ’53, in October of ’53. He was very adamant that he didn’t want any what he called “hen-medic” in his family.

SCARPINO: What was the term he used?


SCARPINO: Like chicken, H-E-N. Oh my goodness.

LIPMAN-BLUMEN Yeah, like a hen. I grew up being the obedient child in the family. My sister was the rebel. I was the obedient one. So, I think I carried that with me into that relationship; that if he didn’t want me to go, much as I wanted to, I could see it was bothering him, I wouldn’t go, I’d do something else. By the time I graduated—not when I graduated, but I think on graduation day nine months later I had Lorna, our first child. By that time, I had been home, I’d graduated and I was home nine months doing nothing but having morning sickness. I thought, you know, I need to do something more. So, I was doing things like being the president of the junior alums from Wellesley, people who were 10 years out. Everything I did—let me put it this way, I decided that if I was going to do something, I was going to do something that I really cared about. I wasn’t going to waste my time being the president of the Wellesley Club or doing things, you know, living the life of a physician’s wife.

SCARPINO: Was your first husband a physician?

LIPMAN-BLUMEN He was a cardiac surgeon, a cardiac and thoracic surgeon. He was a resident when I married him. I had a lot of time to myself because he worked every day and he worked every other weekend, and he worked every other night and stayed over at the hospital. So, I had plenty of time to go to school. I went back to school when Lorna was 15 months old and I got a Master’s degree at Wellesley. But then—you asked me what I thought my life would be, this is how limited my own thinking was. When I was going to get this Master’s degree, my idea then of the perfect life would be to have the life I had, be married, have my child and teach a course at Wellesley on Thursdays. I don’t know, Thursday was the day I wanted to do it, teach a seminar at Wellesley on Thursdays. Those were my horizons.

SCARPINO: So you have a Master’s degree in sociology. Why did you pick sociology?

LIPMAN-BLUMEN Well, because I had taken sociology courses at Wellesley and liked them.

It was interesting. I liked psychology, too, but as an undergraduate the first psychology course I took was all about the “I.” That was so boring to me that I thought, this is definitely not for me. I’m interested in that boundary between people and social groups.

SCARPINO: Did you write a thesis?


SCARPINO: What was your Master’s thesis about?

LIPMAN-BLUMEN It was on the role of the surgical residency and the history of the surgical residency and the role of the surgical resident. I thought I was going to be a medical sociologist because that really interested me. But there were pressures not to go anywhere near the field of medicine.

SCARPINO: I looked at Wellesley’s website, the current website. One of the things it says on there, makes the following observation: “Not to be ministered unto but to minister”…

LIPMAN-BLUMEN …but to minister unto. That’s its motto.

SCARPINO: And capturing the four Latin words of the mission: “To provide an excellent liberal arts education for women who will make a difference in the world.”

LIPMAN-BLUMEN I know non ministrari sed ministrare because that was beaten into our heads. I didn’t know the other. But Hillary Clinton went there. Madeleine Albright went there.

SCARPINO: Madeleine Albright was there sort of when you were.

LIPMAN-BLUMEN No, I don’t think so. I think she was between me and Hillary.

SCARPINO: Did you know either of them?


SCARPINO: Were there any of your fellow students that were there while you were there who went on to distinguished careers whose names we might recognize, besides yourself, of course?

LIPMAN-BLUMEN Wellesley doesn’t even know I exist.

SCARPINO: They should, for the record.

LIPMAN-BLUMEN They haven’t a clue. There was a woman, Anna McCann, who became a very distinguished archaeologist.

SCARPINO: What was her name, again?

LIPMAN-BLUMEN Anna McCann. She was a beautiful, dedicated, lovely human being.

She died a few years ago. She used to dive off the Greek Isles for archaeological remains. That was interesting. I think there have been people who have gone into local government and stuff like that.

SCARPINO: Thinking about Wellesley’s motto, when you left Wellesley in ’58 with a Master’s degree, did you think you could make a difference in the world?


SCARPINO: When you look back from the present, do you think you’ve made a difference?

LIPMAN-BLUMEN Recently, I have begun to think that, yes, I’ve made a little difference to my students. When I see what my students do and the things that they’re trying to do and that they’re trying to accomplish, I think, yeah, that’s good. Particularly when they say things, which I think they’re mistaken about but they believe it, they’ll say, “You know, when you said blah, blah, blah, to me, that really had such an impact.” I think students oftentimes put into the mouths of their professors things that they think are important. Hal Leavitt, my second husband, and I used to talk about that. That used to happen to both of us a lot, that our students would tell us that, “Oh, when you said such and such, that changed my life.” And we’d say, “I don’t even remember saying that. It’s not something I ever would have said. It doesn’t even conform to what I think. I’m sure I never said it.” I think you have an impact on students.

SCARPINO: I talked to two of your former students that you had suggested the names. Do you understand the high regard in which your students hold you? Are you aware of that?


SCARPINO: Maybe the guy who didn’t believe in ethics.

LIPMAN-BLUMEN Yeah, well, do you want to know about him? Although I think this was a little manipulation, he came to me later and said he wanted to get a degree at the Drucker School as well as in economics where he was getting it. He wanted me to be his supervisor. I said I couldn’t because I already had too many students and it wouldn’t be fair to them or to him. I said, “But if I did, I would make you write an essay on ethics first.” I think there are students who—we all have professors or teachers who made huge impacts on our lives. I had a teacher, Mr. Thompson, when I was in the eighth grade, and I have tried to find him on the Web. I’m sure he’s no longer living because I’m 79 and he was probably 40 when I had him. He taught me how to write. For years, ever since the Web came into being, I tried to find him because I wanted to thank him because I think I can write because of him.

SCARPINO: Miss Thompson taught me how to write. Miss Thompson. I’m sure she had a first name but I don’t know what it was.

LIPMAN-BLUMEN I don’t know what his was either.

