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Michael Maccoby

Michael Maccoby

Michael Maccoby is an anthropologist and psychoanalyst globally recognized as an expert on leadership. He is the author of The Leaders We Need, And What Makes Us Follow.

Archive: Michael Maccoby

Mediating between players and owners

In the case of the NFL, neither party seems to be thinking about the fans and each seems aware of the other's thinking which is all about getting a bigger piece of the pie...

By Michael Maccoby | March 8, 2011; 08:18 PM ET | Comments (2)

Managing with unions

Where unions exist in business and government, leaders should be working together to make their organizations more...

By Michael Maccoby | March 1, 2011; 01:57 PM ET | Comments (1)

Two ways to stay in power

Autocrats like Saddam Hussein and Josef Stalin stayed in power by following Machiavelli's advice that it is better for a prince to be feared than loved...

By Michael Maccoby | February 22, 2011; 02:05 PM ET | Comments (7)

The future for Egypt could look grim

The danger for Egypt, the Middle East and U.S. interests is that the explosive demand for human rights will result in a religious dictatorship even more repressive than...

By Michael Maccoby | February 1, 2011; 02:06 PM ET | Comments (3)


The minus is because I consider that, besides science and technology, both innovation and a good life require education in the arts and...

By Michael Maccoby | January 25, 2011; 10:36 PM ET | Comments (1)

Mutual understanding

Now, with sudden prosperity, Chinese leaders fear fragmentation and a demanding peasant population that has been left behind. Chinese leaders believe their continued authority depends on...

By Michael Maccoby | January 19, 2011; 10:38 AM ET | Comments (5)

It will take responsible leaders

Provocative radio and TV commentators won't disappear as long as they draw a large audience. But unless responsible leaders reject followers in their own parties who preach lessons of hate, unstable listeners will continue to believe that destructiveness...

By Michael Maccoby | January 11, 2011; 11:42 AM ET | Comments (1)

The overcomer: Barack Obama

My reason for choosing him as leader of the year is that he, more than anyone else, has guided, pushed and often persuaded skeptical and independent legislators to...

By Michael Maccoby | December 22, 2010; 04:02 PM ET | Comments (12)

For education reform, turning our attention to principals

Of all the factors common to successful schools, it is puzzling that so little weight is given to leadership. In the film Waiting for Superman, excellent teaching is rightly given credit as a major factor in student achievement, but there is no discussion of the exceptional principals leading the schools shown...

By Michael Maccoby | December 21, 2010; 04:39 PM ET | Comments (80)

Recruiting character and talent

When Joe Gibbs was building the Washington Redskins into Superbowl champions, his stated criteria for drafting players was...

By Michael Maccoby | December 14, 2010; 03:51 PM ET | Comments (0)

Playing from weakness

Obama's strength has been in the results he has won; his weakness has been in a failure to communicate his reasoning for accepting less than he has wanted...

By Michael Maccoby | December 7, 2010; 04:39 PM ET | Comments (4)

Using the presidential bully pulpit

People on the Right see big government and taxes as the main threat to liberty and prosperity. On the Left, people view cutting the federal budget as a threat to the needy. It is unlikely that the president can persuade either extreme to share a common purpose. But...

By Michael Maccoby | November 30, 2010; 11:47 AM ET | Comments (0)

Democrats should stick with Pelosi and Reid

Both Obama and Pelosi have been effective leaders for the Democrat constituency. Neither has connected with the Republican constituency. Would other Democrats do better? Should Pelosi be replaced by a Democrat considered more centrist? The danger is that this would alienate...

By Michael Maccoby | November 8, 2010; 05:51 PM ET | Comments (10)

James Madison was right

Scrape away the personal attacks, lies and distortions, and we are faced with different interests, passions and theories about what is best for America. Madison was hopeful that an enlightened electorate (and this only included white males with property) would select leaders "whose wisdom may best discern the true interest of their country, and...

By Michael Maccoby | October 27, 2010; 01:04 PM ET | Comments (3)

Leading a divided public

I cannot imagine a leadership appeal that would unite the country. The differences are too deeply rooted in different values and economic interests. If the economy improves and many more Americans find jobs, the public may again...

