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Nigel Nicholson

Professor of Organisational Behaviour, Faculty Advisor for Electives; Chief Examiner


BA (University College, Cardiff), PhD (University of Wales)

Professor Nigel Nicholson has been has been a Professor at London Business School since 1990. Before becoming a business psychologist he was a journalist, and he is a frequent commentator in the media on current business issues. He is widely known for pioneering the introduction of the new science of evolutionary psychology to business through a stream of writing, including an article in Harvard Business Review in 1998 and his book Managing the Human Animal.

His current major research interests include the psychology of family business, personality and leadership, gender issues and people skills in management. He has published over 20 books and 200 articles in these fields, as well as on topics such as innovation, organisational change and executive career development.

Professor Nicholson led a major research project on risk and decision-making among finance professionals, culminating in the book Traders: Risks, Decisions and Management in Financial Markets, published in 2005.  His book on family firms, Family Wars, was published in 2008.  His latest book, taking a fresh look at leadership through the lens of biography and the self, is The “I” of Leadership: Strategies for Seeing, Being and Doing.

At London Business School he has held the positions of Chairman of the Organisational Behaviour department, Research Dean, member of the Governing Body and been a Deputy Dean of the School. He has been a guest professor at German, American, African and Australian universities, and been honoured with awards from the Academy of Management and the International Association for Applied Psychology for his contribution to the field.

Professor Nicholson directs several executive programmes at London Business School, including High Performance People Skills and Proteus.  He has served on the Advisory Board of the Institute for Family Business, and from 2003 to 2010 he was Chairman of the evaluation panel for the J.P.Morgan Private Banking UK and Ireland Family Business Honours programme. 

2015

Niche Construction and the evolution of leadership: Toward a unified theory

Spisak BR; OBrien MJ; Nicholson N; Van Vugt M

Academy of Management Review

2013

A new view of leadership

Nicholson N

Management Today

Know the game, change the game

Nicholson N

Business Strategy Review

2012

Emotional ownership: The next generation's relationship with the family firm

Bjornberg A; Nicholson N

Family Business Review

Leadership in organizations: An evolutionary perspective

Spisak B R; Nicholson N; Van Vugt M

2010

The design of work: An evolutionary perspective

Nicholson N

Journal of Organizational Behavior

Thinking, feeling and deciding: the influence of emotions on the decision making and performance of traders

Fenton-O'Creevy M; Nicholson N; Soane E; Willman P

Journal of Organizational Behavior

2009

Leading in tough times

Nicholson N

Business Strategy Review

2008

Blood ties

Nicholson N

Management Today

Evolutionary psychology, corporate culture and family business

Nicholson N

Academy of Management Perspectives

Succession for success

Nicholson N

Business Executive

Evolutionary theory

Nicholson N; Narayanan J

Noise trading and the management of operational risk: firms, traders and irrationality in financial markets

Willman P; Fenton-O'Creevy M; Nicholson N et al

Journal of Management Studies

2005

Achievement, Need for

Nicholson N

Affiliation, Need for

Nicholson N

Altruism

Nicholson N

Burnout

Nicholson N; Toegel G

Career

Nicholson N

Career plateau

Nicholson N

Culture: don't reach for your gun

Nicholson N

Families in Business

Debate and transparency are key to good decisions

Nicholson N

Families in Business

Enactment

Nicholson N

Evolutionary psychology

Nicholson N; Toegel G

Family business leadership inquiry

Nicholson N; Bjornberg A

Family firms

Nicholson N

Family ties: binding, bonding or breaking?

Nicholson N

Families in Business

Hardiness

Nicholson N

Meeting the Maasai: messages for management

Nicholson N

Journal of Management Inquiry

Personality and domain-specific risk taking

Nicholson N et al.

Journal of Risk Research

Playing to win: biological imperatives, self-regulation and trade-offs in the game of career success

Nicholson N; De Waal Andrews W

Journal of Organisational Behaviour

Power, Need for

Nicholson N

Self-regulation

Nicholson N; Toegel G

Set the thermostat on low and see your firm flourish

Nicholson N

Families in Business

Traders: risks, decisions and management in financial markets

Fenton-O'Creevy M; Nicholson N; et al.

What, who and how

Nicholson N

Leadership Excellence

Change: how to adapt and transform the business

Anand N; Narasimhan A; Nicholson N

Familiness: fatal flaw or inimitable advantage?

Nicholson N; Bjornberg A

Families in Business

Leadership in family business: the what, who and how

Nicholson N

Families in Business

Traders: risks, decision and management in financial markets

Fenton-O'Creevy M; Nicholson N et al.