SCARPINO: You must have been smitten by the sociology bug because in 1970 you graduated from Harvard with a PhD, studied with a pretty famous sociologist, Dr. Parsons. Why did you apply at Harvard?

LIPMAN-BLUMEN For a simple reason.

SCARPINO: I can say that you were one of the smart ones, based on what you said before. There must have been a reason besides that.

LIPMAN-BLUMEN Limitations. I was married. My husband was a resident, a surgical resident in Boston. I couldn’t just pick myself up and go anywhere. I had to do it in Boston. So, if I were going to do it in Boston, then I would want to do it at what I thought was the best place to do it. So, I applied to Harvard and I applied to Yale because thought maybe I could take a train back and forth one day a week or something. And I applied to Tufts. I got in to all three, but I went to Harvard.

SCARPINO: By the time you entered the PhD program at Harvard, how many children did you have?

LIPMAN-BLUMEN I had one, but I was pregnant with my second. I didn’t dare tell them because I thought they would throw me out. When I finished my Master’s degree, Harvard still was not accepting women. You had to be admitted to Radcliffe. So, I applied to Radcliffe and I got in. Radcliffe never had its own faculty, so we just took courses. It was Radcliffe Graduate School. I was pregnant with Lesley at that point but I didn’t dare tell them because I felt if I tell them, they’ll throw me out altogether because they weren’t keen on my being a part-time student, which I was. I was the first official part-time student in the history of Harvard University.

SCARPINO: Were you admitted to Radcliffe or Harvard?

LIPMAN-BLUMEN I was admitted to Radcliffe, but then this is what happened. I was pregnant and I had Lesley, and I stayed out for a semester. During that semester, Radcliffe went out of existence. The Radcliffe Graduate School went out of existence. Now, I had to reapply to Harvard. So, I had to reapply to get back in, which I did. I got back in and they had given me a fellowship which they cut in half so I could have it twice as long. They’d never done that before.

SCARPINO: Why do you think they did that?

LIPMAN-BLUMEN I think I know why they did it. In those days graduate students didn’t publish papers, and they didn’t give the papers before professional associations. But I had, I had published a paper before I got to Radcliffe. I didn’t know anything about publishing papers, but that was a serious ethical lesson for me. I wrote a paper in a course at Wellesley and I got an “A” on it. When you wrote a paper in a course, you just wrote it and you handed it in. The professor didn’t ask you for a proposal or anything. The professor had nothing to do with it. So, I handed it in, I got an “A.” Then my professor asked me, “Would I like to present that to the American Sociological Association?” I didn’t even know there was one. I can’t describe to you how naïve and provincial I was. Truly, I’m not exaggerating. I didn’t know that existed, but I said, “Sure, fine, that’s great.” Then he said, “Well, I’ll have my secretary type your paper for you.” There weren’t computers. I thought, oh, that is wonderful; what a kind person. So, he did that. Then he called me up and he said, “I sent the paper off. We had the secretary do this and we sent the paper off. I hope you don’t mind that I put my name on it, too.”

I was in a state of shock. I could not believe, could not believe that a professor of mine would want to take a student’s paper and put his name on it, and he hadn’t written one word. Talk about formative experiences in my life. I have never put my name on a student’s paper. They have asked me to repeatedly. I think sometimes they’re angry because they feel if I put my name on it that they have a better chance of getting it published, but things are supposed to be reviewed blind. How blind, who knows? But that was such an ethical shock to me. I could not believe that.

SCARPINO: On the one hand, that’s incredibly unethical. On the other hand, did you ever stop and think, if he was willing to do this, how good am I?

LIPMAN-BLUMEN No, I didn’t think that at all. I didn’t think that.

SCARPINO: Did you realize this doesn’t happen every day? It’s not a common occurrence.

LIPMAN-BLUMEN I was very excited about it. And, you’ll see what a provincial protected life I led. When I was going to go to Washington to give this paper, my sister went with me because my parents and my husband felt I shouldn’t travel by myself. I totally concurred.

SCARPINO: When you went to graduate school at Harvard after you had your daughter and then you re-applied and were re-admitted…

LIPMAN-BLUMEN Yeah, and then I had a third child.

SCARPINO: While you were a graduate student?


SCARPINO: Can I ask when the child was born?

LIPMAN-BLUMEN Peter was born in ’61 and I graduated in ’70. I remember he was wearing a stole of mine at graduation. He was walking in front of me. He was a little kid and he was wearing my stole.

SCARPINO: How did you manage to balance being a wife and a mother and a graduate student at the same time?

LIPMAN-BLUMEN Well, partly I could do it because the person I was married to, as I said before, was in a residency program. He worked every single day, every other night and every other weekend. Once my kids went to bed, I had plenty of time. What was I going to do with myself? I wasn’t somebody who was going to get a babysitter. I didn’t have the money to do it. I wasn’t going to get a babysitter and go out with my friends to the movies or anything else. I wanted to do something that I cared about. I had decided I really wanted to do this. I can get very stubborn. That’s another quality of mine. I was determined that I didn’t care who said I couldn’t do it. My mother was against it. My husband was totally against it. My father? It wasn’t clear. My mother would tell me my father was against it. Nobody was for it, except the one person who helped me was my sister, who would loan me her car and bring it over to me at 8:00 in the morning and I would drive her back to work and then back home again. Then I’d go to Wellesley and do my thing and come back. Then I’d take Lorna, who was really an infant, and bundle her up and drive her to Claire’s office. Claire would drive me back again, and then Claire would go home, which was in a totally different direction. My sister has been a very important stalwart support in my life emotionally.

SCARPINO: That continued through your doctoral program?

LIPMAN-BLUMEN Mmhmm. Oh, absolutely. She was the only one who—and it was interesting because she wasn’t interested in going to graduate school. Those things weren’t of interest to her.

SCARPINO: She was interested in you.

LIPMAN-BLUMEN Yeah, well, she was interested in art and having a freer life. She wanted to have a life without constraints, where she could do what she wanted to do.