By Michael Maccoby | October 12, 2010; 11:42 AM ET | Comments (2)

Time to repair a tarnished image

In the past, Zuckerberg's relationships with his colleagues proved fragile. He lost a number of people who helped build the company. His challenge is to retain and enlarge a talented team, develop his business, and beat the competition. That will require him to clarify his philosophy of leadership and convince his people that he can be trusted to practice it.

By Michael Maccoby | October 5, 2010; 10:23 AM ET | Comments (1)

When not to listen to experts

A leader's assumptions and incentives may be different from those of experts. In the case of Obama and the generals, the president--not the generals--is accountable to the American people. It is his responsibility to define and defend...

By Michael Maccoby | September 28, 2010; 09:22 AM ET | Comments (1)

Obama's challenge

Perhaps a reassuring father figure like FDR or Ronald Reagan could persuade Americans that they have nothing to fear but fear itself, that our best days are ahead of us. But Obama is not a father figure...

By Michael Maccoby | September 14, 2010; 05:06 PM ET | Comments (1)

Newmark defending dangerous precedent

Free expression and a free market are values that strengthen a prosperous and democratic society. But appealing to values of free expression and a free market can also justify amoral or immoral actions. That is why there are laws and regulations that limit freedom when its expression damages people or limits the freedom of others. To proclaim unbridled freedom as a principle...

By Michael Maccoby | September 8, 2010; 11:55 AM ET | Comments (0)

Rejecting the politics of fear

The crisis that cries out for leadership is not about the mosque in Manhattan. It is about confronting the fear that can paralyze this country or turn fear of the future into impotent anger. We need leaders who ...

By Michael Maccoby | August 24, 2010; 12:11 PM ET | Comments (9)

Undermining the 'HP Way'

The HP values have been undermined and frayed by some of the leaders who followed Bill and Dave. Mark Hurd promised to revitalize the HP Way. His actions, hiding expenses to engage in a questionable relationship that does not pass the smell test, undermine the trust essential for a company's sustainable success.

By Michael Maccoby | August 10, 2010; 09:46 AM ET | Comments (2)

Even without legislation, Obama is leading on energy

Given fierce opposition, Obama's success in leading Congress to pass historic legislation in healthcare and financial regulation contradicts the rap that he has failed as a leader. And lets give him credit for wielding DOD, DOE and EPA to lay the foundations of a cleaner, more secure and sustainable energy future for this country.

By Michael Maccoby | August 5, 2010; 11:29 AM ET | Comments (4)

Fragile reputations

Even in difficult times there are CEOs who have managed to stay on their slippery pedestals.

By Michael Maccoby | July 27, 2010; 11:00 AM ET | Comments (1)

Intel community in search of a purpose

In the private sector, a natural limit to production is determined by customer demand. But there is no natural limit to the amount of intelligence that can be analyzed and put into reports.

By Michael Maccoby | July 20, 2010; 05:47 AM ET | Comments (0)

Don't dismiss McChrystal's doubts

Why would a four-star general risk reprimand and dismissal in such an obvious way?

By Michael Maccoby | June 24, 2010; 10:36 AM ET | Comments (2)

Calling captain safety

No manager should be rewarded for cutting costs at the expense of safety, whether in the private or public sector.

By Michael Maccoby | June 15, 2010; 12:52 PM ET | Comments (0)

When a visionary needs a partner

As the Facebook grows Zuckerberg may, like Steve Jobs, lack the people skills and organizational knowledge needed to run a complex company.

By Michael Maccoby | June 8, 2010; 11:51 AM ET | Comments (0)

A faculty of radical anarchists

To lead change, university presidents must partner with an executive team that can engage all stakeholders in the change process.

By Michael Maccoby | May 25, 2010; 06:46 AM ET | Comments (1)

Ignoring Robert E. Lee

General John Buford didn't wait for orders at the battle of Gettysburg and gained the high ground for the Union army. But other leaders who acted autonomously at Gettysburg were not so successful.

By Michael Maccoby | April 22, 2010; 01:11 PM ET | Comments (0)

Unforseen events

Elected leaders cannot always control the public's feelings about them. Often it's events that determine their popularity.

