“If you want to truly understand something, try to change it.”Kurt Lewin
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.
I’ve gathered more family pictures of him that you can see here. My video presentation about his life, including rare video and photos and special family heirlooms is here.