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Nigel Nicholson

Professor of Organisational Behaviour


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

Professor Nigel Nicholson 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. 

Research and Awards

  • 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.