Twenty statements test

Rees A; Nicholson N

2003

2003 UK family business honours report

Nicholson N; Bjornberg A

How to motivate your problem people

Nicholson N

Harvard Business Review

It's not just for Christmas

Nicholson N

Business Voice

Trading on illusions: unrealistic perceptions of control and trading performance

Nicholson N et al.

Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology

2002

A-Z of delegating

Nicholson N

Business Voice

Beyond the gene lottery: leadership in family firms

Nicholson N

Families in Business

Cell out culture

Nicholson N

Business Voice

Confidence tricks

Nicholson N

Business Voice

Culture shock

Nicholson N

Business Voice

Every second counts

Nicholson N

Business Voice

Learning to enjoy Christmas

Nicholson N

Business Voice

Party lines

Nicholson N

Business Voice

Question time

Nicholson N

Business Voice

Silence of the clans

Nicholson N

Business Voice

To the manner born

Nicholson N

Financial Times

What lies at the root of roguery

Nicholson N

Financial Times

What stays the same

Nicholson N

Who shall we send?: cultural and other influences on the rating of selection criteria for expatriate assignments

Franke J; Nicholson N

International Journal of Cross Cultural Management

Whose space is it anyway?

Nicholson N

Business Voice

2001

Big gamble

Nicholson N

Across the Board

Businessmen behaving badly

Nicholson N

Business 2.0

Evolving organisation

Nicholson N

Venture

Flawed without being floored

Nicholson N

Business Voice

Hey boss: let me give you some feedback

Nicholson N

Business Voice

How to run your boss

Nicholson N

Jazz up your workers

Nicholson N

Kingdom of the bland

Nicholson N

Business Voice

Knowing the risks: theory and practice in financial market trading

Nicholson N; Soane E et al.

Human Relations

Married to the job

Nicholson N

Business Voice

Merger most horrid

Nicholson N

Business Voice

New word on gossip

Nicholson N

Psychology Today

No contest

Nicholson N

Business Voice

PA perfect

Nicholson N

Business Voice

Pipped to the post

Nicholson N

Business Voice

Quitting while you're behind

Nicholson N

Business Voice

Top team: wot team?

Nicholson N

Business Voice

Traders, managers and loss aversion in investment banking: a field study

Willman P W; Nicholson N; Soane E; et al.

Accounting, Organizations and Society

2000

Are traders rational?

Soane E; Nicholson N

Individual perspective

Soane E; Nicholson N; et al.

Managing to change

Nicholson N

Times Higher Education Supplement

Masters of the new economy

Nicholson N

Business Voice

Two views from the bridge: how CFOs and SME leaders perceive top team dynamics

Nicholson N; Cannon D C

European Management Journal

We can't go on meeting like this

Nicholson N

Business Voice

1999

Minor illness as a legitimate reason for absence

Harvey J; Nicholson N

Journal of Organisational Behaviour

How hardwired is human behavior?

Nicholson N

Harvard Business Review

1997

Career theorist looks at the UK general election

Nicholson N

Career Development International

Home, sweet work

Baruch Y; Nicholson N

Journal of General Management

Personality factor

Nicholson N

1996

Career systems in crisis: change and opportunity in the information age

Nicholson N

Academy of Management Executive

Careers in the year 2000 and beyond

Jackson C; Nicholson N; et al.

Expressions of corporate social responsibility in UK firms

Robertson D C; Nicholson N

Journal of Business Ethics

Work and personality

Nicholson N,ed.

1995

Alienation

Nicholson N

Benchmarking

Nicholson N

Career transitions

Nicholson N

Control

Nicholson N

Fuzzy sets

Nicholson N

Persistence

Nicholson N

Personality

Nicholson N

Financial Times

Research design

Nicholson N

Work involvement

Nicholson N

1994

Career development in male and female managers

Goffee R E; Nicholson N

Dimensions of perceived organisational performance: tests of a model

Nicholson N; Brenner S O

Applied Psychology

Ethics in organizations: a framework for theory and research

Nicholson N

Journal of Business Ethics

Twenty statements test

Rees A; Nicholson N

1993

Absence: there and back again

Nicholson N

Journal of Organisational Behaviour

Absent without leave

Nicholson N

Financial Times

Adjustment of Japanese expatriates to living and working in Britain

Nicholson N; Imaizumi A

British Journal of Management

Getting satisfaction from staff surveys

Nicholson N

Financial Times

Incentives and penalties as means of influencing attendance

Harvey J; Nicholson N

International Journal of Human Resource Management

Organizational change

Nicholson N

1991

From expectation to experience: graduates entering a large corporation

Nicholson N; Arnold J

Journal of Organizational Behavior

1990

Construing of self and others at work in the early years of corporate careers

Nicholson N; Arnold J

Journal of Organizational Behavior

Outcomes of downward managerial mobility

Nicholson N; Rees A

Journal of Organizational Behavior

Strategy innovation and performance

Nicholson N; Rees A; Brooks-Rooney A

Journal of Management Studies

1989

Absence from work and turnover

Nicholson N; ed.