By Michael Maccoby | April 15, 2010; 12:07 PM ET | Comments (0)

Inspiration in the face of apocalypse

The public tends to turn off when faced with complicated, scary scenarios. Instead, leaders should offer an inspiring vision.

By Michael Maccoby | April 12, 2010; 04:06 PM ET | Comments (2)

Addicted to self-destruction

Tiger's struggle to recover from his fall from grace presents lessons not only for leaders but also for anyone who has strayed from the path of integrity.

By Michael Maccoby | April 7, 2010; 07:09 AM ET | Comments (0)

Transforming the priesthood

"He could overcome the shame of the church by leading an effort to develop a more mature and loving clergy."

By Michael Maccoby | March 30, 2010; 10:41 AM ET | Comments (1)

Republican Plan B?

Republican leadership wagered everything on defeating health care legislation and crippling Obama's presidency.

By Michael Maccoby | March 23, 2010; 08:49 PM ET | Comments (1)

Two critical mistakes

By handing away the leadership to a Senate that lacked bipartisan leaders, Obama lost the momentum he had from his initial popularity.

By Michael Maccoby | March 18, 2010; 06:35 AM ET | Comments (1)

Sex and power

Why do so many politicians jeopardize their careers by giving in to sexual temptation? They believe the rules don't apply to them.

By Michael Maccoby | March 11, 2010; 06:01 AM ET | Comments (1)

Open to manipulation

The leaders most in danger of becoming dependent on an advisor are the ones who believe they don't need any advice.

By Michael Maccoby | March 4, 2010; 02:54 PM ET | Comments (3)

Vices can be humanizing

Perhaps by having his temper exposed, Brown has been revealed as passionately pursuing an agenda which the public understands.

By Michael Maccoby | March 2, 2010; 11:47 AM ET | Comments (1)

Don't strive like Toyota

Stretch goals are fine as long as they reinforce an organization's purpose and there is no down-side for failing to meet them.

By Michael Maccoby | February 25, 2010; 10:55 AM ET | Comments (0)

Principled conservatism

Saying 'no' appeals to far-right voters, but congressional elections come, the public may blame Republicans for sabotaging progress.

By Michael Maccoby | February 23, 2010; 11:38 AM ET | Comments (7)

Unconditional love + responsibility

The practical values Father William Wasson preached and practiced balanced unconditional love with work, responsibility, and sharing.

By Michael Maccoby | February 18, 2010; 11:39 AM ET | Comments (0)

Our need to feel protected

Holder should be strengthening the administration by responding to the public's need to feel protected from America's enemies.

By Michael Maccoby | February 17, 2010; 06:45 AM ET | Comments (18)

Forgetting greatness

The fatal mistake I have seen leaders make is when they lose the clear purpose that made them great.

By Michael Maccoby | February 11, 2010; 10:20 AM ET | Comments (22)

Skillfully playing with ignorance

Part of her feel-good charm is that she appears to believe the distortions of the truth and misunderstanding of the facts that fit her fans' prejudices.

By Michael Maccoby | February 8, 2010; 04:12 PM ET | Comments (15)

The health care imperative

Neither the president nor congressional leaders have made a clear case to the American people for tax increases nor service decreases.

By Michael Maccoby | February 2, 2010; 03:28 PM ET | Comments (0)

A forceful passion

Steve Jobs is a text-book example of a brilliant productive narcissist.

By Michael Maccoby | January 29, 2010; 08:19 AM ET | Comments (2)

'Price of liberty'

We cannot accept the bureaucratic bungling that almost allowed a terrorist to blow up a plane at Christmas. We must and will be more vigilant.

By Michael Maccoby | January 26, 2010; 02:56 PM ET | Comments (0)

Hard-to-please followers

If Obama's leadership does not succeed, it will be as much or more our fault than his.

By Michael Maccoby | January 19, 2010; 10:47 AM ET | Comments (7)

Building Haiti

Haiti cries out for our help, but developmental assistance should be planned and closely directed by leaders who have demonstrated their competence and integrity.

By Michael Maccoby | January 17, 2010; 07:30 AM ET | Comments (0)

Why do we work?

Assembly-line workers during World War II were highly motivated because they were helping to win the war. The same work in peace time would be boring.

