David McClelland, Psychologist

(no relation to me)

Quick update on an older page, now moved to WordPress format…..

It seems that I am not the only David McClelland in the world. In fact there are many. My father is one for a start – and a wonderful example he is. His father was also a David McClelland, so I come from a long line of them. All of us, doing what we can to get by. Hoping to make our mark on the world.

But there is one David McClelland who certainly made his mark. And he isn’t related to me.

John Fredlund contacted me after trying to find WWW information on my namesake, a famous psychologist. As there isn’t any other page (to our knowledge) that has information on this other, famous, David McClelland, I created this page to give an outline on him below.

Eliot Rabinovich co-authored this text along with John Fredlund. You can mail John at fredlund@intr.net

Since I created this page back in October 1996, I have received mail from all over the world. It seems there is very little information on the web about this particular David McClelland. I have received some very touching thank you messages for making this information available.

David McClelland (psychologist) passed away in 1998.
His obituary 
is below 

David McClelland

David McClelland, Psychologist

David McClelland (1917-1998) Is a Boston-based Psychologist whose behavioural science work has influenced three generations of organisational behaviour specialists. His extensive research covers several areas of business-related and organisational behaviour issues. An expert on human behaviour, McClelland is a distinguished Research Professor of Psychology at Boston University and a Professor Emeritus of Psychology at Harvard University in Cambridge Massachusetts. He also founded and directs Mcber, a human resources management-consulting firm.

McClelland’s central disciplines are human behaviour and sociology. He is internationally acclaimed for his early work in measuring human needs and motivation. He has also achieved recognition for his studies in human competence and qualifications as central factors in personnel selection.

Human Needs and Motivation.

During the 1940’s, McClelland and a group of experts revolutionised the field of organisational behaviour studies through their experimentation with the Thematic Apperception Test (TAT). This methodology involved measurement of human needs and motivation through the usage of pictorial displays. McClelland’s innovative conclusions from the Tat Studies indicated that people acquired different needs over time as a result of life experiences. He identified three needs that affect motivation of organisational behaviour both of individuals and organisations:

  1. Need for Achievement – The desire to do something better or more efficiently to solve problems, or to master complex tasks. 
  2. Need for Affiliation – The desire to establish and maintain friendly and warm relations with others. 
  3. Need for Power – The desire to control others, to influence their behaviour, or to be responsible for others 

At that time, his results were tested on social environments in developed and developing countries with meaningful and effective results. In his preeminent book “The Achieving Society” (1961, Van Nostrand), McClelland isolated certain psychological factors to demonstrate by rigorous quantitative methods that the needs above are generally but positively linked to economic development. During the 1970’s, McClelland applied his research findings to private and public organisations. Initially, McClelland profiled behaviour and motivation patterns in managers through defining three characterisations:

  1. Institutional Management – High in Power Motivation and Inhibition. 
  2. Affiliative – High in Affiliation Motivation 
  3. Personal Power – Inhibition Is Low and Motivation for Personal Power Is High. 

McClelland refined these conclusions and, in several articles, indicated that the need for power is the most important characteristic for a manager’s success. He claimed that the need for achievement alone would not make a person a good manager. While achievement motivated people to “to do things for themselves and want concrete short-term feedback on their performance so that they can tell how well they are doing,”[1] the manager’s job seemed to call more for someone who can influence people than for someone who does things better alone. That is why, in motivational terms, McClelland expected the successful manager to have a greater need for power than a need for achievement. Recently, [2] McClelland complemented his twenty-year old argument with additional knowledge about companies where decentralisation has taken place and has become a dominant factor. He asserted that the decentralisation of functions can cause the need for achievement to become a critical contributor to managerial success.

Hunt, Osborn, and Schermerhorn have synthesised McClelland’s work with that of Frederick Herzberg and others. Hunt, et al, believe that McClelland’s findings are particularly useful when each need is linked with a set of work preferences such as individual responsibility, challenging but achievable goals, interpersonal relationships, influence over other persons, attention and recognition. In addition, they have indicated that learning about these needs would make possible to relate every Individual with the need profiles required to succeed in various types of jobs.

Human Competence and Qualifications as Central Factors in Personnel Selection.