Graduate early experience in a multi-national corporation

Nicholson N; Arnold J

Personnel Review

Graduate entry and adjustment into corporate life

Nicholson N; Arnold J

Personnel Review

Organisation change

Nicholson N; ed.

Outcomes of job change

Nicholson N; West M A

Journal of Vocational Behaviour

1987

Transitions into newly created jobs

West M A; Nicholson N; Rees A

Journal of Occupational Psychology

1985

Future uncertain: Expected vs. attained job change among managers

Nicholson N; West M A; Cawsey T F

Journal of Occupational Psychology

1984

A theory of work role transitions

Nicholson N

Administrative Science Quarterly

1982

The meanings of absence: New strategies for theory and research

Johns G; Nicholson N

Research in Organizational Behavior

1981

Job status and white collar members' union activity

Blyton P R; Nicholson N; Ursell G

Journal of Occupational Psychology

Membership participation in a white collar union

Nicholson N; Ursell G; Lubbock J S

Industrial Relations

Processes of decision making in a trade union branch

Ursell G; NicholsoN N; Blyton P R

Organization Studies

Strikes and other forms of industrial action

Kelly J E Nicholson N

Industrial Relations Journal

1980

Social background, attitudes and behaviour of white collar shop stewards

Nicholson N; Ursell G ; Blyton P R

British Journal of Industrial Relations

1979

Shop stewards' attitudes to industrial democracy

Ursell G; Wall T D; Clegg C W; Lubbock J S; Blyton P R; Nicholson N

Industrial Relations Journal

1978

Managers' attitudes to industrial democracy

Clegg C W; Nicholson N; Ursell G; Blyton P; Wall T D

Industrial Relations Journal

Shiftwork and absence: An analysis of temporal trends

Nicholson N; Jackson P J; Howes G

Journal of Occupational Psychology

1977

Absence from work and personal characteristics

Nicholson N; Brown C A; Chadwick Jones J K

Journal of Applied Psychology

The role of the shop steward: An empirical case study

Nicholson N

Industrial Relations Journal

1976

Absence from work and job satisfaction

Nicholson N; Brown C A; Chadwick Jones J K

Journal of Applied Psychology

Management sanctions and absence control

Nicholson N

Human Relations

The influence of social, organisational and biographical factors on female absence

Nicholson N; Goodge P M

Journal of Management Studies

1973

A type and B type absence: Empirical trends for women employees

Chadwick Jones J K; Brown C A; Nicholson N

Journal of Occupational Psychology

1971

Absence measures: Their reliability and stability in an industrial setting

Chadwick Jones J K; Brown C A ; Nicholson N; Sheppard C

Personnel Psychology

Professor Nicholson teaches a wide range of students and executives on a broad portfolio of issues and has created a number of new initiatives. These include: the Proteus Programme, revamping the School's longest running open enrolment programme, High Performance People Skills for Leaders


In London Business School's degree programmes he run a Biography course for the Sloan Masters Fellowship programme, and developed a "Communications Audit" model for the overseas field trip of our Executive MBA students. Outside the School professor Nicholson is a sought-after executive public speaker, and additionally gives advice to firms about various aspects of executive development and organisational change.

  • 2011 “Best Professor in OB Award”, Global HR Excellence Awards, Mumbai, India, February
  • 2010 Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award, IAAP, Melbourne, July.
  • 2006 Winner “Breaking the Frame” best paper award for 2005, Journal of Management Inquiry. 
  • 2005 Paper (with Toegel: “Multisource feedback…” awarded “Outstanding Practiced-based paper on management consulting”, Academy of Management, Annual Congress, Hawaii, USA
  • 2004 Ranked #55in the “2005 Excellence 100”, of the world’s top leadership consultants
  • 2003 Teaching innovation award, London Business School, for design and development of the Proteus Programme
  • 1983 Co-Recipient of the Academy of Management 1983 "New Concept Award" for "the most significant contribution to the advancement of theory or method in organizational behavior research"
  • Book chapters

