The Mary Parker Follett Network

Unity, not uniformity, must be our aim. - MPF

MPF's 'Lifetime Achievement' award from the International Leadership Assoc.

Hello all,

I'm new to this forum, although I've been following MPF's work since about 2008.  I was very pleased to be in the audience at the ILA conference in London last October when MPF was given a posthumous award in recognition of her outstanding service to leadership.

Details are posted here, and transcript is as follows. Just wondering if any members had a hand in this?

2011 Lifetime Achievement Award Winner Mary Parker Follett

Mary Parker Follett (1868-1933) was an extraordinary thinker and synthesizer of ideas. With her prescient approach to leadership, management, and human relations, "she delighted in challenging distinguished academics to stretch beyond disciplinary boundaries."1 One of the first women to ever be invited to speak at the London School of Economics, she also consulted with the League of Nations and the International Labor Organization. And, while the years between the height of her productivity and the present did not always provide fertile ground for her ideas, today, 115 years after the publication of her first book, a wide variety of disciplinary lines of inquiry and organizational traditions look to her as a foundational figure. As Warren Bennis points out, "Just about everything written today about leadership and organizations comes from Mary Parker Follett's writings and lectures."2
Follett graduated summa cum laude from Radcliffe in 1898 and published her first book, The Speaker of the House of Representatives, based on research she had conducted as a student. While several of her contemporaries "chastised her—an inexperienced woman—for daring to speak on contemporary political matters," the book was favorably received by many as a brilliant and insightful analysis.3
Follett's strong desire to "make something of herself" led to her post-graduate work in the Roxbury neighborhood of Boston.4 Her passion for the development of citizenship and community organizing matured during her time with immigrant and working class communities and was articulated in her second book, The New State. The book, which brings together her personal experiences and her "academic acumen as a student of democratic theory," has since been recognized as "an American classic of participatory democracy."5 The appendix to the book is also credited with being one of the earliest pieces of scholarly writing in the U.S. on the importance and value of adult and continuing education.6
Beginning in the 1920s, Follett turned her mind to management and leadership. Her last book, Creative Experience, was the result of this focus and, in many ways, applied the ideas she had developed with respect to communities to organizations. Creative Experience is also where she expressed her, radical at the time, circular theory of power, a theory which emphasizes win-win solutions in the approach to conflict resolution and the importance of getting people to cooperate.



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Welcome, Heather,

News of the International Leadership Association's award to Mary Parker Follett is so COOL!  Wonderful!  I am eager to hear more about the ILA and your own activities. And, Ket de Vries article looks like a MUST READ!  (Kets de Vries, M. F. R. 2003. Leaders, Fools and Imposters:  Essays on the Psychology of Leadership.  (Rev ed.). New York, iUniverse Inc, 140.)

Pauline Graham and I helped create a Mary Parker Follett award around 1990 which is now given annually by the Association for Conflict Resolution.  Her thinking is always so fresh, timeless and applicable to so many situations and fields--conflict resolution is but one.

Info on ACR award below.  THANKS, Albie Davis, Thomaston, Maine, USA

Mary Parker Follett Award

The Mary Parker Follett Award is presented to an individual who has shown a passion and willingness to take risks; in tackling a contemporary problem or opportunity in the field of dispute resolution; has used innovative and experimental techniques; and draws upon the talents and ideas of all persons involved. Mary Parker Follett (1868-1933) was an early advocate of resolving conflict by encouraging parties to integrate interests into negotiations. During the mid-1920s, Follett shifted her focus from community group processes to the field of business. Business leaders sought her advice on how to manage their enterprises, and she became a featured speaker at national and international business conferences. Her talks were drawn together and published posthumously in the influential book Dynamic Administration.

Past Recipients:

  • 2011: Kristen Bailey Atkinson
  • 2010: Ethan Katsh
  • 2009: Janet Rifkin
  • 2008: No Honoree
  • 2007: No Honoree
  • 2006: Gail Bingham, President of RESOLVE
  • 2005: John R. Helie, founder of ConflictNet and
  • 2004: No Honoree
  • 2003: Chris Carlson, Executive Director, Policy Consensus Initiative
  • 2002: No Honoree
  • 2001: Rachel Wohl, Executive Director, Maryland Mediation and Conflict Resolution Organization

Thanks Albie,

I heartily recommend the kets de Vries book and the notion that 'leaders are in the business of energy management' is underpinning my thesis, so it was a happy day when I was able to trace this back to MPF!!

Albie and Heather,

"'leaders are in the business of energy management' could not be more true with Obama who envisions energy horizontally, from the middle out. Is 'kets de Vries' writing available in English? Sounds fascinating.

PS to comment below. How about nominating Obama for this leadership award? He surely deserves it in his business, as US president, of 'energy management'.

Wendy (Ana) Schofield said:

Albie and Heather,

"'leaders are in the business of energy management' could not be more true with Obama who envisions energy horizontally, from the middle out. Is 'kets de Vries' writing available in English? Sounds fascinating.

In my reading of Follett, I would imagine her to be less entranced by the idea of leadership as energy management than by the idea of leadership as power-creation. Needless to say, I am using the term "power" as a creative force that only exists through human interaction, not in the traditional sense of "control" or "force". Energy management, well, that's something every "manager" does. But not every manager induces creative power from within a community; that takes a leader. Or, more generally put, that takes leadership.

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