SCARPINO: Without getting into a whole lot of detail, would it be fair to conclude that minus your sister, you really didn’t have much of a support system while you were a doctoral student?

LIPMAN-BLUMEN None. Not only didn’t I have a support system, I had people pulling in the opposite direction.

SCARPINO: What role did that situation play in the development of your thinking and understanding about subjects like gender and leadership as you went on with your career?

LIPMAN-BLUMEN Maybe in an unconscious way it did, but it became clear to me—certainly my struggle to go to graduate school—I had to convince Harvard to let me be a part-time student. They’d never had one before.

SCARPINO: You were the first one?

LIPMAN-BLUMEN I was the first part-time graduate student in the history of Harvard University. I met people later who told me that they kept it secret for a number of years because they didn’t want other women coming to them and asking to do the same thing. I think I felt a sense of injustice about things. I felt, why shouldn’t I be able to go to graduate school? Why shouldn’t I be able to do these things? Why should it be so hard? Why should I not have the support of, say, a mother who had always been in my corner in terms of education? If I hadn’t gone to Wellesley, if I hadn’t graduated, she would have been furious and disappointed besides. But the minute I was married, I think she felt, now you’re supposed to live a traditional life. You’re married, you—she would send me pictures from the newspaper of my high school friends who were married and who were having teas at their house for the auxiliary wives from the hospital. That was the last thing on earth I wanted to do.

SCARPINO: How did you end up working with Talcott Parsons?

LIPMAN-BLUMEN Well, because I went to Harvard also because there was somebody by the name of Neal Gross who had written a book on the role of the school superintendent. He was the one who began the whole field of role theory. I went to see him because I was really interested in what he was doing. He was one of my mentors. He told me to go see Parsons. Then, Alex Inkeles—I don’t know if you know who Alex was.

SCARPINO: His last name is…?


SCARPINO: I don’t, no.

LIPMAN-BLUMEN Well, he was at Harvard when I was there. Later he was at Stanford.

Alex was somebody who became very interested and was a big supporter of mine, and very helpful. This was interesting, at Wellesley when I was finishing my Master’s degree, I don’t think I was thinking of going beyond. My professors kept saying to me, “Well, where are you going to apply for your PhD?” I was embarrassed to say I wasn’t thinking of it. So then, that was what gave me the idea to do it. I was always encouraged by my professors. Talcott Parsons, when I finished my dissertation, I was living in Pittsburgh by that time and commuting to Cambridge. I had brought my dissertation to him and delivered it and I was too scared to call him up and say, “Well, what did you think?” I ran into him in a restaurant in Cambridge and he said, “Mrs. Blumen, I would like you to make an appointment to see me.” I thought, ugh, this is it, this is curtains, curtains. So, I felt I had to, and I came in and I was scared to death because I was sure he was going to tell me it was not satisfactory, because I just sort of did it on my own. I lived in Pittsburgh, I went home, I did the thing and then I brought it back. I didn’t send him a chapter every time it was done. He said to me—he was a very shy man, and he said, “Well, Mrs. Blumen, I think this is the best thing that’s been done on women in the 20th century, the best research.” I was waiting for him to say “but” and he never said “but.” I was totally blown away. I was really walking on air. But, I had no one with whom I could really share that, other than my sister.

SCARPINO: In writing your dissertation, it was the figurative equivalent of the person who went away in the cave and reinvented calculus. You did it on your own.

LIPMAN-BLUMEN I did it on my own.

SCARPINO: I know you read the literature and everything; you weren’t sending him chapters and meeting with him every week.

LIPMAN-BLUMEN No, no, no. I just wrote it and then I brought it.

SCARPINO: He was one of the faculty members who developed the Sociology Department at Harvard. He also joined together with several other Harvard faculty to create the Department of Social Relations?

LIPMAN-BLUMEN Yes, but I never knew…

SCARPINO: Of which you were a member?

LIPMAN-BLUMEN Yes, but I never understood until a few years ago that that was the first interdisciplinary department in the world.

SCARPINO: I actually didn’t know that either. I wanted to ask you two questions. One was: What was Parsons’ contribution to your intellectual development? What kind of an impact did this man have on you?

LIPMAN-BLUMEN It would be nice to say a lot, but I don’t think I can say that for this reason: that I didn’t see that much of him. While I was doing my dissertation, I lived in Pittsburgh.

SCARPINO: You had a post-doc, is that why you were living in Pittsburgh?

LIPMAN-BLUMEN No. I was living in Pittsburgh because my husband had taken a job as chief of surgery at a hospital there. That was the first time that I moved away from Boston, and so I was there. I just didn’t come to Cambridge.

SCARPINO: What about his involvement in interdisciplinary collaboration? Did that have an impact on you?

LIPMAN-BLUMEN I would like to say it did, but I was living in this very solitary way and the students were not—Parsons had TAs who worked with him. They were all men. I didn’t have the time or the thought or the luxury of being able to do that. When I was doing—can you turn that off for a minute?

SCARPINO: All right, here we go. I need to make sure I get this one. (RECORDER TURNS OFF)

SCARPINO: All right, so we’re back on. You were telling me when the recorder was off that basically you were not a part of the fabric of what was going on in the graduate program because you were a part-time student.

LIPMAN-BLUMEN And I was married and I had children, and I really—I had a different life.

SCARPINO: I’m going to ask you a question and if you don’t want to answer it, that’s okay. Do you think your first husband knew how smart you were?

LIPMAN-BLUMEN Um…I don’t know. I think he really…he wanted a traditional wife, I’ll put it that way. I think he’s come around. He and I are good friends now, really good friends. He is kind to me. He’s kind and watchful over my sister who has medical problems. He is a totally different person and I appreciate everything he does for me, for my sister, for my kids, whatever.

SCARPINO: Frances Kluckhohn?

LIPMAN-BLUMEN Yes, Florence Kluckhohn.

