Michael Maccoby

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Michael Maccoby
Born (1933-03-05) March 5, 1933 (age 82)
Mt. Vernon, New York
Occupation Author, Psychoanalyst, Anthropologist
Website Personal Website

Michael Maccoby is an American psychoanalyst and anthropologist globally recognized as an expert on leadership for his research, writing and projects to improve organizations and work.[1] He has authored or co-authored fourteen books and consulted to companies, governments, the World Bank, unions, research and development centers and laboratories, universities and orphanages or taught in 36 countries.

Early life, education, and family[edit]

He was born in Mt. Vernon, NY March 5, 1933 where his father was a reform rabbi and his mother was a teacher. Except for two years at the Brandes School in Tucson, Arizona, Maccoby attended public school in Mt. Vernon. He was graduated from A.B. Davis HS where he was awarded the General von Steuben medal for excellence in American History. At age 15, he organized and led an interfaith organization, the Westchester Youth Council for American Brotherhood,and in later years has worked closely with Catholic, Protestant, Muslim and Jewish organizations. He received a BA (magna cum laude) at Harvard in 1954 where he was president of The Harvard Crimson. He then studied philosophy with Stuart Hampshire and Bernard Williams at New College, Oxford on a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship. As a graduate student at Harvard he was a teaching fellow and secretary to the Committee on Educational Policy at the faculty of Arts and Sciences. He received a PhD from Harvard in Social Relations (combining social psychology and personality with anthropology) in June 1960.[citation needed] At Harvard he worked with David Riesman, Jerome Bruner, B.F. Skinner, and McGeorge Bundy, and also studied with the anthropologist Clyde Kluckhohn. At the University of Chicago he studied with the anthropologist Robert Redfield and the psychoanalyst Bruno Bettelheim. Also at Chicago he studied Machiavelli with the political philosopher Leo Strauss. He married Sandylee Weille in 1959. Between 1960 and 1968 they lived in Mexico. They have four children, Annie Berglof, Izette Folger, Nora Hathaway and Max Maccoby.[citation needed]


He was awarded a Research and Training Fellowship from the National Institute of Mental Health to train as a psychoanalyst with Erich Fromm at the Mexican Institute of Psychoanalysis and study psychological factors in development. He completed this training with the Degree in Psychoanalysis in 1964. With Fromm he co-authored Social Character in a Mexican Village (1970, 1996), which reported their ten-year, multidisciplinary social science study which showed how family history, social character, and one’s work strongly determines the degree of social adaptation, psychopathology or well-being.

Between 1962 and 1988 Dr. Maccoby practiced clinical psychoanalysis, largely with high-functioning adult patients, and he trained and supervised psychiatrists and psychologists from the United States, Mexico, and Spain. In 1968 he worked in the Eugene McCarthy presidential campaign, traveling around the country organizing delegate hearings to persuade delegates to support McCarthy. He also organized intellectuals, including some like Daniel Patrick Moynihan who had supported Robert Kennedy.

In 1969, as a fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, he was awarded a grant from Harvard’s Program on Technology and Society to study the companies and their managers who were creating the new information and communication technology. This research in HP, Texas Instruments, IBM and other high tech companies was reported in his book The Gamesman (1977) which was a best-seller, reviewed on the front page of the New York Times Sunday book review. It was a pioneering application of socio-psychoanalytic understanding to personality and leadership in business.[citation needed]

He was a Fellow of the Institute of Policy Studies from 1969 to 1977. In 1972, he directed the Bolivar Project, the first modern joint management-union partnership (Harman Industries and the United Auto Workers) to improve the quality of working life in the auto industry.It was supported by the Ford Foundation, the Sloan Foundation and the National Productivity Commission. As a result of this project, he was invited to lead quality of worklife programs in the U.K. and with AT&T and the Communication Workers of America. (see The Leader (1981), Why Work? (1988, 1995) and Agents of Change (2003), with Charles Heckscher, Rafael Ramirez and Pierre-Eric Tixier).

During the Carter administration at the Department of Commerce he led a project to improve the quality of working life and at the Department of State he created a participative project that determined the kind of leadership needed. During the Reagan administration he helped the US ambassador in New Delhi to develop a collaborative embassy team and under the auspices of State he provided lectures to Chile's business community on Democracy and Free Enterprise before the plebiscite of 1988. From 1969-1990 he directed the Program on Technology, Public Policy and Human Development at the Kennedy School at Harvard. Since 1980 he has been the President of the Maccoby Group, a consultancy, and Director of the Project on Technology, Work and Character, a not-for-profit research center.

