The Institute conducts ground-breaking research, providing insights for global business leadership.

Funded research

First wave of original research funding awarded by LBS Leadership Institute

A first tranche of funding has been awarded by the Institute, to professors and doctoral students at the School, to support the aims and aspirations of the Institute and respond to current topical issues arising on the world stage relating to leadership. Thank you to our lead alumni donors – London Business School graduates Mike Salamon MSc14(1981) and Vina Mak MSc17(1984) for their terrific leadership support.

  • Global Careers and Global Leaders (2018)

    Isabel Fernandez-Mateo, Adecco Associate Professor, Strategy & Entrepreneurship
    Matthew Bidwell, Associate Professor of Management, The Wharton School
    Martine Haas, Associate Professor of Management, The Wharton School

    The growth of global careers represents an important by-product of the globalization of business. Organizations increasingly seek to hire people from across national boundaries to learn from leading markets, to infuse fresh perspectives into their business, and to broaden the potential pool of recruits, ensuring that they are hiring the best talent, wherever it comes from. Some organizations also seek to increase internal mobility, moving people from one country to another in order to accelerate cross unit learning, build a common culture, and develop their leadership bench. In order for organizations to access the multinational talent that they seek, though, those international moves must also work for the people involved, either by bringing immediate benefits or else by advancing their careers. Anecdotal work highlights some of the challenges posed by international moves, including the difficulties of becoming effective within a different culture and the frequent challenges that expatriates face with finding a job when they return to their home country. In this study, we are trying to analyze systematic, quantitative data on cross-border careers to understand:

    • Who moves overseas as part of their careers (e.g. do moves tend to occur once people have achieved more versus less experience? What role does family play in shaping mobility?)

    • What role those moves play within their careers (e.g. are they usually one-off moves, or do the same people move multiple times?)

    • Whether those moves lead to positive or negative outcomes in terms of pay, responsibilities and career satisfaction

    Understanding the answers to these questions should help firms to better nurture the careers of their employees and develop global leaders.

  • When diversity does not deliver: Does the business case undermine people’s commitment to diversity when diverse teams’ performance declines? (2018)

    Oriane Georgeac, PhD Candidate, Organisational Behaviour

    Organizations increasingly face the challenge of demonstrating their commitment to diversity. Doing so often requires organizations to argue in favor of diversity in a diversity statement. The most popular argument, the “business case” for diversity, argues that diversity matters because it is instrumental to organizational performance. Yet, how does the business case for diversity influence leaders’ commitment to diversity when diversity fails to deliver? Study 1 shows that an instrumental approach to diversity increases leaders’ performance expectations for diverse teams. Study 2 draws a causal link between exposure to “business case” arguments and decreased support for diversity when a diverse team underperforms. Study 3 investigates whether alternative cases stressing the fairness value of diversity can better sustain support for diversity when diversity fails to deliver. The proposed research contributes novel insights to how organizations can generate stable support for diversity in the face of performance contingencies.

  • Beyond Mere Representation: An Investigation of Social Networks & Belonging in Women and Racial Minorities (2018)

    Herminia Ibarra, Professor, Organisational Behaviour
    Raina Brands, Assistant Professor, Organisational Behaviour
    Aneeta Rattan, Assistant Professor, Organisational Behaviour

    Although women make up 60% of the global workforce in the financial services industry, they hold only 19% of senior leadership roles, and even fewer board seats and c-suite positions. Structural solutions aimed at addressing the attrition of women from the leadership track and reducing the bias women leaders face have been proposed, but little consideration has been given to the informal realms of organizational life. The purpose of this research is to examine how informal interactions that take place in the workplace affect the representation of women in leadership in finance. Specifically, this research seeks to examine the co-evolution of social networks and leadership, to examine how informal relationships differentially affect men’s and women’s (1) leadership aspirations and (2) leadership reputations.

  • The UK Gender Pay Gap Reporting Database: Coding How Organizations Explain their GPG and with What Consequences (2018)