SCARPINO: Did you work with her at Harvard?

LIPMAN-BLUMEN She co-taught a course that I took. That’s all. One of my best friends at Harvard was her TA, Lucretia Richardson. Florence Kluckhohn and the male professor who was teaching that course fought the whole time. It was a seminar table this big, and the rest of us would back off when they would go at each other. We were stunned. We couldn’t believe that professors would talk to each other that way.

SCARPINO: They were fighting over the subject matter, one could conclude?


SCARPINO: There’s now a Center for the Study of Values named after her in Seattle. Did you have a continuing…

LIPMAN-BLUMEN No. I only knew her in that very limited way. I knew more about her because Lucretia worked for her and would talk to me about her.

SCARPINO: Am I correct that your dissertation focused on the wives of medical students?

LIPMAN-BLUMEN No. And I didn’t pick that subject. Polly Bunting, Mary Bunting, who was the president of Radcliffe, had some money from the Green Stamp people to study the wives. Do you remember Green Stamps?

SCARPINO: I do. My mother used to glue them in the books, yes.

LIPMAN-BLUMEN I did too. Anyway, the wives of Harvard graduate students, because she had just come to Radcliffe a few years before and she was concerned that these women were not going to fulfill themselves, that they were being the handmaidens to these Harvard graduate students, they were typing their dissertations, dah, dah, dah. She wanted somebody to do a dissertation on this, and she had money to support it. She went to Talcott Parsons and asked him, did he know somebody who could do this? I was going to continue my work on medical sociology. At any rate, he told her about me, and then she went to Alex Inkeles and he said, “Oh, you should ask Jean Blumen,” as I was then known. So, she heard it from two people and got the mistaken impression that my name was on everyone’s lips, so she called me.

SCARPINO: Well, it was on two people’s lips.

LIPMAN-BLUMEN Yeah, right. So that’s how I happened to do that.

SCARPINO: Your research then was on the wives of graduate students?

LIPMAN-BLUMEN Of Harvard graduate students.

SCARPINO: You interviewed them? Is that how you conducted it?

LIPMAN-BLUMEN I sent them—I’m embarrassed to say this. I sent them a 150-question questionnaire, some of which had 17 subparts.

SCARPINO: That’s what graduate students do. (laughs)

LIPMAN-BLUMEN If I were teaching a graduate student today, I’d say that is ridiculous.

Somebody should have told me not to do that. But, this was the interesting thing, and I did it under the auspices of the Radcliffe Institute. It was less than a week after I sent all of these out—and it was costly to send these out so it was good that we had Green Stamp money—a huge bag was returned by the post office, an immense bag of questionnaires. Jean de Sola Pool who happened to be at the institute at the time said, oh, she thought that I had misaddressed all of these. They had filled them out and sent them back within a week. I had something like a 78% or 72% response.

SCARPINO: My goodness.

LIPMAN-BLUMEN Do you know what that really signals? SCARPINO: You were tapping into something.

LIPMAN-BLUMEN Something that—and this was even more interesting: on the back—it was a huge booklet of questions—on the back cover people wrote me by hand these long, long messages on both sides. They would thank me for having sent this to them and for paying attention to what they were trying to do.

SCARPINO: Talcott Parsons thought that was the best thing written on women in the 20th century?

LIPMAN-BLUMEN Yeah. And he said, “Oh, well, you should send it to Matilda Riley and to Robert Morton,” which I never did.

SCARPINO: Was your dissertation ever published?

LIPMAN-BLUMEN Well, a piece of it was published. I never tried to publish it. A piece of it was published in Scientific American because Gerald—what was his name? He was editor of Scientific American—heard about it and asked me if I would write an article for Scientific American. So, one weekend I wrote an article. It took me all day Saturday to write that, Saturday and part of Sunday.

SCARPINO: That’s actually pretty quick. So, you are…

LIPMAN-BLUMEN I was just writing about one small part of it so it was easy.

SCARPINO: But I mean, you’re studying a group of women who, obviously, are very grateful that someone is paying attention to their lives, but these are also—I hope I’m going to use the right word—women who found themselves in a situation where they were basically living vicariously through their husbands?

LIPMAN-BLUMEN Well, this was interesting, because one part of the sample were also graduate students themselves, but a small part. Most of them were not. Most of them were just taking care of their husbands, and they’d say—this is what really got me, I asked one question—their mean age was something like 22 or 24, although there was one woman in there who was 60-something—and I asked them: What would their ideal life be, say, 10 years from now, you know, if they could picture what was the ideal life for them? I could not believe it. This was the most common answer; they said they wanted to be married, to have children and belong to the Garden Club. I was flabbergasted. I, who had struggled so hard to go to graduate school, I couldn’t believe this. There were several female graduate students at Harvard when I was there. They would say things to me like, “I don’t understand you. Why are you doing it? You’re married, you have kids. When I get married, they’ll never see me here.” I would think, you’re crazy. We were living in parallel universes or something.

SCARPINO: The work that you did for your dissertation, which your advisor liked a great deal, how did that work and its findings and the conclusions you drew shape your later thinking on subjects like gender and power and leadership?

LIPMAN-BLUMEN Well, the Scientific American article, as I recall, was about—one question on sex role ideology. I was really interested in the issue about women. Here I was coming from an all-girl family, I had a mother who was very interested in my being educated up to a point. When I wanted to go beyond that, I had no support from anybody other than my sister. I began to realize when I went to Harvard for an interview, they told me, “We don’t accept people who are part time.” This is when Harvard was Harvard, and I had to go and reapply. I was very lucky that the person I spoke to, Gordon Allport, said to me—and this is when I was applying to Radcliffe, but I had to go speak to the Harvard department…

SCARPINO: Gordon Allport, the psychologist?

