Leavitt, Harold J. 1922-2007 (Hal Leavitt, Harold Jack Leavitt)

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Leavitt, Harold J. 1922-2007 (Hal Leavitt, Harold Jack Leavitt)


See index for CA sketch: Born May 15, 1922, in Lynn, MA; died of pulmonary fibrosis, December 8, 2007, in Pasadena, CA. Management expert, psychologist, educator, and author. Leavitt taught at business schools for most of his career, though he himself claimed that their traditional focus on statistics, banking and money, and organizational structure could sometimes do as much harm as good. He dedicated himself to infusing these dispassionate strongholds of facts and figures with a human element that he believed could lead well-rounded students toward greater success in the real world of managing people and processes. His first groundbreaking book, Managerial Psychology: An Introduction to Individuals (1958), went through at least five editions and translation into more than a dozen foreign languages, and it remained relevant for at least fifty years. In it, Leavitt suggested that organizational hierarchies often function as necessary evils, that creativity and dynamic leadership can often emerge more freely and quickly from small groups than large ones, especially when complex issues are involved. He wrote about the value of "hot groups," small, dynamic bubbles of creativity that can erupt with brilliance in times of need, but which also tend to fade fast and work best only in the short term. He believed in democracy in organizational decision-making, whenever possible. Leavitt also taught these principles at various universities from 1949 to 1966, then at Stanford University, where he retired in 1987 as the Walter Kilpatrick Professor of Organization Behavior and Psychology. He served as principal of the Management Analysis Center beginning in 1971, and as a longtime advisor to the National Training Laboratories. Leavitt's books include Organizations of the Future: Interaction with the External Environment (1974), Corporate Pathfinders: Building Vision and Values into Organizations (1986), Hot Groups: Seeding Them, Feeding Them, and Using Them to Ignite Your Organization (1999), and Top Down: Why Hierarchies Are Here to Stay and How to Manage Them More Effectively (2005).



Los Angeles Times, December 19, 2007, p. B7.

New York Times, December 26, 2007, p. C8.

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Leavitt, Harold J. 1922-2007 (Hal Leavitt, Harold Jack Leavitt)

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