These interviews took place on February 15 and February 18, 2013, at Lipman-Blumen’s home in Pasadena, California.Learn more about Jean Lipman-Blumen
Part oneSkip to next interview transcript
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?
LIPMAN-BLUMEN That’s all.
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.
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.
SCARPINO: I do.
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…?
LIPMAN-BLUMEN Inkeles, I-N-K-E-L-E-S.
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?
LIPMAN-BLUMEN This 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.
SCARPINO: I do.
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?
LIPMAN-BLUMEN Oh yeah.
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?
LIPMAN-BLUMEN Uh huh.
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?
LIPMAN-BLUMEN In 1983.
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: Today is February 18, 2013. I am Philip Scarpino and I am sitting for a second interview session with Jean Lipman-Blumen in her home in Pasadena, California. On behalf of the International Leadership Association and the Tobias Center and myself, thank you for sitting with me for a second time.
LIPMAN-BLUMEN: Thank you for coming.
SCARPINO: I’m going to ask your permission to record this interview, to have the interview transcribed, to have the transcription and the recorded interview deposited with the IUPUI Special Collections and Archives, the Tobias Center and the International Leadership Association where they can be used by their patrons at the discretion of the directors.
SCARPINO: Thank you very much. Last time, we talked for a couple of hours and we got to the point in your career where you had made the move to Washington DC. I’m going to start by asking you a few questions just to sort out what you were doing there and then to talk in a little bit more detail about that, and then to move on through your career. If I did my homework, in 1983 you accepted a position as one of the assistant directors of the…
SCARPINO: 1973, you’re right. I’m sorry. One of the assistant directors of the National Institute of Education, U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare.
LIPMAN-BLUMEN: Well, yes and no. I had originally been invited to be in the think tank at the National Institute of Education. The National Institute of Education was a new agency that had been put together. It was modeled after the National Institutes of Health. The idea was to bring in people who were not in the field of education but in the social and behavioral sciences to look at education and think about how could we make education better. It was created because the Office of Education at the time was sort of hamstrung politically. They didn’t think they could do it there. So, they were trying to do an end run and create this other body called the National Institute of Education. It was in HHS, what was HEW then, Health, Education and Welfare. The person who ran it was a very good economist but very naïve politically. His father was at the Rand Corporation and he was at the Rand Corporation. He was asked to come and be the director. He knew nothing about Washington politics. That was too bad because they ran roughshod over him. They didn’t give him a Board, but then he couldn’t make decisions without a Board. If he made decisions, they would chastise him because he made them without the Board. If he didn’t make decisions, they chastised him because he was a do-nothing. In a very short time, about two weeks after I got there, they lost their budget, which was unheard of in the ’70s, just unheard of. So, they decided that the think tank idea had to go out the window because that was too academic, it was too intellectual, etc. and the people on the Hill wouldn’t really understand or go for it. They had asked me beforehand if, while I was there in the think tank, also develop a program on educational and occupational needs for women. I said yes, because I was really interested in women and was doing work on women’s issues. I ended up doing that. I was the director of this program on educational and occupational needs of women. We looked at women in their true diversity. We ran conferences and gave out contracts and grants for research on women. It was the heyday of the resurgence of the Women’s Movement. A number of feminists, people like myself who were really concerned and passionate about women’s issues, had come to Washington to work on these things. It was a remarkable period, one of the best, most exciting periods of my life because it allowed me to not only do my intellectual work but then give vent to the activist side of my persona. I was very involved in all kinds of things. I gave testimony on the Hill and ran conferences and did things. Then, in my off hours, I organized—it just came about in a funny way—I organized something that became known as the “salon.” The “salon” was a very informal event that happened when it happened. It happened whenever somebody interesting came to town. At first, it was people who came to town from other towns or cities. Sheila Tobias was I think the first person I invited to come. Then, there were people who used to be sent to me by the State Department when they came from other countries. The State Department had a program on women leaders from other countries.
They would invite women that they thought would be leaders in their countries. They gave them this great tour of the U.S., et cetera. I was one of the people whom would be asked to meet with them. I thought, well, they shouldn’t just meet with me or the people they’re selecting because I knew when I was invited by the Swedish government to go there for a month, I saw the way they—with all good intentions—asked me to meet with people with whom I had no common interests whatsoever. So, I thought I should bring together in the evening all the feminists in Washington, from the government, from academia, from the media, from law, from medicine, from the Hill. I would invite all these people to come and meet whoever this person was.
SCARPINO: Who would have been on the guest list?
LIPMAN-BLUMEN: All kinds of people, from Maria de Lourdes Pintasilgo who when she came was I think at the head of OECD but became the prime minister of Portugal. Betty Friedan. Gloria Steinem. Jessie Bernard, who was in Washington. But, people from all over the world came. Barbro Dahlbom-Hall, who was a management consultant to the Swedish Parliament. Annika Baude, who was the highest ranking woman in the Palme Government in Sweden. Do you remember Palme who was murdered at a certain point?
LIPMAN-BLUMEN: A lot of Swedes came because I had been in Sweden, so I had this whole group of women policymakers and social scientists who know me and who came. People came from all over the world. People came from South Africa. People came from every continent.
SCARPINO: You facilitated this?
LIPMAN-BLUMEN: Yeah. That makes it sound very elegant. I sort of threw it together, put it that way. I would just put out the word and say, “The salon is going to meet at my house on such and such a night. Come.” And people would say, “Well, I’m not on the guest list.” There was no guest list. It was just this word of mouth. I’d get on the telephone and then there were certain people who were sort of regulars. I’d say, “Well, will you tell Nancy and so and so, and so and so.” So, there were the people from the American Council on Education, Nancy Schlossberg, Donna Shavlik, Leslie Wolfe from the Women Policy Center. Bunny Sandler, who was someone who did amazing policy things. She worked I think for the College Board, but she did all kinds of things for women. Joy Simonson, who was the executive director of WEEA, the Women’s Educational Equity Act. I mean, we really had it together. We made things happen.
SCARPINO: What did you make happen?
LIPMAN-BLUMEN: We pushed legislation. We testified. We met with these people from other countries. We got ideas from them. They got ideas from us. We created this worldwide network before there was an Internet. It was really very exciting and very engaging. Everybody felt excited and turned on and hopeful about what we could accomplish for women. Carter had come into office and he was, and Rosalynn Carter, too, were interested in women’s issues. I helped to write the national plan for the U.S. for the U.N. conference. I have a copy of it downstairs somewhere.
SCARPINO: National plan on women?
LIPMAN-BLUMEN: Yeah, for women. At one point when I was in the White House subsequently, I was asked to write for the government what had been done in the Carter administration for women. So, we tried to pull that together. We made a lot of things happen. I wasn’t the only one. There were cadres of women. It was a huge explosion of talent and hopefulness and excitement about what could be. And interestingly enough, we thought Carter wasn’t doing enough. Little did we know what would happen later and how much of what we did would be unraveled in subsequent administrations, which was very heartbreaking.
SCARPINO: Well, Jimmy Carter, of course, was a democrat but he openly embraced a fundamentalist Christian perspective. How would you compare the environment in terms of women’s issues in the Carter administration with the one that exists in Washington today?
LIPMAN-BLUMEN: Well, I’m not as close to the one in Washington today. I mean, his evangelical Christian orientation didn’t put a damper on the women’s issues, believe it or not. What he did, which was sort of naïve and sweet and ineffective, was when he first came in, he did what all the presidents do. They go to each agency and they meet in the lobby with all of the people who work there. Carter, instead of asking them what they were doing, would ask them, how many of you are living with someone you’re not married to? People would put up their hands and he would admonish them that they were living in sin and they should go off and get married. People looked at him as sort of a decent man, but naïve. I think that was, certainly at the beginning, a reasonable evaluation. The other thing about Carter, and I think this has gotten lost in all the negative things that have been said about him, Carter was the first one to my knowledge who talked about human rights and about human rights as a criteria by which we should measure and decide whether we should give foreign aid to other countries. People laughed at him. They thought Pat, I think her name was Pat Derian who was in the State Department and she was the point person on that. She used to go out and talk about it. I used to feel very sorry for her because people would be openly derisive of that idea. Now, we take it for granted and we don’t even know where it comes from. Nobody attributes it to Carter. They talk about Carter writing memos about who could use the White House tennis courts. Maybe he did that, too, but the press focused on some sort of trivial things.
SCARPINO: Did you know Jimmy Carter personally?
LIPMAN-BLUMEN: I met him. I can’t say I really knew him. He wouldn’t know me if he fell over me.
SCARPINO: Did you consider yourself to be a leader of women’s activities in the DC area while you were there?
LIPMAN-BLUMEN: One of them. We all were. Everybody was. We were into it every minute of the day and night. It was exhilarating. I don’t think we thought of ourselves as leaders. Looking back on it, yeah, because we all took initiatives and we were supportive of one another. Women were not competing with women. Women were helping each other. They were building things together. It was truly exhilarating and some of my dearest, oldest, most beloved friends come from that period.
SCARPINO: We’re going to lose your audio here.
