Although my grandfather Kurt Lewin died before I was born, his legacy inspired my life and career.
He was born Jewish into a Prussian family—he served in the German army during World War 1, earning an Iron Cross. But as Hitler came to power, he, along with many other Jewish psychologists, was persecuted and Kurt Lewin, along with his daughter (my mother) Miriam Lewin, escaped Germany and emigrated to the U.S. in 1933.
Not surprisingly, I grew up hearing about our family’s experiences in the Holocaust and my grandfather’s work, including “Field Theory”, his work in the US to fight racial and religious prejudices—and his famous study of Leadership Styles: Autocratic, Democratic and Laissez-faire.
It was only as I progressed in my career as an Organizational Development consultant and Leadership Coach that I started to use these and other Lewinian ideas (such as his three-stage change model—unfreezing, reforming and refreezing) in my work.
As I used his models and strategies for leadership and collaboration, I began to realize the connection between resilient relationships and accelerated change—especially when facing the biggest, boldest challenges or innovations. Which is why I’ve studied this link, researched it and even wrote the book on it.
I like to think he’d be proud.
My grandfather, Kurt Lewin, made a lasting impact on the fields of organizational development, applied psychology, and social science that still resonate with the issues we are facing today.
These videos are Parts One and Two of my recent presentation to an OD Network meeting about Lewin’s life: what personal experiences drove him to study and learn what he did, and how we can still use his ideas to solve the most pressing social challenges of our time – including crisis leadership, change management and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion?
I share some very personal heirlooms and rare family movies about the formation and application of Lewin’s biggest theories and ideas, such as Field Theory, Leadership Styles and Force Field Analysis, and we discuss the use of his methods in 21st century organizational development, leadership coaching and change management.
I am always eager to discuss my grandfather’s work and I am honored to support those learning about him any way I can. Please reach out if I can support your understanding and application of Lewin’s work.