In The Productive Narcissist (2003) and The Leaders We Need, And What Makes Us Follow (2007), Dr. Maccoby has applied psychoanalytic concepts, including the theory of social character, to the study of leadership and followership. Building on Fromm, he proposes that social character is the internalized culture which is formed in childhood to enable people to adapt to the demands of work and social patterns in that culture. In his books and writings he contrasts social character formed by peasant, industrial-bureaucratic, and knowledge-service dominated cultures. He has also developed interpretative interview and survey instruments and methodology for revealing a person’s social character and personality.[citation needed]

In 1973, Volvo management asked Dr. Maccoby to help develop innovative factories. He was then invited by the Swedish Council on Leadership (FA rådet) to direct a study of Swedish leaders and to propose the kind of leaders Sweden needed for the future. He published the results in Dagens Nyheter, Sweden’s largest newspaper and in two books, one in Swedish (Ledare fur Sverige, 1987), and the other in English (Sweden at the Edge, 1990). Dr. Maccoby has consulted on leadership to numerous Swedish organizations. In 2008, King Carl XVI Gustav made him Commander of the Royal Order of the Polar Star for his services to Sweden. In 2004, Dr. Maccoby facilitated the National Coalition on Health Care in developing specifications for a comprehensive health care policy in America. With a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, he studied some of the most effective health care organizations in America, resulting in the report Leadership for Health Care (2001). The book Transforming Health Care Leadership, A Systems Guide to Improve Patient Care, Decrease Costs, and Improve Population Health, 2013 (written with Clifford Norman, Jane Norman, and Richard Margolies) provides practical tools for leaders to transform health care organizations from bureaucracies to Learning Organizations. He is a Fellow of the American Psychological Association and the American Anthropological Association, the Society for Applied Anthropology, and the National Academy of Public Administration. He is a member of Phi Beta Kappa, the Global Business Network, and the Cosmos Club.

From 1986 to 2012 he wrote a column, The Human Side, for Research Technology Management and was recognized by The International Association of Management of Technology (IAMOT) as one of the top 50 authors of writings on technology and innovation management over the last 5 years. He has taught at Cornell University, the University of California at Santa Cruz, the University of Chicago, the National University of Mexico, Sciences Po (Paris Institute of Political Studies), the Mexican Institute of Psychoanalysis, the Brookings Institution, the Washington School of Psychiatry, and Said Business School of Oxford University where he was an Associate Fellow. He has served on the boards of the Washington School of Psychiatry, the Albert Shanker Institute, the National Coalition for Health Care, the Tällberg Foundation, and Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos (NPH), an orphanage in nine Latin American and Caribbean countries based on humanistic principles that stimulate development. He was a close associate of Father William Wasson, the founder of NPH.[citation needed]


  • Maccoby, Michael. Strategic Intelligence: Conceptual Tools for Leading Change. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015
  • Maccoby, Michael, Clifford L. Norman, C. Jane Norman and Richard Margolies. Transforming Health Care Leadership: A Systems Guide to Improve Patient Care, Decrease Costs, and Improve Population Health. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2013
  • Maccoby, Michael. The Leaders We Need And What Makes Us Follow. Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 2007. This argues that with historic changes in work, family structure, and society, conceptions of leadership need to be revised. Followers no longer respond positively to autocratic paternalistic figures. Discusses types of leaders needed in knowledge and service work, and what these leaders can do so others want to follow.
  • Maccoby, Michael. Narcissistic Leaders: Who Succeeds and Who Fails. Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 2007. This is The Productive Narcissist with a new introduction.
  • Maccoby, Michael. The Productive Narcissist, the Promise and Peril of Visionary Leadership. New York: Broadway Books, 2003.
  • Heckscher, Charles and Michael Maccoby, Rafael Ramirez, and Pierre-Eric Tixier. Agents of Change Crossing the Post-Industrial Divide. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003. This describes Maccoby’s work with AT&T and the Communication Workers of America in designing Workplace of the Future.
  • Fromm, Erich and Michael Maccoby. Social Character in a Mexican Village. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1970. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 1996. This is the report of a study showing the relationship between psychological factors, culture, productive work and social pathology.
  • Cortina, Mauricio and Michael Maccoby, editors. A Prophetic Analyst: Erich Fromm's Contributions to Psychoanalysis. Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson, 1996. This is a collection of essays on the influence of Erich Fromm.
  • Maccoby, Michael. Why Work?: Motivating the New Workforce, Second edition of Why Work. Alexandria, VA: Miles River Press, 1995. This describes the different motivations that energize people at work. This book predicted the changing attitudes toward work in the technoservice economy.
  • Maccoby, Michael, editor. Sweden At the Edge: Lessons For American and Swedish Managers. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1991. This describes innovative Swedish management in the context of Swedish culture.
  • Maccoby, Michael. Why Work: Leading the New Generation. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1988.
  • Edstrom, Anders, Michael Maccoby, Lennart Stromberg, and Jan Erik Rendahl. Leadership for Sweden. Lund, Sweden: Liber, 1985. This reports interviews with Swedish Leaders in government, business, unions, military and public administration. It proposes the kind of leader needed in Sweden.
  • Maccoby, Michael. The Leader: A New Face for American Management. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1981. This describes leaders in projects Maccoby was directing or participating in to improve productivity and the quality of working life in the US, UK, and Sweden.
  • Maccoby, Michael. The Gamesman: The New Corporate Leaders. New York: Simon and Schuster,1976. This is the best-selling study of the managers creating new technology. It was translated into ten languages.
  • Maccoby, Michael. Social Character and Social Change in Mexico and the United States. Cuernavaca: CIDOC, 1970. This is a collection of published articles on social character, methods of teaching, psychoanalysis and religion.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Dave Hage (April 24, 1988). "Professor finds we work for more than just pay". Record-Journal. Retrieved June 6, 2012. 

External links[edit]