Robert Tannenbaum

(*1915-2003) US organization researcher and leadership theorist

Robert Tannenbaum (1915 - March 15, 2003) was an American organizational psychologist and Professor at the UCLA Anderson School of Management, University of California, Los Angeles, known for his work in the field of leadership and organization.



How to choose a leadership pattern, 1958


Robert Tannenbaum, and Warren H. Schmidt. How to choose a leadership pattern. Harvard Business Review, 36, (1958) 95-101.

  • Each type of action is related to the degree of authority used by the boss and to the amount of freedom available to subordinates in reaching decisions. The actions seen on the extreme left characterize managers who maintain a high degree of control while those seen on the extreme right characterize managers who release a high degree of control.
    • p. 97
  • If they can see them as forces that consciously or unconsciously influence their behavior, they can better understand what makes them prefer to act in a given way. And understanding this, they can often make themselves more effective.
    • p. 99

Leadership and Organization, 1961


Robert Tannenbaum, Irving R. Weschler, and Fred Massarik, Leadership and Organization, New York: McGraw-Hill Book Co., 1961; 2013.

  • In recent years the areas of leadership, training, and organization have increasingly challenged theorists, researchers, and practitioners. Evidence of this has been a growing literature from many disciplines and approaches. Without self-consciously determining the long-range directions of our work, we have found ourselves challenged by these issues and contributing to this literature.
This book represents a selected collection of the writings, from 1950 to 1960, of members of the Human Relations Research Group (HRRG), Institute of Industrial Relations and Graduate School of Business Administration, University of California, Los Angeles. The writings are followed by independent comments and appraisal from different viewpoints, prepared by distinguished experts in management theory, group psychotherapy and psychology, and sociology.
  • p. vii; Preface
  • Human relations today has its iconoclasts and believers, critics and supporters, detractors and zealots. This is not surprising; for during the past twenty years, numerous research groups have burgeoned, and many individual investigators have become most active in the field. There has been a fantastic outpouring of professional and popular books and articles, untold new or revised college and university offerings, a plethora of in-plant training courses, a growing number of training laboratories and seminars, and a seemingly ever-increasing schedule of meetings and speeches—all concerned, in whole or in part, with "human relations."
    • p. 5
  • The term "human relations" is being used to denote a field of inquiry - one which cuts across the jurisdictional boundaries of traditional social sciences in an effort to avoid fragmented, compartmentalized, or partial approaches to human problems.
    • p. 8
  • [The human relations movement ] will bring to bear existing and newly developed theories, methods, and techniques of the relevant social sciences upon the study of inter- and intrapersonal phenomena, ranging fully from the personality dynamics of individuals at one extreme to the relations of cultures at the other.
    • p. 9
  • Leadership is interpersonal influence, exercised in a situation, and directed, through the communication process, toward the attainment of a specified goal or goals.
    • p. 24

Quotes about Robert Tannenbaum

  • Bob Tannenbaum’s intellectual work described organizational systems not as machines with interchangeable human parts, but as living communities that can be designed to enable people to grow and learn while achieving business goals. His writings, as well as his teaching and consulting, reflected the value he placed on people, and his belief that, to a great extent, leadership effectiveness derives from awareness of one’s own basic assumptions about human nature and the testing out and revision of those assumptions.
No matter how you cut it, Bob’s seminal contributions always began with the ones he made interpersonally, with students, colleagues, and clients, and his everyday interactions with almost everyone he encountered. However, they also include his written words. His 1961 book, with Irving Weschler and Fred Massarik, Leadership and Organization, was significant in making the academic and practical argument for the use of group dynamics in developing leaders and teaching them how to operate effectively. His articles (with Warren Schmidt) “How to Choose a Leadership Pattern” (1958) and “Management of Differences” (1960) both set Harvard Business Review records for reprint requests and were reprinted in publications worldwide.
  • Samuel Culbert. "In Memoriam : Robert Tannenbaum", Academic Senate, University of California, 2003

"My surname means Christmas Tree"