LIPMAN-BLUMEN: This is a picture of Florence Herman who was head of the Federal Women’s Program in HEW. This is when I’m now living in California and she and her husband did come visit us. This is some years ago. She’s passed on now. Her responsibility was for all the women who were employed by HEW, which was huge, and we ran programs for them and we did things. We brought people together and things happened. For the time that they were going on it was important and it was useful. Later on, many of the things… Joy Simonson, who headed up the Women’s Educational Equity Act, the day after the Reagan administration came in, she had prepared the agenda for the new group would be on the board that Reagan had appointed. Phyllis Schlafly was a new member. The first thing they did was set aside the agenda that she had prepared to put an agenda item on to remove her as executive director. So she went to work for Barney Frank for the rest of her life. I mean, she was an astute woman who had been there for 30 years. She didn’t just come with the parvenus like I did who were imbued with this new excitement. She had been working for women’s issues quietly. She and Catherine East, who was a remarkable woman in the Office of Education, who I went to see when I was doing my dissertation at Harvard, and she was in a basement office about the size of this one. You know, piles and piles of paper and she’d been working there for 20 years and she made all kinds of incredible things happen. Here’s another thing we did. Mary Hilton was the Assistant Director of the Women’s Bureau in the Department of Labor and she had been through eight administrations, so that tells you how politically adroit she had to be. She and I had both been at a conference in Arden House on Women in the Economy. We’d seen each other at the conference, but it was structured in such a way that we were each with sort of subgroups the whole time and then we’d meet in these big plenaries. We didn’t get to meet people in other subgroups, but we sat next to each other on the plane just by coincidence coming home. We said, “Weren’t you just at that group?” I said, “Yeah, I was.” So we introduced ourselves to each other. I told her what I did. She told me what she did. I had been in Washington for eight months or maybe a little longer, and I said, “Well, how come we haven’t ever met? We should be working together. We should know each other. We should be doing things together.” On that plane we hatched an idea, which was, we called it the… but what we did was we invited all the women in the government who headed programs and had a budget over a certain amount, and we invited them to come. This will tell you how naïve I was. We invited them like on a Monday to come in a week or so, without e-mail, without anything like that. I said to Mary, “Don’t we have to ask permission?” She said, “No, don’t be ridiculous. The minute we ask for permission we’ll have to report to someone. Don’t ask for permission. We’re doing the government’s work.” We wanted to bring everybody together who had a budget of some sort, so we could figure out how to put it all together and make something happen. It so happened that that day when we met we had standing room only. Seventy-five people showed up.
SCARPINO: On a week’s notice?
LIPMAN-BLUMEN: On a week’s notice. It means we were tapping into something that was ready to happen. Okay? Every single month we called that meeting. People stood up and they talked about what they did and what their budget was for. When people came to each of us as people came to me and they’d say, oh, I want money to do da, da, da. Well, my budget and my guidelines wouldn’t let me do that. But I knew now exactly where to send them. They didn’t have to go on this big old merry-go-round. I’d say, call or go to so-and-so. I’d call so-and-so and say, I’m sending this person over. She needs this, this, this. We became very efficient and this was before Carter came in. When Carter came in he sent around a thing asking, what was happening on women’s issues. They came to us to ask. We weren’t even an official part of anything. Midge Costanza, I don’t know if you remember that name, but she was the person who was Carter’s point person on women. She came to find out what we were up to. So we got a lot of things done during those days. They were wonderful days. They were very joyous, very happy, sometimes frustrating, but we felt we were making a difference. I would work on a Friday night until 10:00 at night calling people in Indiana, whom I hadn’t had a chance to talk to, but I wasn’t calling them that way, but I was calling people who had written to me and I needed to talk to them. I’d call up and say, hello, this is Jean Lipman-Blumen from the National Institute of Education. They thought I was kidding them. They couldn’t believe that someone in the government to whom they had written would actually pick up the phone and call them. At any rate, it was exhilarating. We did a lot of things. Then I went from there to the Assistant Secretary’s office and then to the White House to the Domestic Policy staff. Then I went to the Center for Advanced Study in the behavioral sciences, ’78 to ’79.
SCARPINO: University of Maryland.
LIPMAN-BLUMEN: Not yet. I went to the Center and I was there a year. It was when I came back from the Center.
SCARPINO: Where was the Center located?
LIPMAN-BLUMEN: The Center is the Center for Advanced Study in the behavioral sciences in Palo Alto. It’s where they’d bring social and behavioral scientists, and that year I think I told you there were mathematicians and lawyers, et cetera. When I came back I had to figure out what do I do now since I had no job, et cetera. I was invited to the University of—I didn’t look for a job, which now strikes me as sort of funny, but the University of Connecticut called and asked would I like to be a visiting professor. I said, “Well, I guess.” I commuted one day a week. I’d go up on Thursday and come home on—I’d teach on Saturday and come home on—I’d go up on Thursday, teach on Friday, come home on Saturday. I ran my business the rest of the time. They wanted me to continue and I thought, no, that’s too hard. It was too cold up there.
SCARPINO: Well, the University of Connecticut, UCONN, that’s a hard place to reach.
LIPMAN-BLUMEN: Yes, very.
SCARPINO: It’s not like you can just get off the train.
LIPMAN-BLUMEN: Exactly and I brought my car up there and my car, I bought it when I was in California, so it wasn’t wherever you buy a car it’s fitted with a kind of heavy duty battery and whatever for the region where it’s going to be delivered. Well my car was a little California gal and had a hard time adjusting to Connecticut where it wouldn’t start in the mornings because it was so cold, and the inside... You know what I mean when the inside of your nose freezes.
SCARPINO: I do. Yes.
LIPMAN-BLUMEN: Well, thank you because I was trying to explain that to someone the other day who didn’t know what I was talking about.
SCARPINO: I lived in Montana for 10 years. I know what that feels like.
LIPMAN-BLUMEN: I loved the people at the University of Connecticut. They were great. I’ve stayed in touch with them for a long time, but I didn’t want to live there. I said no and then I was asked would I like to be the interim Director of the Women’s Studies Program at the University of Maryland. This was when I came back in ‘80, ‘81, around that time. I ran my company. First I was at the University of Connecticut, then I was with the University of Maryland. Then I decided I liked the people there very much, but I didn’t like being the Director of the Women’s Studies Program because I felt I was dealing with, as an administrator, trivia, not about the substance of the program, but the administrative end. Someone came in to me, she was a visiting assistant professor and I’ll never forget this because it changed… it was an existential moment for me, she came in and dressed me down in no uncertain terms because she had put in a reimbursement request for 25 dollars a month or two ago. I had signed it and sent it forward. But you know the way universities take their own sweet time. She told me that her husband was enraged because they had lost the float on 25 dollars for two months. Driving home that night it so happened I almost was run off the road by a huge truck. I thought to myself, if I hadn’t been spared by a hare’s breath here, I would be gone. What would I have accomplished this month? I would have been dealing with the float on somebody’s 25 dollar reimbursement. I don’t want to live my life this way. This is not what I want to do. The next day I went in and told the provost that I was leaving at the end of the semester, which I did.
SCARPINO: Well, what did you teach at the University of Connecticut?
LIPMAN-BLUMEN: I didn’t have to teach. I didn’t. I just ran this program.
SCARPINO: At Connecticut?
LIPMAN-BLUMEN: Oh, at Connecticut I taught.
SCARPINO: What did you teach at the University of Connecticut?
LIPMAN-BLUMEN: I don’t even remember, some sociology course. I think I taught a course maybe on crisis management, but it was a real course. I didn’t teach at Maryland, I just ran this program.
SCARPINO: So when you first went to Washington to accept the position in government, did you go there expecting or hoping that you could make a difference as an activist as well as in your craft?
SCARPINO: So you kind of fell into that.
LIPMAN-BLUMEN: Yeah. It sounded exciting to me. I had two choices at that moment that I remember. One was to go to OISE—oh, I had three, now that I think about it.
SCARPINO: I don’t know what OISE is.
LIPMAN-BLUMEN: OISE is the Ontario Institute for Studies and Education in Ontario, Canada. It’s a very high-level, it’s like their National Institute of Education. One of my professors from Harvard had gone there and he had recommended me. I went there and I looked at it and I said, no, I didn’t want to do that. Then I was offered, and this was really nice, I was offered—it was my first real academic appointment, an associate professorship at Yale. I went there and I talked to them. I had been in California at that time and that’s when I was still at the Center, all these things happened. I was living in California and I remember going there like an idiot in open-toe shoes and it was cold. It was sunny in California, but in New Haven it was cold, it was snowy and I was freezing, my toes were wet. I thought, I’m not coming here. I don’t care what they offer me, so I didn’t go there.
SCARPINO: So the National Institute of Education was actually established in 1972. So when you went there it was squeaky new.
LIPMAN-BLUMEN: Right. I went there in ’73.
SCARPINO: How did you come to their attention?
LIPMAN-BLUMEN: Through this same professor who had been at OISE. He left OISE and came to the National Institute of Education and he was the one who told them about me.
SCARPINO: Who was that professor?
LIPMAN-BLUMEN: His name was Bill Spady. He’s quite a remarkable guy actually. He left academia. He does other things.
SCARPINO: So as you’re living and working in Washington and interacting with all these women and these various ad-hoc capacities, did you ever think back to your days at Wellesley and go, I did make a difference.
LIPMAN-BLUMEN: No. You asked me the other day do I think I’m a leader. No, I don’t think I’m a leader. I think I do things at a moment in time when I think there’s a need for it to be done. Okay? I try my hardest to make it happen. Sometimes I’m successful. Sometimes I’m not successful. I’ve always done it with other people. There are not things I just go and do all by myself.
SCARPINO: But that’s not a requirement for being a leader is doing it all by yourself.
LIPMAN-BLUMEN: No. I just have been lucky enough to be at certain historical moments to be in places where I felt I could do certain things or wanted to do certain things, wanted to make certain things happen.
SCARPINO: Do you think that maybe one distinguishing quality of a leader is that maybe many individuals might want to make something happen, but a leader does it and you did.
LIPMAN-BLUMEN: Yeah. I think leaders do make things happen. Peter Drucker says that. Leadership is performance. It’s doing the work. I mean, leadership is not just going out and giving speeches and getting people all excited. You have to do that too, because you have to articulate your ideas in a way that people want to do it. Sometimes I’ve had ideas and I talk about them and I don’t do anything about them, then somebody pushes me into doing it. That happened with the salon. I kept saying, we need to have a salon. Like a 15th century salon where all the brilliant minds of the century come together to discuss the most important issues. What could be more important than discussing what is going to happen to women in this country and in this world in the next 50, 100 years.
SCARPINO: Did the salon usually meet at your house?