LIPMAN-BLUMEN Yeah. He said to me, “Well, you just walk over there and you knock on the door and you say, ‘I wish to come in.’” I mean, I remember that so clearly as if he had said it to me yesterday; it just burned into my brain. Some years later I was invited to Harvard to the department to talk about my work. I forget what I was working on at the time. He came, and just like I said to you before, students remember things that people say to them, but he did say that to me, so maybe I do say that to my students. And I said to the group, “I probably wouldn’t be here today if he hadn’t said that to me.” If he had said, “There is no chance of you getting in here. Forget it, go home, take care of your babies and keep quiet,” I’m sure I would have folded my tent and crept away.

SCARPINO: At what point did you realize that you were bringing down barriers?

LIPMAN-BLUMEN When I was at Harvard.

SCARPINO: Would it be reasonable to conclude that you kept doing that for the rest of your life?

LIPMAN-BLUMEN Well, I had to. I don’t think I’ve really… I can’t think of other… Well, when I came to Claremont, that was a barrier because I was the first female full professor on any of the campuses of the Claremont Colleges.


LIPMAN-BLUMEN Yes. In addition, I came in an endowed chair and I had a double professorship. And that was weird because that was when everybody was looking for a woman. They wanted a woman, a token. So, I felt very dehumanized by that because I had to appear at all these things where I was like a cutout of Reagan in Washington in a tourist shop and people would stand next to it and have their picture taken. I said to my friend, the one I said is my oldest friend who lives here, I called her and I said—no, it wasn’t to Connie, it was to Polly, who was a friend from college—that’s her picture right there with the dark glasses. She went to Wellesley with me and then later lived on the same street with her husband who had been my first husband’s roommate in medical school. I said, “You know, I hate this because everything I say gets repeated. The most banal thing I say gets repeated and it comes back to me and I hear it. I feel like I’m never going to have any friends here because you can’t even have a conversation that isn’t going to be reported two minutes later.” She said, “Don’t worry about that. I will create a life for you, on the west side.” She invited six other people to this luncheon, most of whom came from Wellesley, and one of them is this person I said who is my best friend now because Polly died 20 years ago, two days ago. I ran into, at that luncheon, this other friend whom I’ve known since I was 13. She was a year ahead of me so we weren’t friends because when you’re that young, with somebody a year behind you, you wouldn’t be caught dead talking, right?

SCARPINO: That’s right.

LIPMAN-BLUMEN Not in New England at least. So, she and I remained friends until the day she died and I’m very close to her kids, two of whom live out here, and a third one in New York that I’m close to, too. She really created a life. So that was—I was breaking a barrier, and I didn’t like it. It didn’t feel, I mean part of me, I felt I was entitled to that for the work that I had done. I didn’t feel that I was a token in the sense that I didn’t deserve it. I felt it was tokenism in that they weren’t going to appoint anybody else. So I made it my business to be sure that they did bring in other women. And I began with another colleague of mine, a female colleague, something called the FFF, the Female Faculty Forum. This has had a real impact on the university. We’re totally ex cathrdra, and we don’t want to be part of the official structure of the university. We just saw that as a way of holding the university’s feet to the fire, that they would be serious about inviting women, and that we as the female faculty who were there would play a protective role toward the junior faculty and try to help them get through all the barriers and be mentors to them. Now, the FEC, the Faculty Executive Committee, when they want advice, they come to the FFF.

SCARPINO: Do you think of yourself as a mentor?

LIPMAN-BLUMEN Yes, definitely.

SCARPINO: Do you think successful leaders should be mentors?


SCARPINO: In 1971, you completed a post-doctoral fellowship at Carnegie Mellon. Your supervisor was Herbert Simon, who was the winner of the 1978 Nobel Prize.

LIPMAN-BLUMEN He hadn’t won the Nobel Prize yet.

SCARPINO: That’s right, but he did in ’78.

LIPMAN-BLUMEN Yeah, I used to tease him later and say, “You know why? Because you had good students.”

SCARPINO: Why Carnegie Mellon and why him?

LIPMAN-BLUMEN Because I was living in Pittsburgh and I couldn’t go anywhere else. I was stuck there.

SCARPINO: I’m assuming that Herbert Simon didn’t just take anybody?

LIPMAN-BLUMEN No, but I went to him, and I had a social science, SSRC, Social Science Research Council post-doc. That was a very prestigious fellowship to have, and you could take it anywhere. I was invited to MIT. But I couldn’t go anywhere. I was married and living in Pittsburgh.

SCARPINO: I read that you were working on math and statistics and computer science?

LIPMAN-BLUMEN Right. Oh, and I’ll tell you something interesting. That question about women who wanted to be in the Garden Club?


LIPMAN-BLUMEN I was talking to a friend of mine at that time and I was shocked by it. I said, “I can’t believe this.” It was a telephone conversation. I remember, I was in the maid’s room at my mother’s house talking to this friend. She was interested in women’s roles, too. I said, “What do you think would make them change their mind? How can these intelligent…”—they were educated women and some of them were Harvard graduate students themselves, how could they say this? She was saying things, and I said, “Well, I think a crisis would make them change their minds.” I think a crisis like World War II made women go into the labor force. And I had no idea that that was one of the most fateful sentences I ever uttered because my life took a turn at that point, and I have from that day forward been obsessed by crisis; the impact of crisis on role change.

SCARPINO: Your life took a turn because you were divorced?

LIPMAN-BLUMEN No, no, no. It took a turn intellectually. It took a turn intellectually because I began to be obsessed with the role of crisis and its impact on social structure, on the stratification system and how roles change in times of crisis. This book is bringing the two strands of my work together. It’s about leading through crisis.

SCARPINO: Which book?


SCARPINO: That’s what you’re working on now, okay. In 1972, you completed a Post-Doctoral Fellowship at Stanford?

LIPMAN-BLUMEN Yes. I applied for that same thing again, which I didn’t know it unusual but it was apparently. They very rarely gave a second year. But I got in a second year and I went to Stanford.

SCARPINO: And spent a year there?