The relationship between truly acquired human needs and job design links McClelland’s needs and motivation theory to his latest research topic: Personnel Selection and Competencies. In an article in the Financial Times (October 12, 1994), Richard Donkin and McClelland analysed this area of organisational behaviour and concluded that “Value-adding”qualities in an individual are not totally related with academic achievement. They indicated that, from a cost effectiveness stand-point, it Is better to hire for core motivation and trait characteristics and develop knowledge and skills. Chris Dyson, a colleague of McClelland at Hay/Mcber in the United Kingdom explained, “you can teach a turkey to climb a tree, but it is easier to hire a squirrel.”

McClelland criticises psychometric testing as a way to predict what a person can do if asked to do it. He remains convinced that the best approach is to study the way people do their work in order to find how they do it best. Hence his definite position on using competencies in assessment of job performance.


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From the April 09, 1998 edition – Harvard University Gazette

David McClelland, Former
Professor of Psychology, Dies

David Clarence McClelland, former professor of psychology, died of heart failure March 27 in his Lexington home. He was 80.

Recognized internationally for his expertise on human motivation and entrepreneurship, McClelland taught and researched for 57 years. He is remembered for his unconventional methods in studying human personality.

McClelland was born in Mt. Vernon, N.Y. A graduate from Wesleyan University in 1938, he acquired a master’s degree in psychology from the University of Missouri and a doctorate in psychology from Yale University in 1941.

In 1963, he started McBer, a consulting company that aided managers in assessing and training employees. During the same year, the National Education Association received McClelland’s proposal to offer seventh-graders in good academic standing college scholarships to encourage motivation at an early age. He published a persuasive article in The American Psychologist in which he stated that commonly used I.Q. and personality hiring tests were poor predictors of competency. He argued that companies should hire based on competency in relevant fields, and do away with SAT scores. His once-radical ideas have grown to become standard instruments in many corporations.

McClelland focused more on relationships among motivation, the quest for power, and physical and emotional stress as he approached the end of his career.

He was an instructor at Connecticut College and a professor at Wesleyan University before joining the Harvard faculty in 1956. He began teaching at Boston University in 1987 and remained there until his death.

A fellow of the American Academy of Sciences and the author of several books including Personality, The Achievement Motive, and The Achieving Society, McClelland received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1958.

His first wife, Mary Sharpless McClelland, died in 1980. He leaves his second wife, Marian Adams McClelland; four daughters, Catherine Dole of Morristown, N.J., Sarah McMullen of Downey, Calif. and Mira and Usha, both of Lexington; three sons, Duncan of Winchester, Jabez of Bethesda, Md. and Nicholas of Marblehead; and nine grandchilden.

Praise for this page

I don’t like to brag, but this seems to be just about the only information on David McClelland available on the web. Here’s some of the mail I’ve received

My name is John McMullen, I am the son of Sarah McMullen, the daughter of David McClelland, whose works you have outlined in your website.Thank you for helping my Grandfather’s memory live on. I believe he still abides, just not in this physical realm, and I am sure he appreciates what you have done as well. Though the world may know him for his great accomplishments in psychology and motivation, I’ll remember him for his great love for me and my family.sincerely,John Gary McMullen

Hi, David, great job on the David McClelland review — both
substantively and in presentation. Just ran across your web page,
trying to track down a long-lost reference to n-Ach for a current
graduate student.

I had a chance to work with David on n-Aff, n-Pow, n-Ach stuff when I
was doing graduate work at Harvard and also for several months in
Tunisia where he was on sabbatical in 1963-64 and I was doing my own
parallel research.

A wonderful man, especially in his ability to integrate personal
biography, local culture and larger historical contexts. One day he
would be measuring n-Aff in a 500 year old culture by doing a content
analysis of children stories (“the one place that society tells what’s
its real worldview is, without the bragging”); another day he’d be
measuring n-Ach by having people draw a circle in the sand and throwing
a stone into it (n-Ach measured by the size of the challenge they set
themselves); another day it was measuring n-Pow by examining UN
statistics on country data. (David used to pan for gold as a younger
man, and he said statistical correlations are like that: it’s long, cold
boring work, so when you see a glint, you gotta believe it’s trying to
say something worth thinking about.)

Thanks for keeping his work (and his personality) alive.

Best wishes,

Barclay Hudson, bhudson@fielding.edu
Faculty, The Fielding Institute (www.fielding.edu)

Dave-thanks so much for me and my many students that I hope will find
and then read your site. A few years ago there was a wonderful
interview in the Atlantic Monthly magazine. It seemed that he never
considered himself the great success that many of us as students of his
did…his work truly did make the world a better place.

thanks again……..Ken Murrell

Thank you so very much for gathering information on Dr. David
McClelland. I am taking a contemporary management class and need to write a research paper on his theories. Unfortunately there is not much about him on the web. Thanks for making this easier.