LIPMAN-BLUMEN: Always. The year I went to the Center, the State Department apparently tried to do it and it was a huge flop. I don’t know how or where they did it. I think it was successful when I did it because it was so informal. I just sort of threw it together. I never knew how many people were coming. I never asked people to let me know. I just did a guesstimate of how many people there would be and I’d put out refreshments. People would say, oh, can we help pay. I didn’t want anybody to pay because people wanted it to be… wanted there to be a list and we’d send it out and people would pay dues. I didn’t have the time or the patience for that. I really didn’t want to turn it into that kind of a bureaucratic thing. It was much easier to spend a half day on the phone saying the salon is going to take place on such and such a day, such a night, at such and such a time. Everyone knew where it was. I held it when I was living in an apartment in Chevy Chase. I held it when I moved to Bethesda to a house, so people came.
SCARPINO: What happened to the salon when you went back to California in 1983?
LIPMAN-BLUMEN: I think it just sort of died, nothing happened. It didn’t go on. It was just too bad.
SCARPINO: I think you must have been the leader.
LIPMAN-BLUMEN: Well, maybe I was. I was the spirit, put it that way. I was the spirit behind and in front of the salon.
SCARPINO: What drew you to the Carter White House?
LIPMAN-BLUMEN: Their invitation. They invited me to come. It was a heavy time. When I came to Washington Nixon was still president and I didn’t go there because of Nixon. I didn’t go to the White House because of Carter. I was there because I was excited about the idea that it was a place—and the reason I didn’t go to Yale was because I felt even though I was interested—because I was interested in policy and they were offering me a position in policy, I felt I didn’t want to what I call armchair it. I didn’t want to be sitting in New Haven in an armchair pontificating about what kind of policy we should have. I wanted to be, since I was offered an opportunity, I don’t think I would have thought myself to go. I’ve had this very reactive, I’m ashamed to say, reactive kind of life. There isn’t any job, I think, that I ever had other than the first job that I had as a summer job that I ever sought out on my own. Every job that I’ve ever had people have come to me, and so I’ve been unfortunately or fortunately just reactive, saying yes to something and no to others.
SCARPINO: Or you created a situation by the extent of your experience and your work and so on where people sought you out.
LIPMAN-BLUMEN: After I went I tried to do things that I thought were important. I came here, I tried to put together the Female Faculty Forum.
SCARPINO: That still exists, right?
LIPMAN-BLUMEN: Oh, definitely, very definitely.
SCARPINO: Are you still an active participant in that?
LIPMAN-BLUMEN: As much as I can be. When they schedule it on Tuesday, my teaching day, I often don’t go. The other thing is I don’t think that I or anybody should sort of have a stranglehold on things. I think it’s great to sort of step aside and let the next generation come in and do stuff.
SCARPINO: Do you think that that’s a sign of an effective leader to know when it’s time to step aside?
LIPMAN-BLUMEN: Oh, I think it’s critical. A student of mine who’s at the World Bank did a study of countries in Africa, and the ones that were most successful were one where the leaders knew when to step aside. Mandela is a very good example. He only served one term. They wanted him to serve more. He said no. He didn’t have any identified, hand-picked successor. I mean, I think that even if, as in the case of South Africa, it doesn’t keep going up on an even trajectory. I think it’s important for new people to come in with new ideas, new ways of doing things. I or you might look at something at a given moment in time and we think that’s how it needs to be done now. But five years from now there’s an internet suddenly and that opens up totally different possibilities. For example, the Peace Plan. I never, never, never would have tried, even though I thought about those issues, I wouldn’t have presumed to do anything like that or attempt anything like that until social media arrived. I was really struck by a book I read many years ago by Sidney Hook. Did you know Sidney Hook, a book called The Hero in History?
SCARPINO: I don’t, no.
LIPMAN-BLUMEN: Well, he was at Stanford and I believe he was a political scientist, not a historian. He talked about the fact that the historical moment, how critical it is because you can be the greatest leader in the world with all the greatest ideas and the energy and the oomph to make it happen. But if the historical moment is wrong, it will pass right by you, and you’ll never hear from that person. If the historical moment and the qualities of mind or whatever that are necessary to make something happen in that period, exists in someone, if they come together, if there’s a faithful joining of those two, then that person is perceived as a leader. But that person with all those same ideas, those same characteristics, those same motivations, whatever, has not seen this leader, that historical moment is gone. Schwartzkopf was a very good example.
SCARPINO: General Schwartzkopf, first Gulf War.
LIPMAN-BLUMEN: Right. If the war had taken place one year, even six months later, he would have been retired by then. No one would ever have heard about him. No one heard about him outside of military circles before then. That was that moment where the historical moment was right.
SCARPINO: For 10 years you were in Washington, was that the right historical…
LIPMAN-BLUMEN: Eight years.
SCARPINO: Eight years, I’m sorry, was that the right historical moment for a person interested in women’s issues?
LIPMAN-BLUMEN: Oh, absolutely, absolutely. It was thrilling and I don’t use that word lightly. It was exhausting and it was fun and it was heartwarming, it was everything wonderful. The women I met were so fantastic, I mean, really—Jessie Bernard, do you know who she is?
SCARPINO: I do. I was going to ask you about her in a minute.
LIPMAN-BLUMEN: Jessie was a phenomenon. I mean, she was really, really great. I have pictures of her in the other room.
SCARPINO: You co-authored—co-edited a book for her.
LIPMAN-BLUMEN: We did.
SCARPINO: I’m going to ask a different series of questions in a minute, but what do you think of the accomplishments in terms of women’s issues that you were associated with in that time period?
LIPMAN-BLUMEN: Well, I can’t claim that I had any responsibility for the Women’s Educational Equity Act because that had already been passed before I came to Washington. But the implementation of that and things that went with that, Joy Simonson was the person I described before, I worked closely with her. I worked closely with Florence. We just brought issues to the attention of the Congress and we brought issues to the attention of women. It’s too bad we didn’t have the internet because we could have taken over the world. Really, it would have made a huge difference. I think we made people aware of what women could do and made women aware that they could do these things. It was interesting because my mother used to say to me when I was a little kid, she used to say, when you grow up you can be anything you want to be. Then in the next breath she’d say to me, it’s a man’s world. Okay. So these are very contradictive messages. (laughs) I was too dumb to figure out that they were contradictory. I sort of disregarded it was a man’s world and I just kept doing what I did.
SCARPINO: You mother lived to quite a ripe old age.
SCARPINO: How did she respond to your government service?
LIPMAN-BLUMEN: I don’t know exactly. I don’t think she had any particular…
SCARPINO: Carter White House, Special Advisor to the White House’s Domestic Policy Staff.
LIPMAN-BLUMEN: To the Domestic Policy Staff, and it primarily on issues of women and separately education.
SCARPINO: So what would you say that you accomplished?
LIPMAN-BLUMEN: During that time?
SCARPINO: Yeah. About a year, right?
LIPMAN-BLUMEN: Yeah. I think I was there a year or 18 months. Well, we brought a lot of issues to the attention of the White House and I think when they said education and women’s issues that they thought I’d spend five minutes on women’s issues during my lunch hour. But we did a lot of things and we did white papers and we did things that they had to come to grips with. I think we did create programs for women and we got budgets for women, for women’s issues.
SCARPINO: Examples of programs that you created would be what?
LIPMAN-BLUMEN: We had, for example, even my own little program at the National Institute of Education, we had a contracts and grants program. We gave out more than a million dollars a year. It was much more than that, I think we had... I don’t want to give you a number because I don’t really remember, but we had a fair bit of money, and we gave contracts and grants to women researchers who would go out and do these studies, and they would be published and they would have an impact, so on all kinds of issues. Certainly, the Women’s Educational Equity Act has made a huge difference in universities and colleges and even I think in high schools because that’s the act that says that if you’re giving money to an educational institution for sports, that you have to give even-handedly to male sports and female sports. You have to give the same amount. The men in academic sports were enraged because that’s…
SCARPINO: So that’s where we get Title IX.
LIPMAN-BLUMEN: That’s exactly where Title IX came from. The Women’s Educational Equity Act, Title IX is part of that.
SCARPINO: I mean, I wanted to be sure that somebody who’s listening to this connects those dots.
LIPMAN-BLUMEN: Yes. That’s Title IX.
SCARPINO: You were responsible for implementing that act.
LIPMAN-BLUMEN: For helping to implement. I wasn’t the only one, let me assure you, I was just one of hundreds of people, maybe thousands who were doing it. So please, I don’t in any way want to overplay what I did. I was just one of the many people there who worked together with a lot of enthusiasm and energy to make these things come about. But there were all kinds of grants that we gave for programs at different universities to do studies on women. I couldn’t begin to recount them. We gave money I remember to Dina Safilios-Rothschild who was at Case Western Reserve at the time and she got a huge grant to do a study on women. I mean, you could probably go back and look up NIE Grant.
SCARPINO: Right, those would be in there. If somebody wants to find them, those are a matter of public record. What did you learn about leadership while you were in the White House?
LIPMAN-BLUMEN: I learned a lot. I really did. I wasn’t even interested in studying leadership at that time. I was focusing on women, not on leadership, per se. But I learned a lot and I think I mentioned some of this to you yesterday. How people like to be at the seed of power, of what they perceive to be the seed of power. I call it the Garden of Eden. They want to be part of the leader’s entourage. There’s a wonderful book by F. G. Bailey called something and manipulation (editor’s note: the book is Humbuggery and Manipulation: The Art of Leadership), and it’s about leaders and how they manipulate their entourages and how the entourages manipulate the public, etc. It’s up on that shelf, that’s why I’m looking up there. I was astounded to see how people clung to that. There were hanging on to the White House for dear life and they wanted power. I had a certain disdain for that because I—and I still do, I feel you should only want authority or power to make whatever needs to happen happen at that time. You shouldn’t have this blank slate, that you just have “power” to do anything you want. Power for what? I keep asking the leadership of the ILA, leadership for what? What is it that we want to do with leadership? Is it that we want leadership because we want to feel we’re important and people look to us for our opinions or whatever, or is it because we want to accomplish something for a greater good, not for ourselves, not to make ourselves look fantastic, but to make a difference in the world. I think that’s what leadership is about and I think in Washington they have the capacity to do that. I feel absolutely outraged at the way they’re conducting themselves. I think we should turn out every single one of them and start afresh. I don’t mean the president, but I mean in the Congress.