By Michael Maccoby | January 6, 2010; 05:21 AM ET | Comments (3)

Waking up to lead

Unlike so many who go through life half asleep, natural leaders are wide awake. They see a threat and act.

By Michael Maccoby | December 31, 2009; 06:38 AM ET | Comments (0)

Define 'great CEO'

When baseball pitchers are rated for a Cy Young award, the voters all know the relevant measures of performance: won-lost and era records. However, there is no accepted criteria for rating CEOs.

By Michael Maccoby | December 16, 2009; 03:44 PM ET | Comments (0)

'Choice' of perfections

It is a mistake to believe that someone who approaches perfection in one area can be perfect in all of life.

By Michael Maccoby | December 7, 2009; 04:14 PM ET | Comments (2)

The right leaders

Succeeding in Afghanistan is not a matter of teaching leadership to Afghanis. Rather, we need to find and support the right leaders with the right followers.

By Michael Maccoby | December 2, 2009; 02:15 PM ET | Comments (0)

Venture capital over charity

Would the funds that go to philanthropy be better spent as venture capital to create new products and jobs? When it comes to creating public goods, the greatest corporate contributions are employment and good products.

By Michael Maccoby | November 19, 2009; 03:22 PM ET | Comments (2)

Declining 'credibility capital'

Despite winning large majorities in Congress, Obama has found it extremely difficult to implement his vision, including a reform of health care.

By Michael Maccoby | November 10, 2009; 03:45 PM ET | Comments (2)

When generals are wrong

Sometimes the judgment of military leaders has proved better than that of their civilian bosses -- but not always.

By Michael Maccoby | November 3, 2009; 02:26 PM ET | Comments (6)

Replace Cerruto and Snyder

The fault lies not with Coach Zorn, but with Dan Snyder and Vince Cerruto for their draft and free-agency decisions. They are the managers who need to be replaced

By Michael Maccoby | October 28, 2009; 10:56 AM ET | Comments (0)

Our secret hope

Against our suspicion that leaders are self-seeking egomaniacs, we still hope that when we are in danger, a competent, trustworthy, selfless leader will emerge to save the situation.

By Michael Maccoby | October 20, 2009; 11:09 AM ET | Comments (0)

No Prize for Norwegians

If the Norwegians meant to bolster Obama's ability to change the world for the better, I doubt they have succeeded.

By Michael Maccoby | October 14, 2009; 05:16 AM ET | Comments (1)

Obama's Khruschev

With bullies like Khruschev or Ahmedinejad, it is essential to take unambiguous, unyielding positions, or they will think we won't stand up to them.

By Michael Maccoby | September 29, 2009; 05:46 AM ET | Comments (5)

Hated Invaders

The U.S .did not lose its friends in Asia by leaving Vietnam, where we were supporting, as now in Afghanistan, a corrupt government against an insurgency with deep roots in the country.

By Michael Maccoby | September 22, 2009; 01:11 PM ET | Comments (33)

A Jamie Dimon Model

Changing behavior at financial institutions requires leaders with a clear philosophy, starting with a statement of purpose that translates into how employees are expected to act and how results will be defined and measured.

By Michael Maccoby | September 16, 2009; 06:52 AM ET | Comments (0)

Obama's Failure

Loyalty creates loyalty and sacrificing Jones was a mistake that may prove costly.

By Michael Maccoby | September 9, 2009; 02:05 PM ET | Comments (4)

From Lightweight to Leader

In his life journey, he responded to devastating family tragedy and personal failure by dedicating himself to further the common good.

By Michael Maccoby | August 27, 2009; 10:53 AM ET | Comments (0)

Mission Creep

The war has shifted from destroying al-Qaeda to fighting the Taliban, and we are becoming bogged down in what is essentially a complex of tribal wars.

By Michael Maccoby | August 25, 2009; 10:46 AM ET | Comments (3)

We Still Need Visionary Leaders

Shell-shocked from the recession, we may hope for cautious, careful leaders. But ultimately the leaders we need are bold visionaries -- Freud called them narcissists -- who create something new.

By Michael Maccoby | August 21, 2009; 06:05 AM ET | Comments (13)

Negative Incentives Needed

The Obama team should now be at work charting what incentives, positive and negative, they can use with Democrats who are on the fence about voting for health-care reform

By Michael Maccoby | August 18, 2009; 10:15 AM ET | Comments (2)

Get a Real Vacation

If you're going to unplug and relax, make sure you arrange a vacation you'll actually enjoy.

