Allan Cox (author)

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Allan Cox pioneered application of the theory and practice of the Adlerian school of psychotherapy to business environments and to organizations. “..Cox is the first person in the U.S. to adapt two of Adler’s central concepts, (1) Early Recollections and (2) Style-of-Life, to nurture both executive development and corporate performance.” [1] He also codified Alfred Adler's style of life construct as falling into two distinct sets: a looming threat or a guardian presence. Cox found that organizations have a life of their own and was the first to apply Adler's style of life theory to organizations.[2]

Allan Cox developed a model "for helping corporations realize their best potential by using concepts and methods that are key in Adlerian psychology: style of life (SOL), early recollections, and social interest (Adler 1939)." [3]

Allan Cox
Allan Cox.jpg
OccupationCEO, Allan Cox & Associates
Spouse(s)Cher Patric Cox
WebsiteAllan Cox & Associates


Early years[edit]

Allan Cox (born in 1937 in Berwyn, Illinois and raised in nearby Oak Park, Illinois) is an American Adlerian scholar, business consultant and author based in Chicago. Cox is CEO of Allan Cox & Associates, which he founded in 1969.

Cox has a B.A. in social science and an M.A. in sociology from Northern Illinois University. Upon completing his graduate work at Northern Illinois University, Cox enrolled in the McCormick Theological Seminary with plans to enter the Presbyterian ministry.

When he was halfway through that course of study, he quit and entered advanced studies at the Alfred Adler Institute of Chicago (subsequently named the Adler School of Professional Psychology and today named Adler University) in downtown Chicago, Illinois to study Adlerian psychology. Rudolf Dreikurs, a protégé of Alfred Adler, founded the Alfred Adler Institute of Chicago. Cox studied there part-time from 1963 through 1975, while teaching sociology at Wheaton College (Illinois) for three years and at the same time launching his management consulting career.[4][5]


Cox quoted on Starbucks cup during Starbuck's "The Way I See It" campaign in 2005.

Executive search[edit]

Cox became an executive search consultant with Spencer Stuart, then the largest global search firm in existence, and served on its management committee. Two years later, he founded a management consulting firm that bears his name and that at first specialized in executive search.

Cox performed executive search as a retained search recruiter. That is, he was paid for the process rather than by contingency.[6] A Chicago Magazine interviewer in 1985 wrote, "Because he spends his time writing books about the world of business and conducting executive development seminars, Cox can perform no more than eight or ten executive searches a year - only two or three at any one time - for jobs that pay at least $100,000. His satisfied clients include Coca-Cola, Continental Bank, Playboy, Carnation Company, Esmark (now part of Beatrice Foods), Cannon Mills, Publisher's Clearing House, and American Standard." [7]

Author and professor[edit]

Cox authored eleven business books, not including all revised and updated editions, on organizations and management, and also three books of poetry. His books on organizations and management include Confessions of a Corporate Headhunter (1973), which was the first book published on the topic of executive search. Other titles include The Making of the Achiever (1985), which was made into an audiobook by Nightingale-Conant; Inside Corporate America (1986); Your Inner CEO: Unleash the Executive Within (2007); and most recently, The CEO in You (2015); and Your Place at the Table (2017).[8]

Cox wrote a series for The New York Times Sunday business section [9][10][11] and Field Newspaper syndicate (which was operated by Field Enterprises); articles for Chief Executive, Across the Board, [IndustryWeek], Training & Development Journal, Success (magazine), and Advertising Age. From 1986 to 1988 he wrote a weekly column for Los Angeles Times Syndicate entitled “The Achiever.” His 1985 book, The Making of the Achiever, was made into an audio program for Nightingale-Conant, and his 1990 book on teamwork—Straight Talk for Monday Morning—led to a four-part video series produced by the Bureau of Business Practice—Straight Talk on Teams.

Much of Cox’s writing and consulting work are explicitly grounded in Alfred Adler’s theories and practices. Adler’s concepts of “social interest” and “style-of-life” are described in the Foreword that Cox wrote for the book, Leadership by Encouragement, authored by Drs. Don Dinkmeyer and Daniel Eckstein.[12] This is also true of his chapter, “The Power of Team,” which leads off the human resources section of the anthology, The Best of Chief Executive (magazine), compiled and edited by J.P. Donlon.[13] The November–December, 2007 issue of the North American Society of Adlerian Psychology Newsletter referred to Cox as “Adlerian to the bone,” quoting a Society Past President and Adler scholar, Erik Mansager. [1]

Cox taught career development workshops at Northwestern University's Kellogg School and the University of Chicago's Graduate School of Business.[4][14]

The Cox application of lifestyle concepts to corporate groups[edit]

Cox used the Style of Life format expressed by the notable psychiatrist and educator, Rudolf Dreikurs and applied it to corporate groups. Cox described an individual's Style of Life (SOL) as follows: I am: (self image) Life is: (world view) My central goal: (the all-powerful one that shapes my every thought and action, that pulls me like a magnet into the future)

Cox used the Adlerian diagnostic approach including the use of early recollections to identify his own SOL, and first expressed it as follows:

I am: an observer

Life is: out there

My central goal is: to be invited

With the clarity of knowing his personal SOL, Cox reclaimed what Adler termed his "creative self." Continuing this process over several years, Cox eventually stabilized his own SOL as follows:

I am: a laser

Life is: full of baffles

My central goal is: to get to the core

Cox next conducted seminars with small groups of top executives where he guided the participants through the same Adlerian diagnosis method he used for himself. This was considered to be a breakthrough experience because it led to discovery of individual participant SOLs.