SCARPINO: Who gets to decide what it means to make a difference?
LIPMAN-BLUMEN: Well, I think we all get to decide that and we all get to decide what differences need to be made. As long as they’re ethical and legal and they don’t harm people, that they add a measure of good, some positive increment to whatever, whether it’s where you work, or whether it’s in your local community, or it may be just in your neighborhood. When I came here I started a neighborhood watch. (laughs)
SCARPINO: Here means where you live right now?
LIPMAN-BLUMEN: Right here with the person across the street. Okay? So we started that. I mean, I like organizing things. I find that fun.
SCARPINO: Is that a mark of leadership, in general?
LIPMAN-BLUMEN: No. I don’t think so. I don’t think so. Look at Gandhi. He couldn’t have organized his way out of a paper bag, but he was a brilliant, fantastic leader. I don’t think organizing is.... it helps if you know how to organize because you can bring people together to hear ideas and to get things rolling.
SCARPINO: Gandhi had a vision. Do you have one?
LIPMAN-BLUMEN: Well, I can’t put myself in that category.
SCARPINO: I’m not asking you to compare yourself to Gandhi.
LIPMAN-BLUMEN: Well, I think the Peace Plan is something that is a way of looking at the world as the way in which it can be if we choose to make it that way. When Robert Kennedy said, “I look at what is and I ask, what could be?” I think that that’s important. What could we do differently? Why are we wasting billions, trillions of dollars in the most obscene, negative way, killing people, blowing up buildings, polluting the atmosphere, doing things that are so destructive. What is the point? I honestly, maybe I’m missing something. I don’t get it. Why aren’t we taking that money and feeding people who don’t have enough to eat. Why aren’t we putting houses up for people who are living in tents? Why aren’t we educating people? I know I have a bias as an educator, but when I look at what goes on in the world in terms of hatreds and conflicts, so much of it comes from a lack of education, from a narrowness of perspective. Did you read that there was a minister in New Town –
LIPMAN-BLUMEN: Who went to an interfaith meeting. I went back to see what denomination he was. He was Lutheran and he was chastised by the higher-ups in the church who sent him a letter saying he should apologize for going to a meeting where there would be other religious faiths represented, and he did apologize, if you can believe that. I’d say go fly a kite, myself. Then the one who asked for the apology got so much of an outcry against that because of his reason. Do you know what his reason was? That Lutherans—I didn’t even know this—apparently believe that Lutheranism and Jesus Christ are the only true way, you know, the only true religion, and if you go to something where there are others there, you are giving people the impression that you’re giving them status, you’re legitimating these other religions. Well, at any rate, I find that so antediluvian to say the least.
SCARPINO: You left the Carter White House in 1978, and you started…
LIPMAN-BLUMEN: No. I went to the Center. I left the White House because I was invited to the Center. You asked what I learned at the White House. I learned—what I started to tell you before—how people cling to power, even the tiniest vestiges, the illusion of power. They don’t even have to have power, okay? But just to be in a place where they feel that they’re in that aura and that they can say they worked at the White House. People who are answering phones as volunteers, and I told you there was a woman there who was in Carter’s advanced team, she was a volunteer, her mother would pay for her to go to whatever the city was where the advanced team had to go pay for her hotel bill, pay for everything, just so this person could say that she worked on the Carter advanced team. I found that incredible and incredulous.
SCARPINO: So you were invited to the Center and you were there for how long?
LIPMAN-BLUMEN: You can only be there for one year.
SCARPINO: You had a research project.
LIPMAN-BLUMEN: That’s when I was writing Gender Roles and Power. So I wrote a lot of it while I was there and diddled away a certain amount of time, I’m sure, and then came home and finished it.
SCARPINO: Then you went back to Washington after that year.
LIPMAN-BLUMEN: Yes. I went back to live in Washington and that’s when I opened my own consulting company.
SCARPINO: LBS International Limited.
LIPMAN-BLUMEN: Then that’s when I taught the first year back at University of Connecticut. Subsequently taught, I didn’t teach, but ran the Women’s Studies Program at Maryland. It’s really interesting, I was really appalled by this. Somebody whom I met many years later who had been on the search committee out here said the one thing that he felt that was really bad on my resume was that I was the head of the—the interim head of the Women’s Studies Program.
SCARPINO: Why did you start a consulting firm?
LIPMAN-BLUMEN: I had to put a roof over my head. I had kids I had to feed. That’s what I knew how to do. I understood policy. The first contract I had was to do—very interesting, a contract that I wrote the proposal for and I did it with Amitai Etzioni. Do you know who he is?
SCARPINO: I don’t know.
LIPMAN-BLUMEN: Well, he was a sociologist. I say was. I think he’s still living. At any rate, he didn’t do any of it. It went through his company and he never had any part in it. But they wanted us to help the executive office of the president function more effectively. My first project in my company, it was between my company and his company, was with the White House under a different administration. Okay? By now this was the Reagan administration.
SCARPINO: Did they know who they hired?
LIPMAN-BLUMEN: I guess. I don’t think they really did, you know? I don’t think they did because they didn’t ask.
SCARPINO: I didn’t mean that you were unqualified, but you were the feminist and…
LIPMAN-BLUMEN: No. Political and I understood your point. I think they didn’t. All they did was read a proposal and decide on that basis. Then the second proposal that I wrote was for a strategic planning study to help the USDA Office of Research and Extension identify—teach them how to do strategic planning. We won that project and that was wonderful. It lasted for about two years or so and it introduced me to a world that I never knew existed. It was very exciting. It was all about agriculture, for someone who had never been on a farm. We wrote a whole bunch of recommendations. We wrote, I think it was for that project, that we wrote the 47 recommendations and they accepted them all, which was amazing, because when we came into it, I was like the worst, the most inappropriate person for that proposal, that one even moreso, because agriculture is… my metaphor was a small town stretched taught over the United States. Everybody knew everybody. Everybody went to a land-grant university. Everybody who went to a land-grant university who was now in that field had been taught by—this one had been taught by that one’s uncle, and this one by that one’s brother. It was very I don’t want to say incestuous, but everybody knew everybody, and so there was a lot of trust in the community. When I appeared on the scene it was like, whoa, who is this? Who is this Harvard person who never grew up on a farm, never went to a land-grant university, knows nothing. In the proposal I said, “We know nothing about agriculture, but we know a lot about strategic planning, and I present this to you as a strength because I come without any”—and this turned out to be far more important than I understood at the time—“we come to this with no preconceived ideas about what part of the system is stronger or better or whatever than any other. So we come to look at this with totally fresh eyes and to offer you our expertise in strategic planning.” We got the thing.
Then when I appeared on the scene, I remember one time going to a conference that was run by a tobacco company for all of agriculture, and I was on a bus from the hotel to the conference center sitting next to the deputy assistant secretary for extension. He said, “Oh, are you Jean Lipman-Blumen?” I said, “Yes.” He said, “Well, you know we’ve been told not to talk to you.” I said, “What? What do you mean not talk to me?” “Well, we need to know if you’re going to write another…”—I think it was called the Hyde Report, or the Hite Report—there had been a study done some years before that had said that agricultural research was mediocre science, that was the phrase. They felt this was another outside person who didn’t understand agriculture coming in who would come in and say, this is—would reiterate that. But over the two and a half years that I did this I got to know the community very, very well and I really loved them. I thought they were like Norman Rockwell, decent human beings who were trying to do the right thing. In some instances the green revolution had been much maligned. They thought they were doing something wonderful. They didn’t realize that there was the other consequences and sequelae that came with pesticides and herbicides and all that. I learned a lot there.
SCARPINO: They were probably still angry at Rachel Carson for…
LIPMAN-BLUMEN: Oh, yeah. They were. They were. The word environmentalist, that was like saying Satan. Environmentalist, conservationist, forget it, they were the enemy. That’s changed, I’m sure.
SCARPINO: In 1979 you co-edited your first book, Social Policy and Sex Roles with Jessie Bernard. I’m just going to say for the benefit of somebody who’s going to listen to this interview or read the transcript that in 1979 Jessie Bernard was a senior accomplished scholar. She’d written I counted 15 sole-authored books, nine co-authored books, dozens of articles and chapters, a pioneer in feminist sociology. I read a little bit of her stuff and I found a quote that she wrote about her profession and about society.
LIPMAN-BLUMEN: Now what did she say?
SCARPINO: She said, “I’m concerned, as any fair-minded person must be, with the effects of sexism on the position of women in our profession and in our society; but I’m also concerned, as any dedicated sociologist must be, with its effects on our discipline as well.” I don’t really know very much about sociology, but what I read there was the words of a scholar and a social activist asking people to think about fundamental social values and practices and to change. That sounds like you. I’m kind of wondering how you came to collaborate with Jessie Bernard. This must have been a little bit like collaborating with your disciplinary deity here. She was very well-accomplished, extraordinary well—how did you know her? How did she come to be your collaborator?