By Michael Maccoby | August 11, 2009; 12:28 PM ET | Comments (0)

Don't Wait for It to 'Blow Over'

If you are trying to accomplish important goals, don't throw out a divisive, emotionally charged observation. If you do, however, act quickly and don't wait for it to "blow over."

By Michael Maccoby | August 3, 2009; 12:05 PM ET | Comments (1)

Take Cue from Clinics

There are health care centers in America that truly are the best in the world in terms of both quality and cost--Obama should examine how they work when trying to develop a fair, efficient health care system.

By Michael Maccoby | July 28, 2009; 10:34 AM ET | Comments (0)

Focus on Service

If banks and other financial institutions focus on service rather than making quick bucks, people are more likely to appreciate them and furthermore, they are more likely to prosper.

By Michael Maccoby | July 21, 2009; 10:48 AM ET | Comments (0)

The Anti-Leader's Leader

Palin's supporters don't trust leaders in general, and her farewell speech as governor implied that people should follow her because she doesn't want to be a leader. Believe it or not, that makes sense to her followers.

By Michael Maccoby | July 7, 2009; 01:05 PM ET | Comments (0)

Adultery Is Private, Politics Are Not

The public dislikes infidelity in its leaders but is willing to ignore it if the leader is seen as truly working for the common good.

By Michael Maccoby | June 29, 2009; 01:44 PM ET | Comments (1)

A Productive Narcissist

Who would want to follow a leader who is often insulting to his subordinates? Some people would and do, because Jobs creates great products that change people's lives.

By Michael Maccoby | June 23, 2009; 09:24 AM ET | Comments (0)

The Zen Christian Master

Phil Jackson said his own approach to coaching "embodied the Zen Christian attitude of selfless awareness." Other leader shouldn't copy him: Instead they should express their own values and vision through their leadership style.

By Michael Maccoby | June 15, 2009; 02:14 PM ET | Comments (1)

An Unwise Boast

Sonia Sotomayor's statement about her background was a boast to an audience that shared her Latina identity, not an explanation of her convictions.

By Michael Maccoby | June 9, 2009; 06:38 AM ET | Comments (0)

Bring the Best Minds

The government cannot run GM operations, but it can make sure that it has the best possible leadership. One way to do this is to organize an advisory committee that is not dominated by financial types but which includes experts on auto companies.

By Michael Maccoby | June 1, 2009; 03:00 PM ET | Comments (0)

Steve Jobs Is Not Dull: Why Context Matters in CEO Success

David Brooks has joined a parade of thinkers who endorse the idea that the best CEOs are "dull," self-effacing conscientious folks. In fact, context matters, and some business leaders need charisma, just as political leaders also need strategy.

By Michael Maccoby | May 22, 2009; 12:53 PM ET | Comments (10)

A Listening Heart

President Obama should not ignore the leadership qualities of his nominee, as other presidents have done. An influential Justice is one who can not only apply strong logical analysis but who can also make compelling arguments from the heart.

By Michael Maccoby | May 19, 2009; 10:28 AM ET | Comments (0)


Cheney's insistence on reviewing memos he claims will prove that "enhanced interrogation techniques" like waterboarding saved thousands of American lives may not be wise for the country and even for his political purposes.

By Michael Maccoby | May 12, 2009; 07:02 AM ET | Comments (1)

Shared Sacrifice

The management could possibly scare the union into accepting its terms by threatening to close the paper. The result would be an angry and resentful staff.

By Michael Maccoby | May 5, 2009; 10:05 AM ET | Comments (0)

An Ancient Practice

Leadership has been taught and learned through the ages. An early leadership coach was Moses's father-in-law, Jethro, who told him Moses was wearing himself out trying to solve everyone's problems and that he should learn to delegate.

By Michael Maccoby | April 21, 2009; 07:12 AM ET | Comments (0)

Protecting Life

By offering himself to the pirates as a hostage, he risked his life to protect his crew. In this time of self-serving leaders, his example is inspiring.