    Aneeta Rattan, Assistant Professor, Organisational Behaviour

    How do leaders address sizeable public failures on diversity? The UK government has offered diversity scholars an unprecedented opportunity to investigate this question. By April 2018, every organization in the UK that has 250 employees or more must submit a report summarizing its gender pay gap – approximately 8,000 reports (which will include one from LBS). How will organizations address pay disparities? Will they make changes to achieve greater gender equality? Who speaks to address these concerns? An initial review of already submitted reports indicates that some of these reports include messages from organizational leaders (CEOs, Board members, heads of HR) but some do not, some include details on how the organization will rectify the gender pay gap but some do not, some go beyond gender to address other dimensions of diversity such as race and sexual orientation and some do not. In other words, there will soon be written reports addressing the same diversity failure (the presence of a gender pay gap) with a myriad of responses to it across a large sample of organization types and industries. My goal is to construct a database that summarizes the numerical data and codes these reports in order to facilitate investigations of meaningful research questions that arise from the data held therein. By doing so, I will be able to identify who speaks on issues of diversity, how organizations say they will address their gender pay gaps, whether this has consequences for the organization (in terms of stock price immediately after the report’s release), and by tracking the organizations and pay gap reports over time I will be able to assess whether companies follow through on their initial 2018 promises. This data will also be a fruitful source of ideas for empirical research. As the evidence emerges for how organizations claim they will address their gender pay gaps, I will supplement this coding with experiments that assess whether prospective employees view the most commonly used claims as genuine and effective in addressing the issue. This additional data will offer key insights to practitioners, on what works best when it comes to recovering after a public diversity failure.

  • CEO Presentations and Visual Sense-making (2018)

    Freek Vermeulen, Professor, Strategy & Entrepreneurship

    One of the key tasks of the leadership of any company is to set the overall strategic direction of the firm. However, subsequently, this strategic direction needs to be communicated to employees and other stakeholders, such as investors and the wider financial community. Perhaps the most prevalent form in which this happens in practice is through presentations by the company’s CEO. Frequently, these presentations contain some form of visuals (e.g., Powerpoint, Kaplan 2011). However, we have surprisingly little research on the role and influence of such CEO presentations. With this project, I intend to study the use and influence of strategy frameworks in a company’s communication to the financial market. I want to study this in the context of acquisition announcements. Public companies, shortly after an acquisition announcement, often engage in a conference call with analysts in which the CEO (and sometimes a few other members of the top management team) explain the nature and objectives of the acquisition in a presentation. These calls with analysts, tied to a particular acquisition, will be my unit of analysis. I intend to distinguish between calls with and without a visual presentation (in the form of a PowerPoint presentation).

  • Self-concept fluidity and leadership effectiveness

    Xi Zou

    It has been long established that the self-concept is a dynamic structure. A wealth of psychological theories and empirical evidence has shown that different aspects of self-concepts are often expressed across various social interactions. In this project, we seek to explore whether effective leaders are those who can fluently express different aspects of the self across various relationships and social interactions. We seek to establish a new conception of the self: Self-concept Fluidity. This construct captures the extent to which a person can flexibly and fluently express various aspects of self across social environments and over time. In this project, we will take a multi-method approach to establish this new construct and examine its power in predicting leadership effectiveness.

  • Adaptive deviance: perceptions of fitness and the punishment of deviants in groups.

    Wiley Wakeman

    When employees violate norms there is often leeway in determining the extent and type of punishment. However, there are a number of reasons which help determine exactly why leaders or fellow co-workers may choose to enact or forgo punishment. Drawing on evolutionary theories of group selection, I propose that leaders and group members differentially punish deviants when such deviants are perceived to add to the fitness, or survivability, of the group. I argue that this sort of differential punishment represents an adaptive processes whereby groups, including leaders, allow norm violations if doing so increases the likelihood of group survival (success).

  • Why are there so few female leaders? A field experiment testing the asymmetrical effects of face time expectations

    Eliot Sherman

    It is a truth universally acknowledged that leadership remains a predominately male domain, despite the widespread gender integration of the workforce. For example, in 2015, 25% of senior-level managers and just 4% of CEOs in the S&P 500 were female (Catalyst 2015). While numerous papers have examined the causes of this leadership gap, one explanation remains relatively understudied despite its ubiquity: Informal expectations regarding face time, or the extent to which an employee is physically present in the workplace.

    Employees who put in more face time are perceived to be superior candidates for promotion, potentially irrespective of their actual productivity (Elsbach, Cable, and Sherman 2010). This may be problematic, however, insofar as women in dual-earner couples perform a disproportionate amount of child care and household labour (Coltrane 2000). These responsibilities restrict the amount of time that women can be physically present in the workplace, as compared to similarly situated men, and may therefore impede their advancement into leadership positions even if they are able to remain as productive, or more productive, than their male counterparts by completing some of their work remotely. Accordingly, the goal of this research is to design and implement an experiment within an organization to test whether a genuine reduction in the need for face time is positively associated with female advancement into leadership positions.

  • How to lead diversity effectively? Testing the consequences of the business case for diversity in the workplace

    Randall Peterson, Aneeta Rattan, Oriane Georgeac

    Why should organizations care about diversity? This is a question that business leaders are tasked with answering, both for their constituents within the organization and for public audiences. What do they say, and how effective are their answers for actually fostering welcoming environments for members of underrepresented groups?