LIPMAN-BLUMEN: This is what happened. We were together, we had both been invited to a conference at Radcliff and that’s where I believe I first met Jessie and she was living in Washington. I think I was at NIE by that time, maybe not quite, but it must have been close to that. NIE wanted to have in- house scholars, in addition—you see, they had this idea of the think tank that then blew up, so then they still had money to invite certain eminent scholars to come and spend a year at NIE to help them think through and be thought leaders. So I nominated Jessie, and Jessie lived in Washington, so it was easy for her to do it. She agreed to do it. She came to NIE and that’s how she and I got to know each other. That book, if I recall correctly, it’s sitting up there on the next to top shelf, if I recall correctly, that came out of a session at the International Sociological Association that Jessie and I ran, and we had people speaking on that panel. Then the International Sociological Association asked us would we do a book on it. We said yes. That’s how that came about. But then Jessie and I became dear friends. We became like family. We used to take walks together and she was a tough taskmaster. She was always on my case saying, “Well, what are you working on now? Tell me what you’re doing and why are you doing it?” I would be working on things, but that conversation, those conversations were very helpful to me for this reason and I find that it’s always the case. When you have people who ask you questions, substantive questions about what you’re doing, you can have an idea, but you don’t have all the interstices, you don’t have all the links. When you have to explain it to someone, you think you understand it in your head, but when somebody asks you, well, how is that connected to that, then you have to articulate it. You have to think that through. I go through the same experience when I face a computer screen, that I write something, and then I think, but how do I get from here to there. I mean, I’ve always thought this and this were connected, but what’s the in-between thing. Jessie and I used to take long walks and talk about—she was very, very work-oriented.
She was very serious. She had a good sense of humor. I don’t mean she wasn’t lighthearted and funny. I’ll show you a picture, a wonderful picture I have of her laughing that was so typical of Jessie. But she became like a mother to me. She kept egging me on to do this and that and the next thing. Then, I think when people ask me, how did I ever get the idea for connective leadership, I think—I wish Jessie were alive now, I know she did this. She said to me because I did the salon, and she thought I was this fantastic organizer, okay? She thought I could organize the world.
SCARPINO: She was right.
LIPMAN-BLUMEN: I think she gave me the courage to do it. Do you know what I mean?
She made me think I could. She said to me one time, “Jean, I think you need to bring together the pro-choice and the pro-life forces and get them to agree.” I said, “Oh sure, Jessie. How do you—I think I could just handle that on a weekend. That would be a simple thing to do.” I said, “How do you propose I do that?” She said to me, “Think about it this way. They disagree on a lot of things, but they both really are opposed to pornography. Begin there.”
SCARPINO: Were you in the Carter White House when this happened?
LIPMAN-BLUMEN: I don’t remember because I knew Jessie for a long time after that. I wasn’t thinking about connect—it must have been while I was still at, I think maybe at NIE, before the White House.
SCARPINO: She said the one thing they have in common is that they both dislike pornography. So then what did you do?
LIPMAN-BLUMEN: Well, I just sort of dismissed that possibility of my working with them because I thought, that’s not do-able. How am I going to do that? I have to work on things that I think I can have an impact on. But I think that planted a seed in my head somewhere, in my brain and my soul, that many years later grew into connective leadership, because that is what connective leaders do. They bring people together around issues that they care about and they disregard the disagreements between or among the groups. They don’t care if you’re Catholic and I’m a Jewish atheist. They say, don’t worry about that. Don’t get into that discussion with them. Talk about leadership because they both care about leadership, and once they get to know each other and like each other, they’ll discover they have all kinds of things in common that they will want to work together. You just have to be able to have the connective eye to see, what’s the connection between these two people or these two groups?
SCARPINO: Do you have the connective eye?
LIPMAN-BLUMEN: Yeah. I think I do. I think I really do in a very conscious way. I mean, for example, a student when I went around the room the first day of one
of my classes this year, one of the people in the class said she worked with gangs, with L.A. gangs, and I forget what exactly she was working on. Well, I gave a talk at Mount St. Mary’s college a few months ago and I talked about the Peace Plan, and somebody there, a sister there put me in touch with somebody else called Sister Inez, who has worked with
L.A. gangs to turn them toward peace. So I told her to call Sister Inez and I put them together through the internet and she told me they had dinner together.
SCARPINO: You never really acted on this idea. It was just an idea.
LIPMAN-BLUMEN: It was an idea. I never did anything about it. But I think that it sort of was in the back of my head. I mean, that’s the only—I can’t think of how else I might have come to think about connective leadership. But you see connective leadership is the tail wagging the dog on the research that I did with Hal Levitt on achieving styles because what we were interested in was—and this came out of the women’s movement and came out of my dissertation, I had asked one question in that huge questionnaire about how do you achieve your sense of satisfaction of achievement. Is it on the one extreme, remember these were married women doing their—typing their husbands’ dissertation, is it totally through your husband or is it totally through your own activities or some combination in between. That was called orientation to motive, achievement, satisfaction, known as OMAS, okay, because that started the whole thing in a way because we wanted to know how did women go about achieving their goals? Originally, it was just direct versus vicarious. Did you do it directly or did you do it through somebody else. You see, I was interested in vicarious achievement because I felt my mother was a vicarious achiever. I felt she had given up being a direct achiever when she got married and she wanted me to go out and do all these things and then she could say she was Jean Lipman’s mother. Up to a point she was satisfied with that. Later on, I think, she wasn’t satisfied with that.
SCARPINO: But vicarious became one of the achieving styles associated with connective leadership.
LIPMAN-BLUMEN: Yes. I wrote some early papers on direct versus vicarious achievement in men and women and I gave papers on that at the American Sociological and the International Sociological.
SCARPINO: Jessie Bernard suggests then that you bring the pro-abortion and the anti- abortion people together, make the common ground pornography, and then the research that you did on achieving styles…
LIPMAN-BLUMEN: Came together many years later because as this model became more articulated…
SCARPINO: We’re looking at the model for achieving styles and it’s the same one that’s on your website, Connective Leadership.
LIPMAN-BLUMEN: Right. Yeah. As that became more articulated through a huge amount of research that Hal and I and our graduate students did, and we saw that it was more than direct and vicarious, that there were all these other elements to achieving. People in those days were so interested in how women did things versus men did things because there was this mythology that women couldn’t do this and women couldn’t do that. I was on a task force for the U.S. military when I was in Washington where they took us to Ft. Benning, I think. Is Ft. Benning in Georgia?
SCARPINO: Yes. If it’s the training school..?
LIPMAN-BLUMEN: Yeah. I forget where else. We went to two different bases where they had us up at 3:00 in the morning to do calisthenics because we were supposed to advise them on what MAS is. Those are the job categories.
SCARPINO: Military Application Specialty…
LIPMAN-BLUMEN: …should be closed to women or which should be open to women. I think their agenda was to make it so tough for us that we would say, you’re right, you’re right, women can’t get up at 3:00 in the morning and do calisthenics, forget it. This was a funny story.
SCARPINO: They may not want to, but no sane person wants to do that.
LIPMAN-BLUMEN: Yeah, right. But they took us out on the artillery and we had to get down on our stomachs and shoot with the gun against our shoulder. I had the funniest experience because the target was, it seemed to me, a mile away. I mean, it was really far away. I had this big guy who—we each were assigned to an instructor, and he told us, get down on the ground and now you put it on your shoulder and you do this and you do that and now you pull the trigger. I wasn’t even trying to aim but I hit the target, and he thought I was aiming and he was so blown away; so was I, frankly. He said to me, “Well, would you like to try it again?” I said, “No thank you. I saw how it works.” I got up and walked away because I knew I couldn’t repeat that. I was on that task force and we made recommendations to the five-star general, whoever that was. So, I was involved… you make me remember things I’d long since forgotten. All of those things sort of came together and Hal and I worked on this beginning in 1973, I do believe. No, in 1972. We began in 1972 because I went to Washington in ‘73, but we maintained research groups. He had one at Stanford. I had one in Maryland. We would write papers together and we published about 15 papers at that time on achieving styles, direct, vicarious, the whole thing. Then he went on and did other things. He lost interest in doing that. That’s when I began to think about leadership and began to think about connective leadership. I didn’t even connect it to this originally. But then I began to understand how those things came together. That if you were a connective leader, you need all of this repertoire of achieving styles because the cues, environmental cues keep changing, and you need to be able to respond. In one situation I might have to do it by myself because no one else is there.
SCARPINO: Connective leadership is situational leadership. Is that the correct conclusion?
LIPMAN-BLUMEN: That’s part of it. That’s not the only thing. But it has to do with this very special way of bringing people together who understand this central idea that right now the biggest challenges in the world, I think, are diversity and interdependence. John Kenneth Galbraith when he was asked, what, of all the great leaders that you met, what did they have in common? He said just one thing: They understood how to deal with the tensions of their time. I think the tensions of our time arise from this contradiction. This is what most people don’t see, that there’s a contradiction between interdependence and diversity, because diversity says, particularly for groups that are just developing and being accorded legitimacy for their identity, they want to be their own person or their own group with their own characteristics and their own uniqueness, their own—what is it that we talk about the U.S., what’s the word?
LIPMAN-BLUMEN: No. It will come to me. But on the one hand that’s what diversity talks about, about uniqueness, who I am and how I do things differently. Even the women’s movement was about that. It was about women. First they wanted, say, we can do everything that men can. Then it sort of shifted and it was, women do other things, but these are good things to do and they do them in a special way. But then interdependence talks about mutuality, doing things together. Well, these things pull in very different directions. There’s a huge tension and a lot of anxiety that arises as a result of that tension. I think connective leaders, this is the central core of connective leadership, that they understand that contradiction between diversity and interdependence, and they know how to bring together groups that are individuals that are diverse, but who must willy nilly work and live together. Okay? So that is the core of connective leadership. But then you see there are other aspects to it because connective leaders more than any other kind of leaders have to be what I call authentic. Authentic for me, it was a poor choice of words because it really means something else in today’s lingo, but authentic to me means that the leader is committed not to him or herself, or his or her personal goals, but to the group, to the mission, to what they’re trying to accomplish. Therefore, when they use… they also have to have a consistent dedication, not to their own goals, but to the goals of the group or the strategy or whatever, and they also have to have accountability. They have to be willing to look at their mistakes, to acknowledge them to say this is how I got into this or got us into this mess. So it means transparency. But the reason authenticity is so critical, critical, because it means that they are ethical and they are legal and they are committed to something beyond themselves. That’s important because when they pay attention to the situational cues, and they move around this repertoire of very different kinds of strategies for accomplishing goals. People have to have bedrock belief in their integrity, so that if one day I say, let’s collaborate on this. But the next day you come over and there’s a sign on my door that says, do not disturb, working against a deadline. You think, what a hypocrite. She said she wants to collaborate, but now she wants to work herself. But if you know that what I’m doing is not for me, but it’s for the thing you and I are working on together. You say, I don’t know what she’s doing, but I trust her. I believe in her. I put myself in her hands. I accept the way she’s doing things, particularly, because she’s going to be transparent. When she opens the door, she’s going to say, Joe, I’m sorry I had to do that, but I had a deadline and this guy called for me, it’s Timbuktu and wanted it two minutes later, blah, blah, blah. Okay. So you say, fine, Jean, I get it, because I wasn’t working on my own stuff, I was working on the stuff we’re working on together. This all came together for me in this thing and I began to understand how connective leaders needed to have this very complex repertoire of styles that they could use in different combinations depending upon the circumstances, but they wouldn’t be able to use them with any effectiveness if they didn’t have authenticity and accountability. I call authenticity and accountability the two imperatives of connective leadership. Jessie would be shocked to think that that recommendation to me grew into this.