LIPMAN-BLUMEN Yes. It was at that point that I left my first husband and went to Stanford.

SCARPINO: Other than the act of leaving your first husband, what was it that attracted you to Stanford? I’m assuming if you had that Fellowship, you were portable?

LIPMAN-BLUMEN Yeah, I could go anywhere. I was invited to go to—I had talked to people at MIT and they wanted me to come there. I just wanted to go to California. I didn’t know anything about Stanford. I told you, I come from this provincial family that their idea of education is Harvard, Yale and Wellesley. That’s it. There’s no other place. When I told my mother that I—MIT is not even in the lexicon there—when I told my mother I was going to Stanford, I told you before what she said. She couldn’t believe that I would do something like that.

SCARPINO: So, you went to Wellesley because it was nearby and because your mother wanted you to. You went to Harvard because it was nearby. You went to Carnegie Mellon…

LIPMAN-BLUMEN I went to Harvard because I was limited to Boston, and that was the best school in Boston.

SCARPINO: Yeah, and not anybody can get in there…

LIPMAN-BLUMEN Yeah, yeah. But I had to in order to do what I was doing.

SCARPINO: Carnegie Mellon, your husband was in Pittsburgh.


SCARPINO: Stanford was the first time you went somewhere and said, “I’m doing this for me.”

LIPMAN-BLUMEN Right. On my own. On my own, right.

SCARPINO: How did you like living in Pittsburgh?

LIPMAN-BLUMEN Well, it was strange because I’d never lived anyplace but Boston. It was an eye-opening experience. I had wonderful friends there. They taught me about how inward-looking Bostonians are, and I understood that in a different way because people open their hearts and their lives and their homes to us. As a Bostonian, people don’t do those things.

SCARPINO: Nope, not to anybody.

LIPMAN-BLUMEN You understand that.


LIPMAN-BLUMEN And I never got it until I left. Then I could see what people were talking about.

SCARPINO: My father’s family is from Mohawk Street just up the hill from—do you know where the old Forbes Field was in Pittsburgh?


SCARPINO: My dad’s uncle was the head usher there.

LIPMAN-BLUMEN Oh really? Really?

SCARPINO: So I spent a lot of time there, but I do understand about New England provincialism.

LIPMAN-BLUMEN It is. I think if you’re not from New England, it sounds like I’m being very um, something.

SCARPINO: You had a second post-doc at Stanford, is that right?

LIPMAN-BLUMEN A second year on the Social Science Research Council Fellowship. And I studied math, statistics and computer science. They also, as part of that, wanted me—and I had said I wanted to and they agreed—I wanted to work on my crisis theory. I wrote a paper that year that really is the kernel of my thinking. I’ve elaborated, I’ve gone far beyond that, but of my thinking on how crisis changes roles and how it changes the stratification system.

SCARPINO: What did you conclude?

LIPMAN-BLUMEN Well, I think that one of the things—it’s a very complicated issue, but what happens is in times of crisis, the stratification system which keeps roles very clearly separated and differentiated begins to crumble, begins to weaken. So, roles change in two ways; structurally, and in terms of what I call categorically, the categories of people who can come in.

Women, or blacks or whoever who have been kept from those roles are allowed in when they were never allowed in before. New categories are allowed in. The criteria for entry to the roles change. Then the roles themselves change. Sometimes a piece of the role is jettisoned and other people do it. For example, in World War II, the medics—they’re not doctors, I think you only have to have a high school diploma—well, they did triage. They went out into the field and they figured out who was dying and nothing could be done for them, who had serious injuries that needed to be seen right away, and who had injuries that needed to be seen but not as urgent. When that role moved out during World War II, it never went back to the physician’s role, for many reasons. One, physicians realized they didn’t have to do that kind of stuff anymore. It also became stigmatized from an entry criteria perspective, that if a high school person could do it, why would an M.D. lower himself or herself to do that? So, it never went back into the physician’s role. Then, the physician’s role took on other kinds of roles. The same with the cardiac technician. People who do electrocardiograms, they’re electrocardiogram techs. They have them in all hospitals now. It used to be that cardiologists did that. I remember as a child having the cardiologist do it because I had been sick as a child. Roles change in these two very interesting and dramatic ways. I demonstrated in that paper all the different structural ways they can change. Sometimes two roles share some tasks. Sometimes certain tasks are handed over to other roles. There are all kinds of ways, and it became very fascinating to me. I began to think about the role of ideology because ideology belief systems hold stratification systems together. They hold social structures together. Communism held the structure of the Soviet Union together.

Democracy holds our structure together. We believe in it and so we do certain things and we structure roles a certain way, and we allocate responsibilities in certain ways.

SCARPINO: Jim Crow held together a pernicious system in the south.

LIPMAN-BLUMEN Right. When an ideology begins to fail, it usually fails in a crisis. Sometimes it’s the other way around; because the ideology fails, it creates a crisis. Crisis is endlessly fascinating, endlessly.

SCARPINO: How do you connect that to leadership?

LIPMAN-BLUMEN I’ve been teaching crisis management for years. One of the things I’ve come to realize is that… All of the work on crisis for many, many years has been skewed in a weird direction. It’s mostly teaching people how to report it to the public so that the company or the organization or the social system won’t suffer. There’s very little about: how do you stop the crisis, per se? So, it’s really the management of meaning more than anything else that the crisis management literature has been all about. I’m making the argument in this book that it isn’t a matter of managing crisis. Crisis managing means that you can move something from here to here and you know the path and you know where to move things and what to do. It isn’t a matter of managing crisis. It’s a matter of leading through crisis and having a bigger image of it, and having an understanding of what kind of a crisis are you dealing with? What do you have to do to stop the crisis? Yes, crisis communication is important, but that’s not where the focus should be. The focus should be on how do you deal with the crisis? How do you put it out? Or how do you turn it into something that doesn’t blow you apart, or that becomes something positive, which is rare.

