Why The Thayer Institute exists…

The Thayer Institute–part of Leadership TBD–is a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving the life’s work and legacy of Dr. Lee Thayer, and helping continue to spread his singular approach to leadership thinking, being, and doing.

The Thayer Institute was founded to create more relevance and meaning in people’s lives by equipping them with the thinking, the character, and the tools necessary to change themselves for the better and, in doing so, change the world for the better.

The Institute is overseen by Dr. Thayer’s daughter and protégé, Joelle Thayer.

Dr. Lee Thayer
Dr. Lee Thayer

About Lee Thayer

Often referred to as the greatest leadership coach of his era, Dr. Lee Thayer was esteemed by the most influential minds in leadership.  He was considered by many a pioneer and innovator in the leadership required of executives to achieve the highest levels of performance, working with such diverse entities as the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Office of Education, and NASA, among others.

Owing to his tremendous success leading executives out of their comfort zones to achieve their most audacious goals, Dr. Thayer became affectionately known as a “professional cage rattler.” His impactful, powerful leadership coaching stemmed from a background balanced in arts and science, a jazz musician (who played with Stan Kenton) and his vast experience working with executives at IBM, AT&T, Westinghouse, Boeing, Curtiss-Wright, Pratt-Whitney, McDonnell Douglas, Phillips, Shell, General Motors, Sealtest Foods, Hallmark, and West Point, among many others.

With degrees in the humanities, engineering, and psychology, his other “career” as a distinguished and honored university professor both here and abroad included work with the Harvard Graduate School of Business, the University of Amsterdam, Queensland University of Technology in Australia, and the Universidad Complutense in Mexico.

With all the books and articles written about Leadership, and all the times the word is used every day, I wondered what it REALLY means to lead. I wondered if leaders are born or made. Studying Dr. Lee Thayer’s writing and principles has changed the way I think, the way I show up, the questions I ask, the way I listen to answers, and the answers I give. Dr. Thayer distinguishes between those who can create high performing organizations and those who cannot. Only those who are willing to take a hard look in the mirror, ask themselves “to what end,” and do what is needed, have a chance of getting there. Thayer’s leadership principles provide the path for those who want to take the journey.

Jeannette Hobson

Vistage Group Chair
Dr. Thayer’s insight guides the development of both your personal and your organization’s capabilities around clarifying a true purpose or cause for inspired leadership. His learnings have provided a wholly different concept about how I led my organizations. These concepts relate to developing the ability to think and perform as a leader rather than just as a problem solver, running a business. As Dr. Thayer says … “Don’t waste time and words trying to diagnose a problem. The best definition of a problem is a solution that obviates the problem. (“Obviates” here means: doing away with the source of it — forever.) This work is about being in that dynamic learning mode.

Dick Shorten

Vistage Chairman Emeritus
Thayer… is refreshing, authentic, and has a penetrating integrity. Don’t take it lightly.

Max De Pree

Chairman Emeritus, Herman Miller, Inc., Author of Leadership Is an Art
If you truly want to reinvent yourself ... and have a deep passion to change and improve, read Lee Thayer…

Larry Bull

Executive Vice President, Bergstrom, Inc.

At a time when many were leaning into becoming “specialists,” Lee was multi-discipline, pulling from the arts, science, history, mathematics, literature, and beyond to ensure he was exposed to as many ways of thinking as may be useful and that every valuable idea made it into his work. In addition to working with dozens of leaders across the US, he took his extraordinary problem-solving skills to Europe (the UK, Finland, Norway), Australia, Canada, Mexico, and China.  

Dr. Thayer was the author of the groundbreaking guides, Leadership: Thinking, Being, Doing and How Executives Fail, a Ford Foundation Fellow and a Fulbright Scholar, and an internationally renowned mentor to leaders at Fortune 500s with a merciless-yet-mirthful style of teaching and training.

The depth and breadth of Dr. Thayer’s life and professional experience, coupled with the depth and breadth of people he worked with, played with, worked for, and worked on informs every element of his work and his legacy.

Dr. Lee Thayer

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