SCARPINO: Or, she might just be tickled to death that a seed she planted had grown into this.
LIPMAN-BLUMEN: I hope so.
SCARPINO: Just for the benefit of somebody who’s listening to this recording in the future or reading the transcript. We’re looking at a schematic, it’s also on the website for Connective Leadership Institute, that it’s a circle divided up. Well, I better do this in an organized way for myself here. So you’ve got three sets of leadership achieving styles; direct, instrumental and relational. Each of those achieving styles has three individual styles. You kind of end up with like a nine-fold palate there. For example, the direct achieving style includes three individual achieving styles; intrinsic, competitive and power. Instrumental achieving style also has three individual achieving styles; personal, social and entrusting. The relational achieving style also embraces three individual achieving styles; collaborative, contributory and vicarious. So there’s a vicarious that goes all the way back to your mother. For the benefit of somebody who’s listening to this or reading the transcript, they can always go to the Connective Leadership website or publications and look at them.
LIPMAN-BLUMEN: Or go on the web and look up connective leadership.
SCARPINO: We’ve talked some about how your research brought you to this particular model of leadership. But I’m thinking as I did reading for this interview and thinking about what we said last time that there’s more work here than just sort of advice literature, that Connective Leadership really encourages people to think about the way they practice leadership and the context in which they practice, it’s really calling for social change. It’s been kind of a geopolitical era and a connective era. Could you talk a little bit about that?
LIPMAN-BLUMEN: Right. Absolutely. I was going to bring that up because I do think that we have already entered into the connective era. When I first began writing this and I think that I noticed something on the web the other night. I think the first paper I wrote about this was in 1982 when I talked about connective leadership and females as connective leaders. At that time the connective era was just barely visible. Now, I think it’s totally visible. When Thomas Friedman talks about the hyperconnective world or people talk about globalization, the term globalization had not been invented at that point. The connective era, it means more than just globalization because it’s not just being connected to people around the globe, it’s being connected to people right next door and in the community and all over the place. It isn’t just globalization. The geopolitical era, which I think that was through the cold war period and we were just in the beginnings of the clarity I think of the connective era. But the geopolitical era was defined by geography, geographic borders and political ideology that coalesced so that there was the NATO pact and the Warsaw pact. In that period there were long-term alliances, big alliance, political, geopolitical alliances that lasted for very long periods of time and they hung together. They wanted to march in lockstep together. The member of the alliance that had the most relevant resources were usually military and economic, called the shots, and any member of the coalition who didn’t go along was looked at askance if not seen as a traitor or a royal pain. France often played that role, not because they were traitors or whatever, but because the French have their own mind. There are all these saying about the French, they don’t pay attention to their own leaders. De Gaulle thought that he was the only one who was good enough to be called a real Frenchman. In the connective era things are quite different. There are short-term coalitions, that leaders call people together to deal with problems that those constituents are concerned about and they work together on those problems and then they dissipate and maybe one or two people from that group or parties from that group would come together with a whole bunch of other people on a different issue. When Clinton was first elected, before he came into office, he ran an economic summit and he brought all these people together from across the economic spectrum and the media went crazy and they said, oh, this is wonderful. He’s brought all these people together. But will he be able to keep this coalition together over the next four years? I thought, wrong question. Why would he keep this group together to solve issues that have to do with education, that have to do with agriculture, that have to do with the environment, maybe some of these people would be there, but there are other groups and parties and constituents that should be brought to the table. It’s sort of like a kaleidoscope. There are all these pieces. You look at it and you turn it and depending upon the need, certain groups clustered together, they do whatever they do, and then they dissipate, they go off and do other things.
SCARPINO: But there’s still a leader there who’s making this happen.
LIPMAN-BLUMEN: Yeah. Yeah. I think leaders are always important. I think we talked the other day about how the occupy movement really lost an incredible, incredible opportunity to make huge social change because they refused to deal with the issue of leadership. This idea of the geopolitical era giving way to the connective era and, again, there’s no sharp cutoff. It’s like waves on the beach. One wave comes in and washes in and then it adds, another one crashes over it. You can’t really see a clear cutoff point. Sometimes some dramatic thing happens usually in international events. It could be geophysical. It could be a meteorite.
SCARPINO: So crisis is an agent of change.
LIPMAN-BLUMEN: Yes. Oh, without doubt. Without doubt. Things can change. 9/11 marked the end of an era in a certain way. But most of the time it doesn’t happen quite that way. Eras sort of emerge slowly from another. But I think that the connective era has begun to come into its own. The internet is the metaphor for the connective era. It didn’t exist when I was first writing about the connective era. But that’s clearly a metaphor for that.
SCARPINO: I’m going to just, like to give me a segue to do something here. In 1983 you accepted an appointment as the Thornton F. Bradshaw Chair of Public Policy and Professor of Organizational Behavior at the Peter F. Drucker and Masatoshi Ito Graduate School of Management, at the Claremont Graduate University.
LIPMAN-BLUMEN: Yeah. It was then called Claremont Graduate School. SCARPINO: So we didn’t have Drucker or …
LIPMAN-BLUMEN: No. No. They had a business program.
SCARPINO: Peter Drucker was associated with it.
LIPMAN-BLUMEN: Yes. He was here and he recruited me.
SCARPINO: Okay. I was going to say, you knew him. He recruited you.
LIPMAN-BLUMEN: No. I didn’t know him.
SCARPINO: Well, you knew him after you got here.
LIPMAN-BLUMEN: Yes. I had no idea who he was when he called me. That tells you how ignorant I was. We had long talks on the telephone for several hours at a time when he was trying to convince me that I should come and that I would not be hogtied and confined to a narrow area of expertise. I could do whatever I wanted. It so happened, we were talking about this with someone the other night, about how sometimes a job description is written that sounds like it was written for you.
SCARPINO: You and I were talking about this.
LIPMAN-BLUMEN: Yeah. That’s what that was. When I read that, I thought, that is weird. That’s exactly what I didn’t do. I mean, I didn’t see the announcement. They came to me. But I didn’t want to move again. I loved living in Washington and my business was taking off and I was doing all kinds of fun things, so I didn’t particularly want to come out here.
SCARPINO: When you did come out here, you also served as Director of the Achieving Styles Institute and that was a private…
LIPMAN-BLUMEN: All that is, is my consulting work.
SCARPINO: Right. So you moved it out here with you.
SCARPINO: That became Connective Leadership.
LIPMAN-BLUMEN: Right. We changed names.
SCARPINO: For the benefit, again, of people listening or reading, in 1984 you published Gender Roles and Power, I think that was your first single author book. The book really was published to great acclaim and you were nominated for the Jessie Bernard award of the American Sociological Association. You won several prizes for that book including the Distinguished Contribution to Scholarship Award of the American Sociological Association, but you didn’t get the Jessie Bernard award that year.
LIPMAN-BLUMEN: No, and it was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize as well and didn’t get it.
SCARPINO: We’ve talked a little bit about that, but in 1996 you published The Connective Edge: Leading in an Interdependent World, and I’m pointing that out because we just spent 15 minutes talking about that. That was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. This time you did win the Jessie Bernard award.
LIPMAN-BLUMEN: Did I?
SCARPINO: Sure. (laughs) At least that’s what the information that my research assistant said. Now, Dr. Bernard, Jessie Bernard was still alive then. Did you ever have a chance to talk to her about winning the prize named after her or anything like that?
LIPMAN-BLUMEN: We never talked about things like that. One of the wonderful things about Jessie, and I hope that I learned that from her, she was a very—humble isn’t the right word, she wasn’t interested in acclaim, okay? She was interested in doing. She was interested in writing. She was interested in ideas. She didn’t care about acclaim. She got millions of awards and they meant nothing to her. I learned that from her and I also—my husband, however, was like that. He didn’t care about… he wanted people to respect his work, but he wasn’t narcissistic, he didn’t want everybody to adulate him. I really like that idea that you didn’t focus on the awards. Focus on the work. Focus on what you’re trying to do.
SCARPINO: I’ll follow up on that and ask the question in a different way. What do the acts of research and writing mean to you?
LIPMAN-BLUMEN: They’re terribly important. They’re really central to my existence. That I like always have ideas about things I want to do. See all those folders up there. Those are the books that I’m keeping notes for future books.
SCARPINO: Behind me are piles of the current book.
LIPMAN-BLUMEN: Of the current book and I’ve worked on that this weekend, so I’m really happy about that. But writing and having ideas and talking with people who have good ideas is very, very important to me. It’s very central to my life. Jessie wrote until she was in her late 80’s or mid-80’s at least. I mean, she was phenomenal and every time I teach a class I write her name on the board and I tell them, I think I mentioned to you, I have a do not dare to die before you read list, that’s sort of a spontaneous list. She’s always on that list. It really breaks my heart when I ask people, do you know who Jessie Bernard is, not a hand goes up. But then I ask them, do you know who Maks Veber was, one hand goes up. Do you know who Emile Durkheim was? They don’t know who these people are. Maybe they know who Freud is, I don’t know. Probably not.