SCARPINO: We’ve been talking for a little over two hours. I don’t know what your time looks like, but I could wrap this up and we could continue on Monday. I have two more questions I’d like to ask you. One is that in 1987, you married Harold Leavitt. So, second husband—you met him here at Stanford. I’m going to jump a little bit ahead in your scholarly career because I think what I’m going to ask you fits in here. If it doesn’t, you can tell me. In 2004, you co-authored with Grace Gabe…

LIPMAN-BLUMEN Yes. That’s Warren’s wife.

SCARPINO: Is that right? I didn’t know that. Warren Bennis?


SCARPINO: All right, Step Wars: Overcoming the Perils and Making Peace in Adult Families. How did you come to collaborate with her, Dr. Gabe? Is that right?

LIPMAN-BLUMEN Gabe. Grace. Well, she and Warren got married in the fall of 1991. Hal and Warren had known each other for 35 years from MIT and various other places. When Grace came to live with Warren, for some reason, I don’t know why, we invited them to come here. We met and we had dinner. Then they got married a few months later. Grace and I realized that we were in the same situation, an usual situation that most people don’t write about. People write about stepfamilies with little kids, but they don’t write about stepfamilies where everybody is grown up and not living at home. That’s sort of an invisible problem. So, she and I were both in that situation. We both had our own biological children, and then we had children by marriage through our husbands. We thought that would be an interesting thing to write about.

SCARPINO: I pulled a quote out of the book the two of you wrote: “When a divorced or widowed parent remarries, no one is really prepared for what lies ahead—not the parent, not the spouse, not the adult children. The first shock is usually the stark contrast between the joy of the older bride and groom and the response of virtually everyone else in both their families.” The question I wanted to ask you about that, and you’ve already partially answered, and that is: was this partially about you? Did it draw upon your experience?

LIPMAN-BLUMEN Yes, it did. Definitely it did. But we also interviewed a lot of people for that book. Grace is a psychiatrist, and I’m a sociologist, or my work has really moved me more into social psychology.

SCARPINO: In 1973, you went to Washington D.C., is that right?


SCARPINO: I found that between ’73 and the time you came back here you had three positions; Assistant Director of the National Institute of Education, U.S. Department…

LIPMAN-BLUMEN An assistant director. There were a number of assistant directors.

SCARPINO: Multiple assistant directors, okay.

LIPMAN-BLUMEN I wasn’t the only one.

SCARPINO: And that’s in the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare?


SCARPINO: And then you were Special Advisor to the White House’s Domestic Policy staff under President Carter.

LIPMAN-BLUMEN Yes. And I was also before that in the office of the Assistant Secretary for Education because there was no secretary of education. It was when I was in the office of the Assistant Secretary that I was yanked over to the White House.

SCARPINO: You also had a consulting firm at that time, right? In Washington D.C.? No?

LIPMAN-BLUMEN Not then. Later. After I left the White House, I was at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences. That was the only ambition. If you want to know what was my greatest ambition, my professional ambition? I wanted to be invited to the Center. I’ve known somebody when I was a graduate student at Harvard who was invited to the Center, and I was so awed by that. I thought, oh, that’s the ultimate.

SCARPINO: After you left the White House, you went to the Center for Advanced Study in Behavioral Sciences. Explain for somebody who is going to listen to this recording what that is, who is not in your field.

LIPMAN-BLUMEN Well, the Center began more than 50 years ago now. The Ford Foundation gave the Center money to bring together every year what they considered to be the 50 most whatevers in the social and behavioral sciences. You’re only invited for one year of your life. The rules may have changed by now, but at that time you could only be invited for one year. You could do anything you wanted. You could sit and stare out the window. Most of us didn’t. In fact, there was more pressure than that because money was getting tight by that time and they wanted people to produce books and things.

SCARPINO: This was about 1979 or so?

LIPMAN-BLUMEN ’78–’79 was the year I was there. There were 50 people and they even had mathematicians and lawyers there by that time. It was a very interesting group of people. Marty Seligman was there. Richard Neustadt was there. Richard Neustadt was a political scientist at Harvard. Marty Seligman is the guy who with Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi later started the field of positive psychology. Nan Keohane was there, who later became the president of Wellesley and then the president of Duke. Paul Baltes. There were a lot of interesting people there.

SCARPINO: Paul Baltes?

LIPMAN-BLUMEN Do you know who he is?

SCARPINO: Tell me who he is.

LIPMAN-BLUMEN Paul was a psychologist and he was from Germany.

SCARPINO: The next time we sit down I’m going to ask you about your government service, but you were invited back to Stanford in 1983. Do I have that date right?

LIPMAN-BLUMEN To do what? As a post-doc?

SCARPINO: No, when did you assume your position here with an endowed chair and so on?


SCARPINO: Okay, that’s what I’m asking.

LIPMAN-BLUMEN I was invited here, not to Stanford. I was invited to the Claremont Colleges.

SCARPINO: All right, I’m sorry. What brought you to their attention?

LIPMAN-BLUMEN Well, they had money for what was called the Atlantic Richfield Chair.

Thornton Bradshaw had been the Chairman of the Board and he was leaving Atlantic Richfield and going to New York to head some foundation. So, they gave a million dollars in his name for an endowed chair. They had looked for somebody the year before and they had selected somebody at Pomona, at least the selection committee had, and it got turned down. I don’t know the details of that. I wasn’t aware of that. The next thing I knew they got a search firm who went out looking for people. They must have said they wanted women, too. So, I don’t know who it was who gave them my name, but they came and asked me if I was interested in—first they asked me if I wanted to be the dean of the business programs. They were going to make it into a business school. I said no, I don’t want to do administration. I’ve done that. I did that briefly at the University of Maryland on a part-time basis. I hated it.