Thanks for your information on McClelland. I’m a student at BYU, it’s 1:00 in the morning and I got a 5 page paper due. Thanks for taking the time to make that info available.

Brian McNamara
Brigham Young University

Hi there – My name is Jamie and I’m am a student at St.
Francis Xavier Univeristy in Antigonish. Thank-you for
creating such a webpage – I am certainly finding it useful
in my search for information on motivation and achievement

Thanks again.

—–Jamie Symonds

From: <93SGIBBONSSM@dhsboys.plym.sch.uk>
superb, top notch, and a rare source of gold!
Your Dave McClelland web page is detailed, concise, and more to the point packed full of info. You may think I’m woffling, but thats my style. I’ll certainly visit this page at every opportunity! 

David–I’m a student at Northwestern University, and I have to write an 8-page paper on McClelland. You’ve made my life a lot easier. Thanks.

Big thank you from the very north of Scotland. On researching McClelland for a speech that my husband had to make at a Personnel Conference, we could find very little information on McClelland (lots about Maslow, etc) in any of the literature we could get our hands on. As a last resort we decided to search the web and found your page. It contained all the info we needed and more. Very informative. Well done. Very many thanks again.
The Lorimers, Thurso, Caithness, Scotland 

Thanks for the info on your web page. I’ve been looking all over for information on affiliation needs in human behavior! I learned about it in Psychology years ago but didn’t know whose theory it was.

Cheers Mate!
Steve from Scotland by the way!!!
Thankyou for your info. about David McClelland, the theorist. You have just saved my ass – I need this information for an essay I am doing at college.
Thank you once again!!!!!!! 

I want to say thank you very much for the informative page on your name, his name,…????(ha, ha, ha) Seriously…Your page helped me out when I was in a bind. Good luck and keep up the good work.
PS Good luck with the acting too.
Steven S. Pawlowski
Prentice Hall
College NewsLink Service

Hi David,
Thanks for taking the time to do this page. Yes, I found it very useful, and I have passed it onto my classmates at BCIT (British Columbia Institute of Technology) for our Organizational Behavior class.
Joe Gregoire

Enjoyed your page on David McClelland. I am teaching an Applied Psych. class this fall; if I quote you, I’ll credit you.
One correction; Thematic Apperception Test (TAT) but anyone in psych. would know what you meant anyway. (fixed-DM) Also, visited your page. Nice to meet you.
Hot Springs, Arkansas

I had to do a short report on David McClelland for my Psychology class, and although I had little trouble finding information on experiments, I couldn’t find anything about his personal history. Thank you for your web page! But I do have one unanswered question…do you know where he was born? Thank you so much!!!

Your page was very informative. I noticed that someone asked for David McClelland’s place of birth. I discovered that he was born on May 20, 1917 and died on March 27, 1998. His New York Times April 5th obituary states that he was born in Mount Vernon, New York. Thanks for your help in my research!
Shawnee, Ok

I am a student at Poinciana high School In kissimmee, Fl. I am currently a student in Psychology II, and I have been assigned a research project on David McClelland, as you may very well know, there is not much information on him, therefore I was extremely relieved and thankful that I came across the website. Thank you for making the info. accessible!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Nichole lopez

My name is Alison and I am a student at Curtin University, Western Australia. Like many others I am doing a ‘night before’ assignment and found the information that you compiled very useful. Thanks for taking the time to make my life easier!

Alison McCue

Thank you David for compiling this information about Dr. David McClelland.
I’m a college student and I have a project for my Human Resources Management
class about Dr. McClelland’s “Achievement Motivational Model” and your site
has been very helpful. Once again thank you.
Ivette M.

Hey Dave the Actor,
the McClelland page is ace as my psychology books are naff, and I can’t be
bothered to go to the university library. You have helped me on my way in
studying the applied social sciences…so cheers and hooray to you!!!
Angus Brown :0)

Hi –
I just visited the website for the late David McClelland, trying to track
down one of his daughters, Sarah. I found her by using her brother’s name,
Jabez, which is unusual enough to get a direct hit when searching the web.
And I came to your gracious website.

However, I need to clear up an error I found. I was very surprised to see
that Jabez is listed as one of his DAUGHTERS! Not so! He has two daughters
from his first marriage to Mary, and two daughters from his second marriage
to Marian. And THREE sons. Jabez McClelland is a man and a very competent
physicist. (Corrected in Obituary above – DM)

They are all family friends of ours from way back. Mary and David were like
second parents to us. My brother and I used to play with Sarah and Jabez
when we were kids, growing up in Cambridge, Mass. I hope this helps clear
up the mistake.

