Mentors in Memorium: Mary Parker Follett (1868-1933)

mary_parker_follettWhile many management gurus are men, Mary Parker Follett has been largely forgotten in the history of management. She was the first to apply human psychology and human relations to industrial management.

She went to Radcliffe College–a coordinate 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 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 American mechanical engineer Frederick W. Taylor (1856-19195), Mary argued for a human relations approach that was well before its time, and eventually served as an influence in the work of Austrian management guru Peter Drucker 1909-2005) and others. 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. Her ideas about shared power, mutuality, and reciprocity formed the basis for much of modern day mentoring. Her  books, in part, served as the foundation for the Human Relations Movement of the mid-20th century of management gurus such as American psychologist and human needs specialist Abraham Maslow (1908-1970), clinical psychologist and management pioneer Frederick Herzberg (1923-2000) and Australian-born management psychologist Elton Mayo (1880-1949).

“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.”

~ Mary Parker Follett ~

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