Bill Taylor, senior partner at Deloitte and Northern Illinois University Foundation Board member, described his experience as a participant. "Allan used experimental tools to lead the group in role playing and other exercises to help each member better know themselves and recommend changes..." Taylor reflected on his own final report from Cox's seminar that still reportedly remains in his desk, "I see that I have made most of the recommended changes or otherwise overcome identified obstacles." [15]

There was a strong market in subsequent decades for practitioners who could help corporate organizations to internally develop corporate mission statements. Cox responded by developing and implementing an SOL procedure for organizations. His methods include activities with employees throughout the organization of company-wide self-discovery leading to specific deliverables such as a current and meaningful mission statement.[16][17]

Published works[edit]

Business books[edit]

  • Confessions of a Corporate Headhunter
  • Work, Love and Friendship-Reflections on Executive Lifestyle
  • The Cox Report on the American Corporation
  • The Making of the Achiever
  • The Achiever's Profile
  • Straight Talk for Monday Morning [18][19]
  • Inside Corporate America/Perspective on Management Practices and Career Options
  • Redefining Corporate Soul with Julie Liesse [19]
  • Your Inner CEO: Unleash the Executive Within
  • Why Should I Care About Alfred Adler?
  • The CEO in You
  • Your Place at the Table

Books of Poetry[edit]

  • Change the Way You Face the Day
  • When the Sun Shines Through: Change the Way You Face the Day
  • WHOA! Are They Glad You're in Their Lives?


  1. ^ de Callier, Pepper. "A key, self-initiated way to listen is to ask a sincere question".
  2. ^ Eden, Yoel. "You're Outta Luck if You Miss SOL - Really!".
  3. ^ "Corporate Style of Life: An Adlerian Conceptualization Told in a Personal Account". The Journal of Individual Psychology.
  4. ^ a b Chicago Magazine Profile (see below)
  5. ^ About Adler University (see below)
  6. ^ BlueSteps. "What Is Retained Search?". Executive Career Insider. Retrieved 26 July 2007.
  7. ^ Jack Star. "Executive Recruiter Allan Cox". Chicago Magazine.
  8. ^ Loarie, Tom. "Tom Loarie Interviews Top Corporate Advisor Allan Cox". The Mentors Radio Show. KCBQ AM1170 San Diego; KTRB AM860 San Francisco; On-Demand Nationwide. Retrieved April 7, 2017.
  9. ^ NY Times "Scrap Consensus, Try Diversity" (see Below)
  10. ^ NY Times "Focus on Teamwork" (see Below)
  11. ^ NY Times "Even 'Flat' Companies Need Leaders" (see Below)
  12. ^ Leadership by Encouragement
  13. ^ Best of Chief Executive
  14. ^ Training Today Profile (see below)
  15. ^ "Allan Cox". NIU Alumni Association.
  16. ^ Kelley Holland (September 23, 2007). "In Mission Statements, Bizspeak and Bromides". The New York Times.
  17. ^ Corporate Style of Life: An Adlerian Conceptualization Told in a Personal Account (see below)
  18. ^ Management Learning review
  19. ^ a b Business Ethics Quarterly Review


  • "Your Inner CEO." Video of Allan Cox address to University of Chicago Booth School of Business Entrepreneurial Roundtable, October 20, 2008
  • "US Business Leaders 'Are Out of Touch With Society." U.S. News & World Report. December 13, 1982. p. 83
  • "Adler University History." Adler University website. Adler University History/History/About.
  • "Chicago Interview: Executive Recruiter Allan Cox." Chicago Magazine. April 1985. pp. 185ff.
  • "Challenged to Serve-The Corporation in the New Age. A Conversation with Allan Cox." Training Today. April 1987. pp. 4–7.
  • Best of Chief Executive, J.P. Donlon (ed.), Irwin, 1992.
  • Leadership by Encouragement, Don Dinkmeyer and Daniel Eckstein, CRC, 1995.
  • "Business Boards the 'Soul Train'." Management Review. American Management Association. June 1996. pp. 6–7.
  • "Member Newsletter." North American Society of Adlerian Psychology. November–December, 2007, Vol.40, No.6
  • "Full Plate: Review of The Cox Report on the American Corporation." Alan Kantrow. Across the Board. January 1983.
  • "Review of 'Straight Talk for Monday Morning: Creating Values, Vision, and Vitality at Work'." Ian Oliphant-Thompson. Management Learning. 1992; 23; 81.
  • "Team Building and the Pursuit of Human Authenticity (review of Straight Talk for Monday Morning)." David Smith. Business Ethics Quarterly. Vol. 3, Issue 1. 1993.
  • "Soul as in Ethic (review of Redefining Corporate Soul)." Al Gini. Business Ethics Quarterly. Vol. 7, Issue 3. 1997.
  • "Focus on Teamwork, Vision and Value." Allan Cox, New York Times. February 26, 1989.
  • "Even 'Flat' Companies Need Leaders." Allan Cox, New York Times. August 20, 1989.
  • "Scrap Consensus, Try Diversity." Allan Cox, New York Times. April 7, 1991.
  • "Corporate Style of Life: An Adlerian Conceptualization Told in a Personal Account." Cox, Allan J. and Ferguson, Eva Dreikurs. Journal of Individual Psychology. Vol. 10, Number 4. Winter, 2016; 334-340.

External links[edit]

The Allan Cox interview series with Randy Lewis, Senior Vice President of Walgreens (1992-2013)[edit]

Additional Links[edit]