    Nicholson, N. (in press). Primal Business: Evolution, kinship and the family firm. In S.M. Colarelli, & R.A. Arvey, R. A. Handbook of the Biological Foundations of Organizational Behavior. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

    Nicholson, N. (in press). Evolutionary theory: A new synthesis for family business thought and research. In L. Melin, P. Sharma, & M. Nordqvist (Eds.). The SAGE Handbook of Family Business. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

    Nicholson, N. (2011). Introducing evolutionary psychology to business and management. In X.T. Wang & Y.J. Su (Eds.), Thus Speak Evolutionary Psychologists (pp. 232-240). Beijing: Peking Press.

    Nicholson, N. (2012). The evolution of business and management. In S.C. Roberts (Ed.), Applied Evolutionary Psychology (pp16-35). Oxford: OUP.

    Spisak, B.R., Nicholson, N., & Van Vugt, M. (2011). Leadership in organizations: An evolutionary perspective. In G. Saad (Ed.), Applications of evolutionary psychology in the business sciences (pp. 165-190). Heidelberg: Springer.

    Nicholson, N. & Björnberg, A., (2008). The shape of things to come: Emotional ownership and the next generation in the family firm. In J. Tàpies & J.L. Ward (eds.), Family Values and Value Creation. London: Palgrave Macmillan

    Nicholson, N., & Narayanan, J. (2008). Evolutionary theory. In J. R. Bailey & S.S. Clegg (eds.) International Encylopedia of Organization Studies. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

    Soane, E., & Nicholson, N. (2008). Individual differences and decision making. In G. Hodgkinson & W. Starbuck (eds.), Handbook of Decision Making. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.HHaHH

    Nicholson, N. (2007). The Getting of Wisdom: Self-conduct, personal identity and wisdom across the life-span. In E.H. Kessler & J.R. Bailey, J.R. (eds.) 2007. Handbook of Organizational and Managerial Wisdom. (pp. 377-397) Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

    Nicholson, N. (2006). Destiny, drama and deliberation: Careers in the co-evolution of lives and societies. In H. Gunz & M.A. Peiperl (eds.) Handbook of Career Studies. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

    Nicholson, N. (2006). Organization as Nature Intended - Human universals and the employment experience. In R. Gandossy (ed.), Five Unstoppable Workforce Trends. New York: Wiley.

    Nicholson, N. and Björnberg, A. (2006). Critical leader relationships in family firms. In P.Z. Poutziouris, K.X. Smyrnios, & S.B. Klein (eds.), Handbook of Research on Family Business. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar.

    13 Entries for Encylopedia of Management: Organizational Behavior, on "Achievement, need for"; "Affiliation, need for"; "Altruism"; "Authoritarian personality"; "Burnout"; "Career"; "Career plateau"; "Enactment"; "Evolutionary psychology"; "Family firms"; "Hardiness"; "Power, need for"; "Self-regulation" (with Ginka Toegel).

    Nicholson, N., and Björnberg, Å. (2004). Evolutionary psychology and the family firm: structure, culture and performance. In S. Tomaselli & L. Melin (Eds.), Family Firms in the Wind of Change. Research Forum Proceedings, IFERA, Lausanne.

    Rees, A. & Nicholson, N. (2004). The Twenty Statements Test. In C. Cassell & G. Symon (Eds.), Essential Guide to Qualitative Methods in Organizational Research. London : Sage Publications.

    Nicholson, N. (2002). What stays the same. In Subir Chowdhury (Ed.) Organization 21C. New York: Financial Times & Prentice Hall.

    Nicholson, N. (2001). An evolutionary perspective on change and stability in personality, culture and organization. In M. Erez, U. Kleinbeck, & H. Thierry (eds.). Work Motivation in the Context of Globalizing Economy. Elsevier.

    Nicholson, N. (2000) Motivation-Selection-Connection: An Evolutionary Model of Career Development. In M. Peiperl, M. Arthur, R. Goffee, and T.Morris (eds.). Career Frontiers: New concepts of working life. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Nicholson, N. (2000). Modelling withdrawal - Theoretical, empirical and methodological Implications. In D. Ilgen & C. Hulin (eds.) Computational Modeling of Behavioral Processes in Organizations. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

    Soane, E., Fenton-O'Creevy, M., Nicholson, N., & Willman, P. (1998). Psychological theory and financial institutions. In R. Jameson (ed.), Operational Risk and Financial Institutions. London: Risk Books.

