Working with Harry Levinson and Elliott Jaques

- Harry Levinson was a giant in the field of leadership. He created what is generally accepted modern knowledge about enlightened leadership. His relationship with Elliot Jacks gradually became more and more strained. I regret that the direction that the institute has taken has not been as exciting for him.
- At the core of what we do, in my book, Accountability, Leadership, at the core, it is 90% Elliot Jacks. He managed to offend just about every legitimate management academician other than Jerry Harvey. The reality is they just don't know what he stands for.

Speaker A I have two photographs or posters sitting over my desk in my office in New Hampshire which can connect me with two of the three most important mentors in my life. The first is with Harry Lev...

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Speaker A I have two photographs or posters sitting over my desk in my office in New Hampshire which can connect me with two of the three most important mentors in my life. The first is with Harry Levinson. That was taken some twelve years ago here in Bedford at our conference center where we put on our public seminars. And it is a photograph that is a bittersweet memory. Harry Levinson, in his time, was a giant. And it's striking that he's a very short man. But he was a giant in the field of leadership in that at the end of world war II when he was doing his internship in clinical psychology, where he had received his PhD. At the university of Kansas, and he was doing his internship at the Meninger foundation, and Roy Meninger, who had been the chief of army psychiatry during world war II, together with Harry, got interested in the possible applications of clinical knowledge. People under stress, under fire, if you will, which is a good metaphor for the workplace, the clinical applicability of knowledge about how people cope and how officers relate to the people in the workplace, to their privates in battle. The question was how much applicability would there be to bringing that knowledge into the private workplace, into the government workplace? And he set Harry Levinson out for a couple of years found in a relationship with Kansas Power and Light and out of that came Harry's first book and in particular where he coined the expression the psychological contract. And over the next 20 years, Harry Levinson wrote a dozen books, wrote 30 articles in the Harvard Business Review and I believe, along with two or three others, created what is generally accepted modern knowledge about enlightened leadership, psychologically enlightened leadership. And it was because of his persisting dedication to bringing clinical concepts to managers to improve their own leadership effectiveness that I got connected to the Institute as I had described earlier. Ralph Hershowitz, who was one of my professors at the Harvard School of Public Health gerald Kaplan's Laboratory of Community Psychiatry was a principal consultant in the institute and he brought me in to do some training. And Harry Levinson developed an elegant model of translating notions of motivation and psychological needs and adult development into a construct that managers of all persuasions could use to get a better fix on who people were in the process getting them more engaged in developing strong psychological contracts with their people and in general, enhancing their confidence and competence in communicating with people. And it was a very powerful model, very elegant model. I was very eager to teach. And so in short order I began to teach all of the different programs. But it was in that context that Harry Levinson saw me as a good educator, a person with enthusiasm, someone who had built up a thriving psychiatric practice and a group practice. And he thought that I would be the kind of person not only to take over the Institute and grow it, but to grow it in the model and the image that he had created. And that's where the irony, or perhaps the sadness, set in. In that it was in exposing me a second time to Elliot Jacks in 1990 and seeing the tremendous progress that Elliot Jacks had made in the previous eleven. In the subsequent eleven years to my first encounter with him that I really saw taking over the institute as a means to further the work of Elliot Jacks. And that became a source of great disappointment for Harry Levinson, who had assumed that I shared his fervor for psychoanalytic notion and orientation to transform organizations, rather than that being a tool which informed me about behavior, but not as the kernel of a whole approach to developing leadership systems. And over the course of the ten years that we worked together in this new capacity with Harry as chairman and with me as the president and CEO, our relationship gradually became more and more strained. And the photograph of Harry is probably maybe three years into the Institute while our relationship was still strong. And I regret to say he's a man I admire enormously. He has given me tremendous opportunity and I regret that the direction that the institute has taken has not been as exciting for him as it has been for me. But he's a wonderful man. He was a genius, sort of a Paul Tillich well before his time and made and continues to reap the benefits of tremendous impact on leadership in the US. The second picture that I have in my office is a picture of me and Elliot Jacks, a photograph that was taken to promote a series of seminars he and I gave in Buenos Aires, Argentina during the early 1990s. I was very fortunate to take over the Levinson Institute at one of the only times in Elliot's life when he was between major projects. He had just been finishing off his work with the US Army Research Institute and with CRA Mining in Australia when I began to work with a client in Argentina, asindar, which was the second largest steel company in Argentina, who had been sending executives to Boston for the previous ten years to take our On Leadership seminar. And with Argentina coming out of the hyperinflation of the dictatorship, with a new president and a new director of the economy who was opening up markets, asindar knew that it needed to move its management and leadership into the 20th century from being a patriarchal and autocratic form of management. So they asked Harry and me if we could put on seminars in late 1990 for their managers. This would have been level seven, six, five and four managers, and some level three managers, about 150 managers altogether. So Harry and I and two other faculty members at the institute began to put on these seminars using simultaneous interpreters. And that's when I first became aware that whenever I used the word responsibility, it got translated into responsibility dodd whenever I use the word accountability, it also got translated into responsibility. Dodd and that triggered for me a clear memory of one of Elliot Jackson's comments that there should be a clear distinction in people's minds between what they have a sense of personal responsibility to accomplish and what organizationally, they're accountable for accomplishing. Well, during that training, I, based on that insight, began to talk more than I normally would about the work of Elliot Jacks, which really intrigued both the CEO and the chairman of the board. This was a third generation family held company, very successful, and based on that, they wanted to meet Elliot. And Harry, being the businessman, always seeking opportunity, said, well, we'll bring him down and put on a modern organization seminar for you. At the end of that seminar week, I remember distinctly Arturo Acevedo, the chairman, and Carlos Leone, the CEO, sat down with Elliot and me and said, we want to do