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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with David DeVries, November 23 and December 2, 1998. Interview S-0010. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Tensions between creative thinkers and a strict boss

Tensions arose as CLL grew, DeVries remembers. Its members began to focus more on earning money and started to try to "squeeze a little bit more profit" out of its programs. Tensions also arose as a new leader from a military background clashed with some of the creative thinkers at the organization.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with David DeVries, November 23 and December 2, 1998. Interview S-0010. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

I think there were tensions that were building in the organization.
And they were coming from what, growth?
I think from growth, increasing complexity of the organization. I think in part, the organization was facing a time when there was a kind of a maturation of a lot of programs and people and some of the initial excitement that had been there in the late 70's and early 80's was diminishing. For example, the major program, the leadership development program, had by that point in time, been running for over a decade. It had been run several hundred times and it moved into the kind of production mode of just running one more LDP after another. We began to look at it not so much as an innovative intervention, rather as in looking at it from sort of a more profit point of view, wondering how we could squeeze a little bit more profit out of each of these programs. So it had become a wonderful cash cow subsidizing a lot of other efforts. As an example, and those kind of issues, given the people that were at the Center, those are not very interesting issues. And some staff tended to feel like, "I have to address these kind of issues, why don't I go to the for-profit consulting work?"
It's a poor use of their creative talent.
Right. And we were not able—I think it would have been more fun for all of us if we had had more really interesting things in the pipeline, new ideas, new programs, new research efforts. The research program was going. There was one powerful research program going at the time. But on the training side, there just wasn't a lot of innovation going on. And that led to some of the frustration, too. There was also an interesting tension built in by the mandate that the board gave to Walt Ulmer which in my sense was to come in and clean us up, clean up this operation.
To bring some order to it?
Yeah, exactly. And that did not come from the staff, that particular mandate. Very few of the staff saw that as a need or issue. They saw that effort as an infringement on their independence and creativity and all of that. After all, they would regularly remind us this is the Center for Creative Leadership. That effort (to rationalize the place) felt anything but like creativity.