SCARPINO: You were a part-time…

LIPMAN-BLUMEN I was an interim head of the Women’s Studies Program at the University of Maryland. When I came back from the Center, that’s when I opened my business. That’s when I opened a consulting business in Washington. I did work primarily on agricultural research policy and did a report called The Paradox of Success, which really made a big difference. I think we had 48 recommendations and they accepted 47.

SCARPINO: Who did you make these recommendations to?

LIPMAN-BLUMEN To the USDA. That was a congressionally-mandated study to help the USDA set strategic priorities for research and extension.

SCARPINO: You did that while you were president of LBS International, Limited?

LIPMAN-BLUMEN That’s right.

SCARPINO: When did you start that firm?

LIPMAN-BLUMEN When I came back from the Center. That was 1979. I did that with somebody by the name of Georgia Strasburg. We were partners in that business.

SCARPINO: I have one final question. It must have been a big decision for you to move from government and private sector to the academy.

LIPMAN-BLUMEN I absolutely did not want to do that. Absolutely, I refused. They asked me once about this what-do-you-call-it thing to come and be the dean. I said forget that, no. Then they called me and asked me, did I want to be a professor or something. I said no. Then they called me back and said, “Would you like a Chair in Public Policy?” And I said no. And I meant it; I wasn’t trying to play hard to get. I did not want to come back to California. I had moved my piano three times cross country and I didn’t want to come back to California. I loved what I was doing, so I didn’t want to come. They kept calling me. There’s something, it’s from being a Bostonian—I hate looking like a prima donna. I hate that. I don’t want people to treat me that way. So, I said, “Look, I know I’m not interested and I would feel bad about having you spend money to have me come out there and do this thing, and I know I’m not going to do it. So sometime in the future I have to be in California, I will come on my way home and stop in. You can pay from San Francisco to L.A., but I don’t want you paying for my trip because I’m not taking the job. It’s that simple.” I really felt that way. So, I did come and I gave a talk on agricultural research policy. There were two people recruiting me, neither of whom I knew. One was this man, Paul Albrecht, who was the provost of the school. The other was someone named Peter Drucker, whom I’d never heard of. I didn’t know either of these people. I was trained in the yard at Harvard. I don’t know business. That’s not my thing. It still isn’t my thing. So, I said I would come under those circumstances, and I did. When I gave that talk, about three-quarters through my talk, Paul Albrecht got up and walked out of the room. I thought, well that seals it. Obviously, he didn’t think that was such a hot talk. But then they offered me the job. I really didn’t want to do it, but then Paul Albrecht came to Washington to convince me. I don’t know if he came to convince me or to see if I was real. I said I had a company, I was doing something…

SCARPINO: He wanted to see you in your native land.

LIPMAN-BLUMEN Yeah, I think he didn’t quite believe that I did, and so he came to our offices and saw that there was something there. And then he called me. I had 10 pages of legal-sized paper of questions that I wanted answered. And any one of them, if he said no to anything, I had an excuse to be out of there. So, he called me one Sunday night, taking me off my guard, but I had my questions and I went through the whole thing. We spent several hours on the phone. At the end, every single thing I asked him, he said, “No problem, no problem. Oh, for someone like you, oh we can do that. Oh, no problem.” At the end, I had no tangible reason other than an emotional reason that I didn’t want to go. I felt I had to go at that point because every legitimate question I’d asked him, he had said “It’s okay, you can do that, you can do that, you can do that. You can go home every two weeks if you want. You can run your business in Washington.” I said to him later, because we became good friends eventually, I said, “You were smarter than I was. You knew that going back to Washington every two weeks would get old very fast.” I came there and I thought, well, okay, I’ll try it for a year. I almost didn’t go because I thought they were reneging on their promises to me before I got there, and I called up and said I wasn’t coming because they were not keeping their word. You see, that, keeping your word, is important to me. Mary, the person I said was the president’s secretary or assistant, she was the one who talked me into coming, saying, “They will keep their word. I promise you they’ll keep their word.” That forged our original—on the phone we became good friends. I trusted her. And I thought, okay, I’m going, but, anything I don’t like, I’m out of there in one year.

SCARPINO: How do you think your life would have turned out if you hadn’t come here? What do you think would have happened?

LIPMAN-BLUMEN Who knows? When I look at my life now, I am amazed because I think, how did I get to L.A.? What am I doing here? I come from Boston. I don’t belong here. In my core, I really feel I’m a Bostonian. I love California. I love everything about it, but I think, isn’t that weird the way one day something happens, you do something, someone does something, and you don’t even know it but your life is taking a turn. You have no idea how that’s going to play out, but your whole life is changing and you don’t even know it. I often think life takes you where it wants to. You don’t create your own life. You think you’re doing that, but life has a way of taking you where it wants you. I don’t mean that in a religious sense or anything like that. I have a sense of fatalism about it without being religious. Things happen and you take a right turn or you take a left turn, like when you meet someone you’re going to marry. I met Hal Leavitt 15 years before we were married. I remember the day I met him and never was I thinking in my wildest thoughts, I didn’t think of him as somebody that I would be romantically interested in. And I’m sure he didn’t think about me that way.

SCARPINO: Last question: where did you meet him?

LIPMAN-BLUMEN I met him at Stanford when I was a post-doc and we began to work together on achieving styles. It was an outgrowth of this interest in women. I was interested in women and there was a tremendous amount of interest in that time on differences between men and women, how they did things. Could women do things as well as men could do them? So, Hal and I and a bunch of our students began to work on what we called “achieving styles;” how people went about accomplishing their goals. You know, do you like to do it all by yourself? Do you like to do it in collaboration? Do you like to contribute to someone from behind the scenes?

SCARPINO: And achieving styles fed into Connective Leadership…

LIPMAN-BLUMEN Yeah, Hal got bored with that and he went off and did other things. I kept working on that. Then I began to do stuff on leadership, and I began to understand the connection between this idea of connective leadership and these achieving styles. So I put the two together.

SCARPINO: Thank you very much. (END RECORDING #1)