    Nicholson, N. (1997). Hunter-gatherers of the organisation: Evolutionary psychology, feelings at work and the limits to change. In F. Avallone, J.Arnold & K. de Witte (eds.). Feelings Work in Europe. Milan: Guerini Studio.

    Nicholson, N. (1997). The changing nature of careers. In Y. Altman (ed.), Careers in the New Millennium: Causes, challenges and consequences. Leuven: Acco.

    Nicholson, N. (1997). Evolutionary psychology and organizational behaviour. In C.L. Cooper & S. Jackson, (eds.) Creating Tomorrow's Organizations: A Handbook for Future Research in Organizational Behavior. Chichester: Wiley.

  • Non referred journal articles

    Nicholson, N. (2009). Leading in tough times. Business Strategy Review, Summer, 38-42.

    Nicholson, N. (2008). Succession for Success. Business Executive.

    Nicholson, N. (2008). Blood ties. Management Today, March, 53-60.

    Nicholson, N., and Björnberg, A. (2004). Familiness: Fatal flaw or inimitable advantage? Families in Business, March, 52-54.

    Nicholson, N. (2003). How to motivate your problem people. Harvard Business Review,Volume 81, January, 56-67.

    Nicholson, N. (2001). The new word on gossip. Psychology Today. June, pp. 41-45.

    Soane, E. and Nicholson, N. (2000). Are traders rational? Foreign Exchange and Money Markets July, p. 17-20.

    Nicholson, N., and Cannon, D.C. (2000). Two views from the bridge. How CFOs and SME leaders perceive top team dynamics. European Management Journal, Volume 18, 367-376.

    Nicholson, N. (1998). Personality and entrepreneurial leadership: A study of the heads of the UK's most successful independent companies. European Management Journal, Vol.16, 529-539.

    Nicholson, N. (1998). How hardwired is human behavior? Harvard Business Review, Vol. 76 (no.4, July/August), 134-147.

    Baruch, Y. & Nicholson, N. (1997). Home, sweet work. Journal of General Management, Vol. 23 (2), 15-30.

  • Journalism

    Nicholson, N. (2012). Evolution meets the Olympics. Business Strategy Review, July, pp. 68-69.

    Nicholson, N. (2012). The Lure of Cities: London living. Business Strategy Review, August, pp. 38-39.

    Monthly column, "What's the Big Idea" for Management Today, from September 2010.

    Nicholson Monthly column, "What's the Big Idea" for Management Today, from September 2010.

    Nicholson, N. (2010). The false theory of meritocracy. Harvard Business Review blog, June 1.

    Nicholson, N. (2010). Gender and the future of hierarchical organization. Harvard Business Review blog, June 7.

    Nicholson, N. (2007). The secret of managing without powerJanuary 9th .

    Nicholson, N. (2006). Turning family business into a winning unit. Times of India, November 28th

    Columns for Families in Business (2004-2005) and for.Times of India (2006-2007) .

    Nicholson, N. (2004-2005). Small business "agony uncle". BBC News Online, various.

    Nicholson, N. (2004). Culture: Don't reach for your gun. Families in Business, January/February, p.80.

    Nicholson, N., and Björnberg, Å. (2004). Familiness: Fatal flaw or inimitable advantage? Families in Business, March.

    Nicholson, N. (2004). Leadership in family business: The what, who and how. Families in Business, November/December, p.49.

    Nicholson, N. (2003). Family business: Promises and pitfalls. Family Business, Vol. 11(1): p.3.

    Nicholson, N. (2002). Beyond the gene lottery - leadership in family firms. Families in Business, April, p. 10-11.

    Nicholson, N. (2002). What lies at the root of roguery. Financial Times, March 5, p.15.

    Nicholson, N. (2001). Jazz up your workers. The Observer newspaper. Business section, August 29, p.9.

    Nicholson, N. (2001). How to run your boss. The Observer newspaper. Business section, June 10, p.9.

    Nicholson, N. (2001). Gene politics and the natural selection of leadership. Leader to Leader. No. 20, Spring, pp. 46-52.

    Nicholson, N., & Willman, P. (2000). Folly, fantasy and roguery - A social psychology of finance risk disasters. Financial Times, June 12. Reprinted in J. Pickford (ed.) (2001) Mastering Risk: Volume 1: Concepts. Harlow: Pearson, pp. 241-246.

Research Interests


  • Leadership
  • Business applications of evolutionary psychology
  • Family business
  • Personality and management development
  • Personality, risk and decision-making in finance, and careers.