that. And that began a three and a half year undertaking with Elliot and me going down to Buenos Aires every six weeks for a week or two and began simultaneously a three and a half year, nearly full time apprenticeship for me to learn at the feet of the master about not just the principles but the application in real time. And it was the experience of a lifetime learning from Elliot Jacks as an adult in mid career. I was 45 at the time, well established in my psychiatric knowledge and career was a mixed blessing because Elliot had no tolerance for thinking that he considered to be sloppy or counterproductive. And yet he had tremendous respect for capability and the desire to acquire good knowledge. So I would find myself with that project and two or three other large projects I brought him in on. I would find myself three or four nights at dinner with Elliot, recounting the day's work, being driven to tears by his brutal feedback as to my sloppy thinking, my inaccurate perceptions, and at the same time turning right around. Once I stopped fighting and began to ask questions with infinite patience, helping me to understand what was a proper approach to understanding a body of knowledge, to approach it in a systematic and scientific way. So I consider that a kind of brainwashing that occurred over three years and because I'm fairly strong willed and stubborn, probably was much tougher on me than it would have been on someone else. But my relationship with Elliot was always stormy. I think at the beginning we had enormous respect for each other. Probably one of my two or three contributions to Elliot's thinking occurred in early 1991 when Elliot and his wife Catherine Katesen and my wife Cincy Cranis were having dinner in Manhattan in one of these fancy restaurants. And I was trying to explain to Elliot that his conception of effectiveness at the time current mental process and skilled knowledge and commitment and wisdom and absence of negative temperament really was not the underlying equation, because wisdom, when one thinks about it, is simply a combination of skilled knowledge and matured capability. And we had an argument that almost came to physical blows. We were shouting at each other. The entire restaurant was looking. What was going on? Elliot stormed out at the end of dinner, 06:00 a.m. The next morning, I got a call from him. You're right. And I remember that from then on, he changed his formula. So he was a man who demanded rigor, who had great passion about his beliefs once he established them. But once he found a flaw in whatever model he had created, his intellectual honesty was so great that if that flaw bothered him, he would work it and work it and gladly scrap anything that he had previously developed if it made for a more parsimonious explanation of the nature of things. That was really typical of my interactions with Elliot. One of my other fondest memories of Elliot had to do with how extraordinarily silly he could become when he was relaxed and a little bit tired. There are days and days and days that Cincy and Robert Crock, who's our vice President of Knowledge Management at the Levinson Institute. And I can recall where Elliot would be in our office here in Boston, or we'd be with him in Detroit when he and I were working in Ford or in Argentina. And we'd be working late into the night, into the early morning, preparing our growth charts, our talent curves, our Post it notes, whatever it took for the next day's work. And as each evening would progress, he would get sillier and sillier. It usually took the form of puns. Elliot was a great punter, but the other thing was that it was great to tease Elliot about his very poor skills in Spanish. He was actually quite fluent in French, although he was not natively fluent Francophone. He learned it as a teenager when he went to boarding school in Switzerland. But his notion of speaking Spanish was to speak English and add an O at the end of every word. And when he would get tired and silly, he would start coming out with these most outrageous sentences in pigeon English with O's at the end of every word, and he'd have us in stitches. He was a man who was very complicated, could be very caring, but his mode of expressing caring, in the main, was one of the most disciplined coach who would be unrelenting in demanding of each of his players that he worked to his full potential. And for that, I will be forever grateful to Elliot. He really helped me move into a space in my life that I couldn't ever have imagined achieving without his knowledge and without his mentorship. The other side of Elliot is that his Achilles heel was his very strong ego, and that Elliot would, paradoxically, at times, wish that his knowledge could become universally understood and accepted, and was, at the outset of our relationship with him, constantly saying, feel free to use and copy and duplicate any of my materials as long as you give good academic style. Attribution. I want this material to be disseminated. But somewhere around 1994, Elliot began to switch gears and became much more concerned about the proprietary nature of his work and caused a number of very embarrassing situations for me and my clients when we were working together, because I was, at that point, essentially his principal employer, even though he was the lead consultant and I was apprenticing under him. These were basically my clients that he was working for. And it began to create a strain which eventually caused him to say that the institute no longer had permission to use his work. And really, about the mid or late 1994, my relationship with Elliot essentially ended. It was a moment, an occasion of great sadness and loss for me, because he had such a profound impact. But I will always be grateful that he got me to a point, even if it had been six months earlier, if we had a falling out, I wouldn't have been ready. He got me to a point where I was ready to go on my own and probably also the best thing that ever happened to me, because it forced me to recast not only the pedagogy, but the very fundamental formulations with a new language, new way of teaching it, a new way of engaging the client around it. But at the core of what we do, in my book, Accountability, Leadership, at the core, it is 90% Elliot Jacks, and he is a man of brilliance that's unparalleled. I believe in the field of leadership. I think he will remain someone on the order of albert einstein or richard feynman in the world of physics for the world of leadership. As many of you who may have worked with elliot know that he was often his worst enemy and would, at the drop of a hat, go into a diatribe about all of the management gurus and snake oil salesmen. And I think he managed to offend just about every legitimate management academician other than Jerry Harvey, which really is why he is neither better known nor understood nor accepted in general in the major business schools. Jerry Harvey, because he's an iconoclast, saw through the haranguing. And his article, his chapter in the book called who in the Hell Is Elliot Jacks? Is one of the finest tongue in cheek explications of why the current culture of management consulting and training actually fears Elliot Jacks. But I think he's actually giving them too much credit. I think the reality is they just don't know what he stands for. Love.

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Gerald A. (Gerry) Kraines
President and CEO
Kraines Consulting
The Levinson Institute Inc.
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A global association of academics, managers, and consultants that focuses on spreading RO implementation practices and encouraging their use
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