By Michael Maccoby | April 15, 2009; 04:27 PM ET | Comments (0)

A Strategic Mind at Work

He painted a vision of partnership to control and eventually abolish nuclear weapons. What he showed in Europe was a strategic mind at work, plowing the ground to grow a stronger, healthier future.

By Michael Maccoby | April 7, 2009; 11:57 AM ET | Comments (1)

Questions for GM

Firing Wagoner is a strong signal that under his leadership GM performed poorly. But replacing him with someone whose talent is controlling costs won't cut it.

By Michael Maccoby | March 30, 2009; 03:32 PM ET | Comments (0)

Taxi Driver Wisdom

On the way to Reagan Airport, the taxi driver had this to say about President Obama: "He should talk directly to those bankers and tell them to stop acting like pigs. And he shouldn't let Congress run the show."

By Michael Maccoby | March 22, 2009; 10:46 PM ET | Comments (0)

College Coaches Versus CEOs

Exceptional coaches have high salaries because they create winning teams and make money for the colleges that pay them. Many CEOs whose companies have had losing years can't claim the same justification for their huge salaries and bonuses.

By Michael Maccoby | March 15, 2009; 10:04 PM ET | Comments (0)

If Women Ran the Banks

The banks and trading companies are dominated by men. The few women who reach high levels have had to fit into a male culture. Would it have been different if women had created and run the culture? We can only fantasize.

By Michael Maccoby | March 9, 2009; 04:33 AM ET | Comments (1)

Five Key Principles

The Obama administration is right in inviting stakeholders to take part in the reform process, but it must remain true to five interrelated principles.

By Michael Maccoby | March 2, 2009; 04:30 PM ET | Comments (0)

Livni's Careful Calculus

When a new CEO is crowned at Japanese companies, rivals are either retired or sent to other companies. But politics is messier, and Livni must decide whether Netanyahu is sincere in his overtures.

By Michael Maccoby | February 23, 2009; 10:31 AM ET | Comments (0)

"Miracle" and Others

"Miracle," "Remember the Titans," "Twelve O'Clock High" and "Citizen Kane" are four brilliant films that each show a different type of leadership.

By Michael Maccoby | February 18, 2009; 10:21 AM ET | Comments (0)

False Sense of Entitlement

Bank executives seem oblivious to what the public thinks of them and care too much about what other executives think of them.

By Michael Maccoby | February 2, 2009; 02:06 PM ET | Comments (0)

Losers and Winners

It is all in the context-- a person can seem inept in one situation and brilliant in another.

By Michael Maccoby | January 26, 2009; 11:34 AM ET | Comments (0)

Rallying for Bipartisanship

While one speech cannot achieve the president's purpose, by aiming to gain bipartisan support, President Obama got off to an excellent start.

By Michael Maccoby | January 21, 2009; 12:23 PM ET | Comments (0)

The Principled Pragmatist

Obama's brilliant campaign and impressive transition process show he has the skills to guide the country through rough seas, but once greeted by "Hail to the Chief," will he keep his humility?

By Michael Maccoby | January 12, 2009; 12:39 PM ET | Comments (1)

Unanswered Questions

He had many strengths as a leader -- an affable personality combined with a stubborn will -- but his actions in the long run may cost us all dearly.

By Michael Maccoby | January 6, 2009; 11:05 AM ET | Comments (3)

Father Richard Frechette

Perhaps the best leaders of 2008 have avoided self-advertisement, and one of these is a priest-physician who leads by example in caring for Haiti's poor.

By Michael Maccoby | December 30, 2008; 11:22 AM ET | Comments (2)

Piloting His Own Sled

Santa is a model for CEOs. Not only does he inspire hardworking employees and happy customers while promoting niceness, but he also turns down the corporate jet in favor of doing the hard flying work himself.

By Michael Maccoby | December 23, 2008; 11:22 AM ET | Comments (0)

Be the Leader We Need

Rather than defensively answer questions, Obama should tell us he recognizes the governor's behavior is a symptom of the failure of leadership in this country.

By Michael Maccoby | December 15, 2008; 01:00 PM ET | Comments (0)

Change the Culture

General Motors can't survive without transformational leadership.

By Michael Maccoby | December 8, 2008; 03:40 PM ET | Comments (2)

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