Story 11: Learning to Lead

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Sidebar: What was McBer?

Written by Mike Spock

McBer and Company, Inc. (now known as Hay/McBer) was founded in 1963 by psychologist and Harvard professor David McClelland (1917-1998). A McBer consultancy involved examining motivations and looking for core competencies in trying to help people achieve their full potential in both their personal or professional lives. McClelland is credited as a founder of the competency movement. Its principles and methodology have been widely applied in business, education, economics mental health, and global development.

In his 1973 paper "Testing for Competence rather than Intelligence," published in American Psychologist, McClelland argued that the typical exams and IQ tests were not accurate predictors of job performance. Instead, he focused on ways to identify other variables, known as "competencies." McClelland's "Three Need Theory" analyzed an individual's needs for achievement, affiliation, and power and how that balance could contribute to their motivation and effectiveness in a given role or job.

Former McClelland business partner and board member of The Children's Museum David Burnham continued and expanded this behavioral science work in the field of behavioral science and its application in industry eventually becoming president and CEO of McBer. In 2003, Harvard Business Review (HBR) republished an article by McClelland and Burnham entitled "Power is the Great Motivator" as an HBR Classic.

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