Perspectives on Fred and His Leadership

 
 

Presented at the Fred Hayes Celebration
on December 13, 2002

 

Joan Leiman on Fred Hayes

Not counting Peter, who was technically Fred's Chief of Staff, I was the first program planner hired—the first of those who sometimes arrogantly referred to ourselves and were referred to as the "whiz kids." We hit the Budget Bureau like aliens from outer space and perhaps that is why we were housed in the Bureau of Highways and Sewers. It was characteristic of Fred that he made Harry Bronstein, Jim Cavanagh and the engineers and examiners feel reassured and valued if not entirely comfortable as he introduced this barrage of young energetic, competitive analysts; in less able hands this kind of radical change would have spelled disaster for a strongly hierarchical and highly disciplined organization; in Hayes hands, it worked to transform the Bureau without destroying it, a truly remarkable achievement. Joan Leiman

That was one of the Fred's special qualities—everyone who worked for or with him felt that she or he had a special affinity with him. He was genuinely interested in people, particularly young people, and extraordinarily generous with himself and his time-if you happened to be the one talking with him, it was wonderful; if you were the one waiting to see him it could be horrible, a teeth-gnashing experience. Tonight's attendance is a tribute to this inclusiveness Fred would be pleased.

There were so many facets and levels to Fred. He defies easy summary and conventional descriptors. I have elected tonight to try and capture some of this elusive quality under three headings: WOMEN, TALENT AND TURKEYS; LASERS, MAZES AND WHEELS; and THE MORAL ORGANIZATION

WOMEN, TALENT AND TURKEYS

Fred liked and respected women, particularly if they were smart. And if they were pretty too, much the better. He enjoyed talking with women; he enjoyed working with women; he enjoyed the differences between men and women, but he was never patronizing, always respected women as professionals and never made a professional distinction between the women and the men who worked for him -which in the 1960s was pretty unusual. He was a mentor to women before there was a name for that kind of guidance and support, and a role model before there were any role models for women, giving us as much support as we asked for and as much opportunity as we seemed ready to assume-and sometimes more.

Fred respected talent. One of his greatest assets was his ability to identify talent, often in unlikely people. He knew it when he saw it. The Talent Search, which Fred conceived with Peter, and which Joan Dunlop ran, changed the face of City government years before it would have happened in the normal course of events.

Those he didn't respect were TURKEYS. The world was divided into those who got it and those who didn't, and those who didn't get it were turkeys. Needless to say, there are no turkeys here tonight.

LASERS, MAZES AND WHEELS

Fred's mind was as incisive as a laser, and at the same time a maze that could be very difficult for his listeners to navigate. The pathways he took to reach his conclusions were definitely non-linear and associative but well worth the effort to stay the course until he reached his destination. The detours and by-ways were often every bit as rich and interesting as the main drag.

And very often you weren't sure when he arrived at the end because often there wasn't an end. It wasn't indecisiveness; Fred could make decisions. It wasn't ambiguity-I don't think he was often deliberately ambiguous. And it wasn't tentativeness because he wasn't tentative. It was a capacity to hold and balance several thoughts and ideas at once, ideas that could be complementary, contradictory and even conflicting and to treat all conclusions as preliminary to be revised as facts were uncovered, circumstances changed or persuasive arguments made. Fred loved to talk. But he could listen.

Fred's thinking was way ahead of the curve. It was so far in front of the conventional wisdom that frequently we, I, couldn't fully follow him. Three quick examples from my own area, health care: his focus on evaluating health care by outcomes rather than process-that was 1967-20 plus years before the health care community made this the holy grail; the development of a diabetes protocol to improve quality and efficiency, something in which he invested a great deal of time and attention and which I thought would never fly with doctors and yet the clinical protocol is now beginning to dominate the practice of medicine and the provision of care; and, third, his quick recognition of another visionary-Howard Brown-and his insistence as a result of talking with Brown that we put ambulatory Neighborhood Family Care Centers into his first capital budget, too many as it happened, but the direction was 100% right. There are dozens of other examples: Federal revenue sharing, the New York City-RAND Institute; his partnership with VERA; his establishment of the FUND for the City of New York; his bringing Carter Bales into a position in the Bureau to institutionalize McKinsey thinking from within rather than create reports to be buried and forgotten.

His mind was like a St. Catherine's wheel, whirring away and sending sparks out in all directions; his curiosity was boundless; his range of interest extraordinary. He never entered into a conversation he didn't enjoy. Fred had a wonderful sense of humor and a way of using irony to make a point. At least I think so-but even today I'm not sure. You were never quite sure how serious he was-unless he was very serious and then you knew. He was rarely obviously angry-and almost never publicly—but you knew when his wrath was aroused. I sometimes had trouble deciding whether something rather outrageous that he said was meant to be taken seriously, or if he was testing my gullibility, but if it was teasing it was never mean spirited. There was nothing mean-spirited about Fred. If he called someone a turkey, he or she was undoubtedly a turkey.

THE MORAL ORGANIZATION

Fred understood organizations; he understood process-what it was for and when it got in its own way. He understood the trade-offs between control and results, and he once cautioned Sargent Shriver that he, Fred, could put as many controls on the community action agencies as Sarge, terrified of political embarrassments, wanted; but at some point the agencies would cease to be change agents and become another set of bureaucratic roadblocks, which is, of course, what ultimately happened.

Fred was a profoundly moral man; the analytic calculus of reason that he applied to the issues of public policy and management was infused by a deep respect for life, for truth, for people. This morality was at the very core of his being and it showed itself in the quality of his leadership, in the way his organizations operated; in the way he dealt comfortably and consistently with those in power and those not; and in the decisions he made. He didn't talk much about morality and moral issues so his last words to me in the hospital in Utica were especially revealing. We were talking about the Budget Bureau, the quality of his leadership, the way he had brought women along, the way he had shaped the organization. I was searching for a word to describe the kind of organization he had built and run and he supplied it: "Moral. I always tried to run a moral organization."

He wanted to run a moral organization and he did. He wanted to make a difference in the world. And he did. He wanted to leave a legacy. And he did. That legacy is here in this room tonight; it is in the many innovative programs he fostered like revenue sharing and clinical protocols; it is in the ways in which his values, his thinking have found expression in our post-Hayes lives and work; it will be carried forward in the talented fellows who will be identified and supported in his memory and in their contributions to state and local government; and it will be found in the values and respect for public service and for the public servant that I trust that we who are here will convey to our peers and to our successors.

I like to think that as his life ebbed, Fred understood this and knew that he had in fact made a difference. His last words to us as we left him were "hey, guys, this is the best wake I ever attended". He would be pleased with what we say here tonight and what we will do in the future to honor him and his memory.

 

A Photo Montage from the December 13, 2002 Event...

 

Help us locate missing members of Fred's Gang. Send physical and e-mail addresses to the Fred Hayes Master File, c/o Tony Japha, 75 East End Ave., Apt. 18B, New York, NY 10028 (email: ajapha@earthlink.net).