SCARPINO: I’d say that that’s a higher name recognition than the others that you mentioned. But as a person who teaches introductory history every semester I’m pretty well aware of what people don’t know.
LIPMAN-BLUMEN: But Jessie was not interested in acclaim and I don’t care about it either, frankly. I mean, that isn’t important to me. What’s important to me is ideas and the promulgation of ideas, to get ideas out there. I don’t care if anybody associates my name with connective leadership or with the Peace Plan. I just want people to understand those ideas to the degree that they find them useful, use them. That’s what I care about. When people tell me that, for example, my certain books have been translated into Chinese and no one ever asked permission, I’d say, who cares? That’s fine. It doesn’t matter as long as the ideas get out. I don’t need royalties.
SCARPINO: Without asking you to self-promote, here’s the question that’s sort of been in the back of my mind, when Connective Leadership came out, it obviously represented years and years of research and thinking. We talked a little bit about the pieces that came together.
LIPMAN-BLUMEN: I might add it’s not simply a theory. We have developed a set of instruments for measuring people’s achieving styles, their individual achieving styles, the achieving styles of organizations. We’ve done a 360 achieving styles measure, and we’ve done something that can evaluate people in terms of their achieving styles profile and the match between their achieving styles profile and the achieving styles profile of the role or the team or the project that they might be on.
SCARPINO: This is through the connective leadership, isn’t it?
SCARPINO: The question I wanted to ask you and I thought about this after I talked to Fred Fielder, who as quite a young man published what turned out to be a seminal article. I asked him, “As you could hear the presses running, did you have any idea of the impact that this was going to have?” And he said, “Yeah.” He said, “It kind of scared me. I was a young man and I really didn’t know what kind of an impact this was going to have on my colleagues or whether people were going to be jealous or whatever.” As the connective leader book was going to press, did you have any idea at all of what you were about to unleash, I mean, the impact that it was about to have?
LIPMAN-BLUMEN: Do you know what? I will tell you what I used to think when I worked on that book, and I was writing it in the other room, and I remember sometimes thinking to myself, am I killing myself writing this book? Will anybody even read it? Will there be one person who will pick this book up and actually read it? I was thinking at the other end of the spectrum. I sometimes wonder even as I write this book, is anybody going to read it, or when I wrote, The Allure of Toxic Leaders. I’m always surprised when people come up to me and say they have read it.
SCARPINO: Do you have a working title for the book that you’re now struggling through?
SCARPINO: Can you tell me what that is?
LIPMAN-BLUMEN: Well, yes.
SCARPINO: Just a working title.
LIPMAN-BLUMEN: Yeah. The working title and I’m very bad at titles. I should never have called it The Connective Edge, but that was supposed to be a visual title. It was supposed to look like this, the connective whatever edge. This was supposed to be crossed out. No, I’m sorry. This was supposed to say the competitive edge because that was a phrase, and up here it was supposed to be written in connective. That was a stupid title because they took The Connective Edge, just put it on the book, and that meant nothing. When people tried to look up leadership books, this didn’t come up because leadership wasn’t in the title. Too bad, but, no, the title of the new book is Leading Through Crisis: Getting by on More Than a Wing and a Prayer. Do you like it?
SCARPINO: I do. It certainly sounds as though it’s going to connect back to another subject you’ve been thinking about for years and years and years, which is crisis.
LIPMAN-BLUMEN: Yes. What it’s going to do is I’m trying to bring together, without being repetitive, my work on connective leadership because I believe that connective leaders will be better leaders in crisis because they have the flexibility. If you can use all of these, you have tremendous range, okay? You can do all kinds of things and you have to be able to move quickly and adaptively in crisis.
SCARPINO: I assume that there are some people, and maybe President Clinton is one of them, who are sort of intrinsically connective leaders. I mean, he seems to practice that kind of style. But I also assume that you believe that people can be taught to do this.
LIPMAN-BLUMEN: Yes, I do. I do. I do think that that issue about leaders born and made, it’s a little combination of both in a sense. I mean, really great leaders, Gandhi taught himself. He really did. I mean, I’ve read Gandhi’s biography and I’ve read a lot about Gandhi. Gandhi taught himself and there were experiences that he had that were epiphanies for him that made him realize that he had to do things that he hadn’t done before that he wasn’t planning on doing. He didn’t start out to be that leader. He started out to be a barrister. He trained in London to be a barrister. He used to have his suits tailor-made at the same place where John Kennedy had his made. It took him a while to understand he couldn’t dress in the costume of his oppressors. He had to use more personal strategies, to use costume, to use drama, to use everything about himself to magnetize people, to draw them to his cause. I think people teach themselves to be leaders. Circumstances teach you. You understand when you do something and you fall on your face and that didn’t work, you learn not to do that again, or you learn that you did something a certain way and it worked. For example, I went to a UN conference on the status of women in Nairobi many years—in ‘85, and when we got there, there was a big to-do about not having enough hotel rooms. They’d had five years to get it together, but they didn’t listen and they didn’t believe that many people would show up. The first night we were there the director of the hotel called everybody together in the ballroom to announce that we would have to move out of our rooms because we were the first wave. The NGO’s come first, then there’s a week in which NGO’s and official state delegations are there and that’s when everything’s crowded. Then the third week it’s just the state delegations and the NGO’s have gone home. They wanted us to leave town before the state delegations came. We weren’t about to do this. I sat in the back of the room with Florence. We had gone there together. There was a woman up at the front—
SCARPINO: Florence’s last name for the benefit of our listeners?
LIPMAN-BLUMEN: Herman. There was a woman leading the discussion and saying, what should we do? How do we deal with this? Blah, blah, blah. This was going on and it was midnight and this woman walked off the stage. Everyone thought she went to the restroom or something. She didn’t come back. It was like this throng, this leaderless throng. Florence and I decided that we would have to do something about this. We got a petition. There were 2,000 women there. I don’t know that we got all of them to sign it, but we felt we were speaking in their name. I called up the office of the president of the country and said, “We are here in Nairobi and here’s the situation and we need help. We expect the president to help us. I’d like to come talk to him.” It was wonderful.
There was a woman by the name of Judy in President Daniel Moi’s office and she said, “Okay, bring your petition over.” Florence and I got our act together and we went over to bring this petition to the president’s office. It was really surreal because we’re walking down the main street of Nairobi and we’re looking at each other saying, “Do you think this is really happening?” This sounds so bizarre. We took a little time off and we went shopping for about half an hour to get our bearings. Then we went off and went to the president’s office and we handed this over to Judy. We didn’t get to see the president. But then we decided we needed to go talk to the head of British Airways because all these people had come in on British Airways and if they had to go home early… These were poor people from developing countries who had saved for five years to come to this thing. They had paid their hotel bill in advance. Have you ever heard of that before?
SCARPINO: Actually, I have.
LIPMAN-BLUMEN: Well, I never had.
SCARPINO: I got caught in that hustle when I went to Denmark.
LIPMAN-BLUMEN: Well, I’ve never heard of it. We went to talk to the head of British Airways. Now, this is what I mean about how a crisis can really make a difference. I’m not somebody who puts myself forward and says, well, I’m Jean Lipman-Blumen and I’m so-and-so and so-and-so. But I figured this was a time that I had to throw caution to the wind. Bostonians write letters and say may I have an appointment, but there was no time. We went there and I just handed them my card from Claremont Graduate University and I said, “I’m Professor Lipman- Blumen from the Peter Drucker blah, blah, blah. I would like to speak to Mr. So-and-So.” I mean, I had done my homework and I knew who it was. She said, “Wait one minute.” Then we were led into the CEO’s office and I realized something. That’s not the way I prefer to live my life, but I know I can do it when I have to. Okay? That’s true for everybody. That may not be the way I like to conduct myself.
SCARPINO: You were pointing at the achieving styles model.
LIPMAN-BLUMEN: Yeah. I’m pointing at personal. It worked in that crisis and it gave me a lot of confidence to know that if I needed to, I, in an emergency, I could call on that. I could do that if I had to. That’s what we try to teach people. Not to transform you, to have you go from being somebody who is a collaborator to being a competitor every minute of your life. But if there are times when you have to compete, then you have to be able to do it and feel comfortable doing it, not feel like you’re a fraud.
SCARPINO: Know when the time is.
LIPMAN-BLUMEN: Right. Read the situational cues correctly.
SCARPINO: I assume that your firm because the Connective Leadership Institute after your book came out.
LIPMAN-BLUMEN: Long after. It’s only in the last three years that we changed the name because we felt no one knows what achieving styles are. What does that mean? I have to go around explaining it to everybody. But people, even if they don’t understand connective, they understand the word leadership. We thought it would be better to change the name and we did.
SCARPINO: I’ve been on your website and we talked a little bit about some of the instruments that you have on there a minute ago, so I want to kind of set up a question for the benefit of somebody who’s going to listen to this. There are a number of scholars of leadership who have institutes or instruments for measuring or assessing leadership. Fred Fiedler has a contingency model or at least he did when he was still active. The least preferred co-worker measured on several, eight level bipolar scales. Edgar Schein developed a model of process consultation which he widely applied. Manfred Kets de Vries, co-founder of the Consulting and Coaching for Change, creating collective change agents. Frances Hesselbein, founder and CEO of the Peter F. Drucker foundation for non-profit management. There are others. Here’s the question that I have. What is distinctive in that universe about the Connective Leadership Institute and its approach?