    The most prevalent case for diversity in organizations within the research literature is the business case. The typical “business case” for diversity in the workplace argues that f should promote diversity because of the economic value it yields, including higher financial performance (Credit Suisse Research Institute, 2012; Joy, Carter, Wagner, & Narayanan, 2007; Erhardt, Werbel, & Shrader, 2003), increased group effectiveness as a result of greater informational diversity (Eagly, in press; Galbreath, 2011), competitive advantage thanks to stronger links with the customer base, etc. (Brammer, Millington, & Pavelin, 2009; Eagly, in press). As a real-world illustration, the Global Director of Diversity of Facebook argues on the company’s website that diversity is “good for our products and for our businesses”.

  • Team leadership practices in face, honor, and dignity cultures: how the power distance value is enacted by team leaders

    Randall Peterson

    This research is part of an ongoing project comparing how team leadership practices vary around the world. We generate three important insights for the understanding of cross-cultural team leadership. First, we demonstrate a significant misunderstanding in the literature, primarily driven by Western-centric research practices, about how team leaders operate in the Gulf region and in Asia. Second, we document culturally-based similarities and differences in leadership practices, and in expectations of effective leaders, by comparing Face (e.g., China), Honor (e.g., Qatar, the South of the USA), and Dignity (the North of the USA) cultures. Finally, by comparing leaders embedded in different cultural and ideological histories, we have been able to generate important insights into how team leaders yield and share authority in their teams.

  • The role of judgement in choosing and appraising leaders

    Andrew Likierman

    Why study judgement?

    Organisations have a lot riding on whether a leader has good judgement. The difference between good and poor judgement has often been the difference between prosperity and failure.  In the case of military leaders, the stakes are as high as the difference between life and death.  Judgement has been a subject in philosophy for thousands of years, with ideas that are still quoted from Aristotle, Socrates and Sophocles in the classical Greek tradition, Cicero and Marcus Aurelius among Romans through the Enlightenment with Descartes, Kant, Locke and Voltaire. 

    Bearing in mind the importance attached to judgement today (“judgement” is used in this proposal as the shorthand for “good judgement”) and its important role over the centuries, there appears to be puzzlingly little in the current management literature about how to assess whether a leader (or indeed anyone else) has judgement.

  • What are the predictable mistakes that executives make that can lead high-flyers to fail?

    Richard Jolly, Randall S Peterson, Shruti Bhutada

    Some 2/3rd of those who are identified as having significant management talent at one point in their career, fail significantly over the subsequent 5 years. The research on the causes of executive derailment start in the 1970s and have seen many changes as some causes of derailment remain consistent (e.g., arrogance/overconfidence) and others rise and fall (e.g., overreliance on a single mentor was big in the 1970s and has faded almost entirely by the 1990s). Our proposal is to investigate the causes of derailment at different levels of seniority (first supervisory level; middle management; and senior executives) in today’s organisations.

    As organisations increasingly rely on social capital (the ability to get things done through other people), rather than human capital (knowledge and expertise) in an ever more complex internal and external environment, my hypothesis is that derailment is increasingly going to be a risk for executives that are ineffective at building relationships and coping with ambiguity. This is only likely to accelerate as the ‘Millennial’ generation steps up into management positions.

  • Gender differences in the co-evolution of social networks and leadership: a study of women in finance

    Raina Brands

    Although women make up 60% of the global workforce in the financial services industry, they hold only 19% of senior leadership roles, and even fewer board seats and c-suite positions. Structural solutions aimed at addressing the attrition of women from the leadership track and reducing the bias women leaders face have been proposed, but little consideration has been given to the informal realms of organizational life. The purpose of this research is to examine how informal interactions that take place in the workplace affect the representation of women in leadership in finance. Specifically, this research seeks to examine the co-evolution of social networks and leadership, to examine how informal relationships differentially affect men’s and women’s (1) leadership aspirations and (2) leadership reputations.

  • Buy-in networks, shared prototypes and women in leadership

    Raina Brands

    Individuals who aspire to top leadership roles rely on a network of informal mentors to guide their development, shaping them to fit the mould for leadership at their organization. But mentors may find it more difficult to guide women than men because ideal leaders are usually defined in masculine terms. This is especially true in organizations where there are few women in leadership, and thus where neither mentors nor women aspiring to leadership roles have a shared prototype for women in leadership. This research examines the extent to which a lack of a shared prototype for women-in-leadership affects women's progression to leadership roles, via the informal socialization process. The goal of this work is to design and test an intervention to improve the informal socialization of aspiring women leaders, with discernible effects on women's progression.

