Management Gurus: Mary Parker Follett
The great majority of management gurus are men but there is a special place for one woman who has been largely forgotten in the history of management: Mary Parker Follett. Mary was born in Massachusetts in 1868 to a Quaker family. She went to Radcliffe College, a co-ordinate college of Harvard University, though, being a woman, she was denied a degree. From there, she became a voluntary social worker and founded social community centres in and around Boston. Her first book, "The New State", on community, democracy and government, was published in 1918 followed by more books on the creative interaction of groups in later years. She became perhaps the first-ever "management consultant" in 1928 when she worked with the League of Nations in Geneva. She moved to England to lecture at the London School of Economics and died in 1933 at the age of 65 on a return trip to Boston.
Mary Parker Follett: A Human Relations Approach to Work
Mary Follett's contribution to the development of management theory can be seen as a contrast to the scientific management theories of the early 1900's. Unlike the approach of time-and-motion advocates such as Frederick W. Taylor, (1856-1915), Mary argued for a human relations approach that was well before its time. In a 1924 essay on "Power", she coined the phrases "power-over" and "power-with", observing that groups work more effectively when power is shared and people are empowered. She wrote, "It seems to me that whereas power usually means power-over, the power of some person or group over some other person or group, it is possible to develop the conception of power-with, a jointly developed power, a co-active, not a coercive power." In her approach, that she developed in a series of books, she laid the ground for the Human Relations Movement of the mid-20th century of management gurus such as Maslow, Herzberg and Mayo.
Mary Parker Follett: Notable Quotes
The following 5 quotes from Mary Parker Follett's work give a taste of her thinking. They could have been written in any management book today and were the reason why Peter Drucker marked her out as one of the outstanding management gurus of the early 20th century.
1. "The aim of every form of organization, should be not to share power, but to increase power, to seek the methods by which power can be increased in all."
2. "To free the energies of the human spirit is the high potentiality of all human association."
3. "Groups are the indispensable means for the discovery of self by each man. The individual finds himself in a group; he has no power alone or in a crowd. One group creates me, another group brings into appearance the multiple sides of me."
4. "The best leader knows how to make his followers actually feel power themselves, not merely acknowledge his power."
5. "A friendship based on likenesses and agreements alone is a superficial matter enough. The deep and lasting friendship is one capable of recognizing and dealing with all the fundamental differences that must exist between any two individuals, one capable therefore of such an enrichment of our personalities that together we shall mount to new heights of understanding and endeavor."
Other Resources on Mary Parker Follett
Here is a qwiki on Mary Parker Follett (qwikis are concise informative slideshows with voiceovers)
Here at about.com are 4 full pages of quotes from Mary Parker Follett.
Use this link to view 10 profiles of other management gurus.