LIPMAN-BLUMEN: Well, it does something very different. We’re trying to help people gain some insight into how they go about accomplishing their tasks and how they might be more effective as leaders, as connective leaders. We try to articulate the overarching model of connective leadership. But then I feel it isn’t enough to tell people to be connective leaders. You have to tell them, what does that mean behaviorally? How do I act like a connective leader? Don’t tell me to go out and be a connective leader and connect this person. How do I do it? In the instruments that we’ve developed, we can show people what their profile, what their leadership profile looks like right now. What are the styles or the behaviors that they tend to use most frequently and how many of them they feel comfortable with. Then we can also help them to look at their organizations and see the degree to which they fit with their organization, the people in the organization fit with the rewards structure or the culture of the organization. There are many things that you can do with this. I mean, sure these other instruments—and I’m not an expert on all the others, but I’m sure that each one has its value, but we’re doing something slightly different. We’re trying to give people insights into their own leadership behavior and make their behaviors and the possibility of change accessible to them. We train people to not only to understand and know what their profiles are, but we train them in developing new ways of doing things, practicing the styles that they’re not as comfortable with.
SCARPINO: In 1999 you published with your husband, Harold Leavitt, Hot Groups, and I’m going to skip over that for a minute because I really want to talk to you about your Peace Plan before we run out of time, and if we have time, I’ll come back to that. Your Hot Groups is between covers and the Peace Plan is not. I mean, it circulates on the internet. You’ve written and are circulating a draft paper called, “A Connective Leadership Strategy for Global Enduring and Sustainable Peace: Make It Happen.” We actually talked last time about how you put the “make it happen” on there, and the connective leadership era, connective leadership are featured elements of your connective leadership strategy. Just for the benefit of somebody who’s listening, I pulled a quote off page five, which I’m just going to read a couple of sentences. You said, “The worldwide financial crisis that has brought us to the brink of disaster has also shaken our confidence in leaders. Leaders have failed us egregiously. We need to step back and rethink leadership. What is the purpose of leadership? As we move forward what constitutes visionary, principle and courageous leadership? What are all the leadership development programs and research initiatives designed to do? What exactly are they accomplishing?” This sounds to me like Jessie Bernard was whispering in your ear when you wrote this. Then I talked to Kathy Pelletier who told me you think of concepts and ideas for a better tomorrow long before we realize we need them. I was going to ask you if you picture yourself that way, but I have a better question. What do you consider to be some of the essential elements of a better tomorrow based on your Peace Plan? What do we have to do to get it right?
LIPMAN-BLUMEN: Well, we have to do a lot, and everybody has to do a lot. There’s a lot of heavy lifting to be done and nobody can be excused, okay? No country, no sector of any society, so maybe now we’re taking the salon and raising it to an exponential level or something. But I think every society has to rethink what it is doing and how it can do it differently. For example, in the government, and each country will have to look at the plan and adapt it for its specific characteristics and requirements because our government is different than other governments, but then there are others with which we have a lot in common. For example, in a democracy and here in the United States, we have a system whereby we have elections that go on endlessly, that an immense amount of money is spent, mostly it goes to the media, on campaigning. Six billion dollars was spent by Obama and Romney. Six billion dollars, what a colossal waste. Think of what that would have meant if it were reallocated to other things. I’ve been asking the question, leadership for what for quite a long time now, maybe five or so years. I began to ask that question when De Cultu (spelling???) interviewed me for the International Leadership Association. He interviews people as a session. Then, when I was asked to go to Nanjing to talk in 2010 and I was supposed to be answering the question: What can business do to address the 2008 financial meltdown? These things came together. I thought, why not take peace and use peace as the focal point of revitalizing economies? When John Kennedy talked about going to the moon, people thought that was a little bit bizarre. They couldn’t see any pragmatic benefit from it. But we’re still living off of many of the engineering innovations that came from that. I was thinking, what if we turn our economy and every world economy 180 degrees? Right now the defense is the second largest industry in the world and it’s certainly huge here. What if instead of spending all that money on defense, we turned it around and we spent on peace? What if we took half of the budget or more of the budget from the defense department and developed departments of peace, and took the money from the defense and put it in the department of peace? Made the defense industries worldwide non-profit so that -- let them do it on a patriotic basis, be a non-profit? If that’s what you’re trying to do to defend the country, then be patriotic about it. I mean, in World War II there was legislation against profiteering from the war and people are profiteering from the defense business. So if we turned it around and we said, okay, now the Office of Peace will offer for-profit contracts for peace entrepreneurship, peace innovation, peace R&D, sustainability, all these things that would benefit the world. Why are we spending trillions of dollars killing people, blowing up structures that people work in and live in? I mean, it defies credulity. It’s madness, utter madness to be doing that. My thought was, could I look at every sector of society and see what changes could that sector make? What could education do? A beginning that would focus on peace. What about teaching kids from kindergarten on about peace, about anti-bullying, teach them to mediate, teach them to negotiate. At universities, why do we have requirements? At my university you cannot graduate, you cannot get a PhD without taking at least one trans-disciplinary course, okay? Why is that more important than studying about peace? Why shouldn’t we require that everybody who graduates from high school must take at least X number of courses on peace, same in the university? Why don’t we have centers for reconciliation for seemingly intractable problems? The Northern Ireland case is a case in point. That went on for decades, okay, and people said, “Oh, it can’t be—we can’t resolve it.” It got resolved. It’s not perfect, but they’re not killing each other anymore, and they are talking, and there will be ups and downs, and there was a recent down over there. But still in all, there are ways to do it, and the idea would be that you invite people, groups to come, like the Israelis and the Palestinians, and they agreed to come without any media allowed in. Okay? I think the media distorted it all. They have to agree that they will stay until it is resolved. If they get to an impasse, they can separate for 72 hours, but they must come back. When it is resolved, the people who are key in that resolution will come back and help the next group and keep refining the process for how you reconcile a seemingly intractable conflict. I think that there are so many things that we can do in every single sector. I think the media have a role to play. I think films and entertainment have a role to play. I want that to be crowd- sourced. I want people to read it and to add stuff to it. I think that we have to think de novo. We have to think anew about all of these issues. When I thought about the Office of Peace, I thought, this is no new idea under the sun. I’m sure that’s been thought of before. Well, in the footnotes I think you’ll see that Benjamin Rush, who signed the Declaration of Independence, there’s an essay on the web called “An Office for Peace,” in which he even describes what the room will look like where they sign the peace documents. Okay? That has been introduced into our Congress innumerable times in recent years. I bet if you ask most people, myself included before I looked it up on the web, if they knew that there were initiatives or bills that have been introduced for peace, a department of peace or an Office of Peace, most of us would say no. Okay? But there has to be a time when we begin to see what we haven’t been able to see up until that moment.
SCARPINO: So what’s the connective leadership strategy?
LIPMAN-BLUMEN: Well, I do think—how does that come into play?
LIPMAN-BLUMEN: Well, I do think the connective leaders can see things, they can see the connections among things and people. They can see how to bring these groups together. For example, the implementation strategy is simple. The implementation strategy calls for—it says in there the Nobel Peace Committee, but it could be some other committee that is perhaps perceived as less political than that. But a group that would have legitimacy in the eyes of the world is a fair-minded group. If you go back and read Nobel’s will, he talks about the committee having what he calls Congresses about these issues. I would like them to call all the countries of the world together to amend it for their own region, to sign onto it, to set benchmarks, and to have them come back every other year and report on how much progress they’ve made. In the intervening years, in the alternate years, I would like the sectors to come back, the education sector globally, the health sector, the legal sector, all the different sectors to come and meet with their counterparts from all over the world and get ideas and connect and figure out how can we work together, how can we make this happen. I keep coming back to making it happen.
SCARPINO: Do you think we can make it happen?
LIPMAN-BLUMEN: Yes I do. I believe what Margaret Mead said, that all it takes is a group of dedicated people to make anything you want happen.
SCARPINO: You and I have been talking for a little over two hours, so I’m going to kind of pull this together. I know there’s more that we could say, but we’re going to have to wrap it up. I have two questions that I want to finish up with. One is, you said somewhere that leadership is a responsibility, not an entitlement or a privilege. What did you mean by that?
LIPMAN-BLUMEN: Well, I think exactly what it says. When you’re a leader, you have a responsibility to the group who recognizes you as such, who’s put its faith in you, to help them accomplish their goals, to help them refine their goals and to make sure that this really is implemented, maybe even in a better way than the group ever thought. It’s not an entitlement. It’s not about you as the leader. Get over yourself. It’s about the mission. It’s about what you’re trying to accomplish to make the world a better place. We only have a short time on this planet, each of us, so would you like to die and have a tombstone that said: “Here lies Joe Blow who never did anything for the world, he only did stuff for himself and his family.” I wouldn’t want that said about me. I would like to feel that when I die that I will have over the period of my life come to my senses enough and woken up enough to realize that I had an obligation to do things, to try to make the world, even in the smallest possible way, better, fairer, more productive; not in the money-grubbing sense of the word, but to flower so that we take whatever intelligence and sensibilities and good humor and conscience that we have and harness them in the name of changing the world to make it a better place.
SCARPINO: Last question. Is there anything that I should have asked you that I didn’t, or anything that you’d like to say that I didn’t give you a chance to say?
LIPMAN-BLUMEN: Hardly. I mean, I think I’ve said far more than I should have said, probably, or that I’ve ever said about my work to anybody. But I do care about the ideas. I don’t care about attribution. I wouldn’t want someone to plagiarize my work. I mean, I’m not that benign. I care more about ideas being out there. I don’t care about, for example, the peace plan being known as my peace plan. I try to train myself not to call it my peace plan, to call it the peace plan, because I want it to be something that belongs to many more people, that it doesn’t belong to me and it’s shouldn’t belong to me. It doesn’t need my name. If it has intrinsic merit, that merit will propel it forward, so I just care about making it as fantastic and as compelling as we possibly can make it so people will say, of course, we’ve got to do it!
SCARPINO: Do you think that a mark of a good leader is a person who has the ability to formulate and communicate a compelling idea?
LIPMAN-BLUMEN: Oh absolutely.
SCARPINO: Thank you for everything. On behalf of myself and the Tobias Center, the International Leadership Association…
(END OF INTERVIEW)