  • Replace the face: CEO turnover in the wake of corporate wrongdoing

    Gabrielle Adams

    Following a corporate transgression, organizations often take remedial actions in an effort to restore confidence in their organization. A particularly costly signal of repentance is to replace the individual at the helm of the organization—the CEO (Fragale, Rosen, Xu, & Merideth, 2009; Pozner, 2008; Pozner, Mohliver, & Moore, 2015). Organizational transgressions are a leading cause of these turnovers; for example, almost half of CEOs of 427 misreporting firms between 1993–2007 lost their jobs within the space of one year after public discovery.

    Such decisions by the Board to replace the face of their organisation signals sweeping organisational changes that may restore justice and assuage concerns about future unethical behavior, but not all transgressing CEOs are actually fired (or resign – voluntarily or by request). This research comes from the desire to understand when CEOs of transgressing organizations are fired, and when they are not.

  • Leaders and the valuation of employee motivational style

    Ena Inesi

    Psychologists, organisational behaviourists and economists alike have noted the role of intrinsic vs. extrinsic motivation in improving organisational outcomes such as learning and persistence (e.g., Benabou & Tirole, 2003; Lepper & Greene, 1975). The focus of much of this research has been on the results associated with how a person is motivated. Our research looks at motivation from a new perspective: That is, we are interested in how a person’s level in the organization – leader vs. peer vs. subordinate - affects the degree to which he or she would support a colleague that is intrinsically vs. extrinsically motivated. Said another way: given the benefits associated with intrinsic vs. extrinsic motivation, are leaders in organizations sensitive to the underlying motivation of those they evaluate? We hypothesize, while peers and subordinates would offer less support if the underlying motivation were extrinsic (e.g., financial motivation) compared to intrinsic (e.g., loves the work), leaders would provide support for a high-performing employee, regardless of the underlying motivation. We believe that this occurs because power-holders focus more narrowly on immediate utility (i.e. performance) and discount other factors such as underlying motivation.

  • How does diverse organisational leadership affect employee social attitudes?

    Aneeta Rattan

    Research has documented meaningful bottom line benefits for organizations that have socially diverse leadership. For example, companies that have gender-diverse boards outperform those that have all-male boards in stock market performance (Credit Suisse Research Institute, 2012; Joy, Carter, Wagner, & Narayanan, 2007). Racial diversity in corporate leadership is similarly associated with better firm financial performance (Erhardt, Werbel, & Shrader, 2003). This body of research has largely examined how diverse leadership affects organizations’ financial performance. The present research proposal seeks to investigate how diverse organizational leadership may affect employees’ social attitudes in the workplace.

  • Founder’s motivational orientation and firm success

    Xi Zou

    For a long time, founders of new ventures are commonly assumed to be risk-takers, full of creative ideas, and strike to be different. They might be particularly high on the need to be unique, which drives them to choose the path of becoming an entrepreneur over the typical career ladders. However, in the process of building up the new ventures, founders have to deal with a variety of pressures and constraints, which demand them to manage relationships among their followers, as well as with other key stakeholders of the firm. The willingness and the effectiveness in managing a complex web of relationships is equally, if not more important for new venture success than the original ideas.

  • The effect of CEO gender and top management team dynamics on firm outcomes

    Margaret Ormiston

    Practitioners and the business media are regularly noting the difficult experiences of female leaders in high-level positions (e.g., Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In); for example, an article by CNN (November 14, 2013) discusses employees’ continued preference for male bosses. However, there is little empirical research examining the experience and impact of women in top leadership roles, such as chief executive officers (CEOs) of Fortune 1000 companies. One reason is because historically there are few female CEOs in Fortune 1000 companies. Another reason is because top leaders are notoriously difficult to study. Indeed, strategic leadership researchers note the difficulty of conducting this research because top leaders generally do not submit themselves to psychological assessments (Cannella & Monroe, 1997; Hambrick, 2007). However, understanding the experience and impact of these female leaders is important; not only for obvious practical reasons but also to understand whether the decades of strategic leadership research on top (male) leaders generalizes to top female leaders.

