My Mentor and Friend, Paul Hersey

This has been a tough time for me, losing great friends like Steve Covey, Zig Ziglar, and now my friend and mentor, Paul Hersey.

I met Paul in 1966 when I worked at Ohio University as the assistant to the Dean of the College of Business, Harry Evarts. It was my first job out of my doctoral program. Paul was chairman of the Management department. The reason I took an administrative job was because all of my professors had told me if I wanted to work at a university, I should be an administrator since I couldn’t write. They thought it would be hard for me to be a professor due to the well-known adage Paul Hersey“If you don’t publish, you perish.”

When I got to campus, though, Dean Evarts told me he wanted me to teach a course like all the rest of his assistants had done. I had never thought about teaching. He put me in Paul Hersey’s department and Paul gave me a basic management course to teach. After a couple of weeks of teaching, I came home and told my wife Margie, “This is what I ought to be doing. This is great. I should be a teacher.”

She said, “What about the writing?”

I said, “I don’t know. I’ll have to work something out.”

I had heard that Paul taught a fabulous course on leadership, so in December 1966 I went up to him in the hall and told him I’d love to sit in on his class the following semester.

He said to me, “Nobody audits my course. If you want to take it for credit, you’re welcome to do that.” Then he walked away.

I thought, That’s really something. I’ve got a Ph.D. and he doesn’t, and he wants me to take his course! So I went home and told Margie about it.

She said, “Is he any good?” 

I said, “He’s supposed to be fabulous.”

She said, “Then get your ego out of the way and take his course!”

I had to convince the registrar to let me into the course, since I already had a Ph.D.  So I took the course and wrote the papers.

In June 1967, after the course was over, Paul came into my office and said, “Ken, I’ve been teaching leadership for ten years and I think I’m better than anybody. But I can’t write. I’m a nervous wreck because they want me to write a textbook. I’ve been looking for a good writer like you to write it with me. Would you do it?”

I laughed and said, “We ought to be some team. You say you can’t write and I’ve been told I’m not able to. Let’s do it!”

So Paul and I sat down and wrote Management of Organizational Behavior: Utilizing Human Resources. It recently came out in its 10th edition and it sells more today than it ever has. It’s been a wonderful legacy for both of us.

That was my start as a writer. If it weren’t for Paul Hersey, I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing today. I owe so much to him. That book introduced Situational Leadership®, a leadership model that has been taught to hundreds of thousands of students since its inception. Even though The Ken Blanchard Companies now teaches Situational Leadership® II while Paul’s company, Center for Leadership Studies, has held on to the original Situational Leadership® model, we really have been “co-petitors” instead of competitors through the years because we valued each other and the way we thought.

I’m so fortunate that Paul Hersey came into my life. I’ll miss him.

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