The Center for Public Leadership mourns the loss of Richard Hackman, Edgar Pierce Professor of Social and Organizational Psychology at Harvard University, who died last week at the age of 72. Arguably the world’s leading authority on teams, Richard was an affiliated faculty member at CPL, and his contributions to the life of our center were many and significant. A great bear of a man, who loved both the wilds of New Hampshire and the sophisticated instrumental conversation that is chamber music, he created an indelible impression with his booming voice, mischievous wit, keen powers of observation, and ability to laugh at himself.
Richard edited the 1990 volume Groups That Work (And Those That Don’t). His 2002 book, Leading Teams: Setting the Stage for Great Performances, won the Academy of Management’s Terry Award for the most outstanding management book of the year. In 2008, he and coauthors Ruth Wageman, Debra Nunes, and James Burruss published Senior Leadership Teams: What It Takes to Make Them Great. Based on a study of 120 top teams from around the world, this work provided fresh thinking about the design of executive teams. His last book, 2011’s Collaborative Intelligence: Using Teams to Solve Hard Problems, may have been his best, incorporating his most recent research on the U.S. intelligence community while elegantly summarizing the insights he had gleaned over more than four decades of teaching, consulting, and scholarship.
Richard received the Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award from the American Psychological Association’s division on industrial and organizational psychology, and both the Distinguished Educator Award and the Distinguished Scholar Award from the Academy of Management. He also mentored two generations of doctoral students; their ongoing contributions to the fields of leadership and social and organizational psychology serve as a testament to his enduring legacy.
His bio on the Faculty of Arts and Sciences website includes a photograph of his Illinois high school basketball team during a timeout at a tournament game—with him standing “slightly outside the huddle,” as he put it, “a member of the group but not really in it.”
We were honored to have you as a member of our group, Richard—and we cherish your memory.