Best, Megan Holt

Hello…I am a middle school teacher teaching my extended language arts classes about what it takes to be a leader. Your site was the ONLY one I found that would even remotely explain who this man was. Thanks! ~ Sheila

Hello, My name is Kendra Ricks, and I am a college student at Central Alabama Community College. I am writing to let you know that your information about David McClelland, the Psychologist, was very helpful to me. I am having to do a research paper about him, and without your information, I probably wouldn’t have very much to tell about. There is one thing that I need that I can’t find, and that is a picture of him. Do you happen to have one or know where one is on the web that I can use. You can write me back and let me know. Again, thank you very much.
NOTE :I now have a photo, courtesy John McMullen, Grandson of David McClelland. It is on this page

thanks. this was fun. i’m teaching a group process class in a couple of
weeks and wanted a fast refresher on mcclelland. you provided it!

rose jonas

Hi I am Doug McClelland from Annapolis, Maryland. It seems that you have been caught up in the maelstrom of my famous uncle David McClelland of Cambridge, Mass the psychologist. I like hundreds of other people would like to thank you for all your hard work on the website. Dave would be amused by all the clamor, as he was generally a quiet and reserved type of guy. Even thou he had I think four PhD’s to his credit, he was a normal type of guy that would love to go have a steak and beer dinner with you. And the pages that you added will I hope clear up the matter for a lot of people.

Our branch of the McClellands comes from Glenluce, Scotland in the 1860’s. I have to my good fortune a handy reference on my clan’s existence in the form of an autobiography that was created by my great grandfather Charles Paul McClelland.

There were three MaClellan brothers that migrated from Glenluce, Scotland to America.  Alexander came in 1868, David in 1870 and Charles Paul in 1871. Alexander MaClellan was a Gardner for a large nursery in Dobbs Ferry, NY. Charles Paul started as a store clerk in Dobbs Ferry and went on to be a lawyer, New York state senator and finally a Supreme Court judge in the US Custom Court of Appeals. Charles the judge had two children Meade and Charles Paul II.

Somewhere in the 1880’s judge MacLellan changed the spelling of his name to McClelland. He used to spell his last name as MacLellan not MaClellan and then changed it to McClelland. This was because he was surrounded by so many Irishman that constantly misspelled his name. Dave

My grandfather Charles Paul McClelland was a Methodist minister and president of MacMurry College in Jacksonville, Ill. He had a large family of five children. Charles Paul III(my father), David, Carol, Betty, and Janet. David had five children

  Kate McClelland-Dole Morristown N.J.
Nicolas and Ducan Boston Mass.
Sarah McClelland – Santa Barbara,Cal
Jacob McClelland – Washington DC

My father Charles Paul McClelland and Hugh McClelland started the Clan MaClellan in America about 1982 from a conversation during a golf game in North Carolina. He would be absolutely be amazed on how popular it has become. Dick McClelland told me about 7 years ago that they had about 6,000 members worldwide, so who knows how big it is today. Hugh would recruit people at the highland games at Grandfather mountain and publish the news letter and my dad would keep track of the dues and make sure the newsletters were mailed out.

Doug McClelland


David was my uncle and brother to my mother Mary Carol. I knew him well. We both spent our summers at Yelping Hill in West Cornwall, Connecticut. David wrote many of his books in the cabin he built there. Yelping HIll was a commune of sorts, where the members leased their cabins from the Yelping Hill Association and were expected to contribute to the upkeep of the extensive land held by the association. In the early days, meals were prepared and served at the barn. At the hayloft, professors made presentations on their work. Most of the members of the association were professors at elite universities. I stayed in the cabin my Grandfather Clarence McClelland built down the hill from David’s cabin. 

My Grandfather was the President of McMurray College in Jacksonville, Illinois for 27 years and a Methodist minister. His father was the President of the New York State Senate, was considered for the Vice Presidency but ended up as the Chief Justice of the US Customs Court in Washington. He emigrated from Scotland. 

My brother Ron who still owns the cabin on Yelping Hill has been a law professor for many years at New England Law School in Boston. 

David had five children, three older, two younger than me, three boys and two girls. My brother and I knew them well. I really need to research the whereabouts of my many cousins, their children and yes grandchildren. 

Malcolm Chester. 

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