  • Firm leadership in emerging markets: examining the heterogeneity in leaders to predict firm performance

    Naufel Vilcassim
    Stephen Anderson-Macdonald
    Christy Lazicky

    In this research, we aim to increase our understanding of the leadership qualities of micro and small firm owners in emerging markets. Specifically, we will use a novel “Leadership Potential Index” (LPI) screening tool, in combination with qualitative and quantitative survey approaches, to understand the heterogeneity that exists among leaders of these small firms, including individual differences in motivation, ability, decision making styles, business acumen, professional background and personal history. Thus, through this research we hope to contribute new insights on how to identify small business owners with greater leadership characteristics and potential to grow their businesses. Investing in the capabilities of promising business leaders could be a cost-effective way of stimulating firm productivity, economic development and market stability – important not only for governments, but also for multinationals seeking to expand their footprint in emerging markets. Further, this work builds on existing field studies that we are conducting in Uganda, Rwanda and Ghana, hence allowing us to address some of the major challenges in conducting research on business leaders across emerging markets.

  • Marketing CEOs: where are they, and how are they different?

    Rajesh Chandy

    Roughly a third of all CEOs of publicly listed US firms have backgrounds in the marketing function. In this research, we compare the mindsets, actions, and performance of CEOs with marketing backgrounds (or Marketing CEOs for short) to those of CEOs with other functional backgrounds (Finance, HR, R&D, Operations, etc.). Specifically, we examine a number of novel questions about Marketing CEOs that have not yet been addressed in empirical research:

    • Which industries are the most likely to feature Marketing CEOs, relative to CEOs with other functional backgrounds? Which industries are least likely to do so?
    • How are the career paths of Marketing CEOs different from those with other functional backgrounds?
    • How are the actions and mindsets of Marketing CEOs different, relative to CEOs with other backgrounds?
    • Are Marketing CEOs better or worse than other CEOs in driving their companies’ performance? How does the performance impact of Marketing CEOs vary by firm, industry, and macro-economic context?
  • Employees use of creativity versus unethical behaviours to win internal competitions

    Anna Steinhage

    This project investigates the role of emotions in determining when and why employees use creativity versus unethical behaviours to win internal competitions. We propose that when competition elicits anxiety, employees are more likely to engage in unethical behaviours, but when competition elicits excitement, people are more likely to strive for creative means to win. We test these hypotheses in two field studies with financial services managers. In Study 1, anxiety and excitement – triggered by employment policies – were related to employees’ choices between unethical versus creative behaviours in order to gain a competitive advantage. Using an experimental design, Study 2 showed that highlighting positive opportunities versus negative threats resulted in feelings of excitement versus anxiety about the competition. These emotions, in turn, were related to managers’ attraction to unethical or innovative behaviours to outperform their competitors.

  • Studying the careers of London Business School alumni

    Isabel Fernandez-Mateo

    We know that students graduating from London Business School enter a wide variety of different jobs, from finance, to consulting, to general management, to entrepreneurship and many other fields. Yet those first jobs are only the beginning of a long journey. Over subsequent years, our students will move jobs through promotions and lateral moves, will change employers, and often move across industries and functions. The resulting careers shape whether and how alumni are able to move into the most rewarding positions in the labour market. Studying those careers also lends particular insight into who enters leadership positions within organisations and how they get there. Our goal is to implement a survey of LBS alumni, in order to examine their trajectories in detail and hence inform research on the development of executive careers. We hope that this work will also help the school to better serve its students and alumni.

  • The role of facial appearance on CEO selection after firm misconduct

    Margaret Ormiston 

    Research on CEO succession indicates that CEO characteristics that signal competence are valued during the CEO selection process. However, less is known about the role of perceptions of trustworthiness when selecting a successor CEO. We investigate a situation in which CEO successor trustworthiness may be critically important to the firm—when the firm has been shown to have engaged in financial misconduct in the past. Drawing on prior research, we argue that perceptions of trustworthiness are influenced by facial appearance, which, in turn, affects CEO selection and reactions to CEO announcements. In an archival study of firms that have announced financial restatements, we find that trustworthy-looking individuals are more likely to be selected as successors and be more favourably perceived by external observers.

  • Judgments of hypocrisy in five countries: inconsistency receives greater condemnation in Western than in Asian cultures

    Daniel A. Effron, Assistant Professor, Organisational Behaviour, LBS

    The leadership literature has emphasized that a misalignment between words and actions can undermine leaders’ credibility and demotivate employees. The research on which this conclusion is based, however, has been conducted almost entirely in Western cultures.

    Drawing on theories from cultural psychology, we propose that failing to “walk the talk” is viewed as less problematic in Asian cultures. In support, our field and lab studies find that inconsistencies between words and deeds are condemned in the US and the UK more severely than in India, Japan, or Indonesia.

    Further research would allow us to conduct a crucial field study testing how this cultural difference can predict workplace conflict, performance, and citizenship behaviour.

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