HR Most Influential 2012 Top 20 International Thinkers

When it comes to seminal texts, it could be argued international thinkers pip those from the UK – especially those from the US. It is fitting that 2012 marks the publication of the fifth edition of one such text, The Leadership Challenge, by Jim Kouzes, dean’s executive fellow of leadership, Leavey School of Business, Santa Clara University (joint 16) and, one place behind, his colleague, Barry Posner, Accolti professor of leadership at Leavey School of Business. Noted for their influence on leadership thinking and practice, Kouzes and Posner’s seminal Leadership Challenge, what they describe as a global campaign to liberate the leader in everyone, has been updated to mark the 25th anniversary of its publication and the fifth edition went straight to number one on Amazon’s Business Leadership Bestseller list. 

US professors dominate the HR Most Influential International Thinkers 2012, with Harvard Business School professors taking the top two spots. Jumping up seven places to take the number one spot in 2012, Rosabeth Moss Kanter, Ernest L Arbuckle professor, Harvard Business School, is nothing less than “one of the most powerful women in the world”, according to one respondent. The accolades are flowing: original, interesting, excellent, a great thought leader and “one of the very best”. 

Her work on change and empowerment are not just influential in the HR community but she is also influencing the global stakeholder agenda. Kanter has embraced social media to deliver her thoughts, with 28,000 Twitter followers. Those who voted for her regard her as a role model with a longevity and relevance that take some beating. 

At 89 years old, second-placed Chris Argyris, emeritus professor of education and organisational behaviour, Harvard Business School, is less visible today, but “still a voice of reason is an increasingly crowded field” is one comment. “Argyris remains one of those whose early work is referred to almost as much as his later work in HR studies, and as such is an underpinning part of HR learning,” says one who ranked him in their top three. Another points to his tried and tested ideas and usable theory. 

Academics with timeless and practical theories stand out in the international list. Straight in at number three, Henry Mintzberg, Cleghorn professor of management studies, McGill University, is noted for a sustained contribution to management, change and motivation that continues to be an inspiration to managers. “It is always worth listening to his views,” says one who ranks him top. 

Jeffrey Pfeffer, Thomas D Dee II professor of organisational behavior, Graduate School of Business, Stanford University, new entry at number four, has produced books and ideas that are “timeless”, while Edward Lawler, distinguished professor of business and director of the Center for Effective Organizations, Marshall School of Business, University of Southern California (up one place to six) has a track record in “distinguished practitioner-friendly research”, always rooted in practitioner needs.

 Pat Wright, previously at Cornell and now Thomas C Vandiver Bicentennial chair, Darla Moore School of Business, University of South Carolina (up from 19 to 11 this year), is noted for “translating academic insight into high-performance HR”, while Denise Rousseau, HJ Heinz II university professor of organisational behavior and public policy, Carnegie Mellon University, who jumps straight into the number seven position, has made an “immense” contribution to understanding the psychological contract. Indeed, in one voter’s view, Rousseau is “the only individual worth voting for on the list of nominations”. Another commented: “Excellent work in trying to impact on the landscape of the management field by championing the idea of an evidence-based international collaboration to operate across boundaries.” 

But the 2012 list also features academics pushing thinking into areas that the HR community deems of increasing importance, especially in the area of psychology. New in at number eight is Patrick Flood, professor of organisational behaviour and head HRM and organisational psychology group, Dublin City University, who is one noted for his forward thinking. Also in the ranking for the first time, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, distinguished professor of psychology, School of Behavioral and Organisational Sciences, Claremont Graduate University, and co-director, Quality of Life Research Center (12), has been influential for his work on flow, the theory that people are happiest when they are in a state of ‘flow’, a state of concentration or complete absorption with the activity and situation at hand. 

Richard Boyatzis, professor, organisational behavior, psychology and cognitive science, Case Western Reserve University and HR at ESADE (new at number eight) is “emerging as a leader in this field”, according to one person who voted for him, while his discussion on emotional intelligence remains fundamental to development of leadership theory, believes another. Meanwhile Martin Seligman, Zellerbach Family professor of psychology and director of the Positive Psychology Center, University of Pennsylvania (new at 13), is noted for his influence in the field of positive psychology and its application to the workplace, making it a tangible issue that organisations can, and should, address. 

Surprisingly, experts in leadership are not as prominent in the 2012 ranking as in previous years. As well as Kouzes and Posner, leading the charge is Bruce Avolio, Marion B Ingersoll professorship and executive directorship, Center for Leadership and Strategic Thinking, Michael G Foster School of Business, University of Washington (20). Meanwhile, on the CEO agenda, talent is right up there and the top influencer in this field is Peter Cappelli, George W Taylor professor of management, Wharton School and director, Wharton’s Center for Human Resources. He jumps the highest number of places this year, from 17 to five. Those who voted for him admire his bravery in taking a contrarian view and challenging US-centric views on leadership and management practices. He is seen as the “best talent guy worldwide”, thanks to his work on supply chain thinking in talent management. “Cappelli has produced some highly relevant, leading-edge theory around the changing employment relationship and managing talent in a time of uncertainty. His book, The India Way, is used widely as a blueprint for driving strategy and competitiveness in the new emerging global order.”

HR Most Influential 2012 Top 20 International Thinkers
2012 2011 Name, title and organisation
1 8 Rosabeth Moss Kanter, Ernest L Arbuckle professor, Harvard Business School
2 6 Chris Argyris, emeritus professor of education and organisational behaviour, Harvard Business School
3 New Henry Mintzberg, Cleghorn professor of management studies, McGill University
4 New Jeffrey Pfeffer, Thomas D Dee II professor of organizational behavior, Graduate School of Business, Stanford University
5 17 Peter Cappelli, George W Taylor professor of management, The Wharton School and director Wharton’s Center for Human Resources
6 7 Edward Lawler, distinguished professor of business and director of the Center for Effective Organizations, Marshall School of Business, University of Southern California
7 New Denise Rousseau, HJ Heinz II university professor of organizational behavior and public policy, Carnegie Mellon University
8 New Patrick Flood, professor of organizational behaviour and head HRM and Organizational Psychology Group, Dublin City University
9 New Richard Boyatzis, professor organizational behavior, psychology and cognitive science, Case Western Reserve University and HR at ESADE
10 15 Manfred Kets de Vries, clinical professor of leadership and organizational change and Raoul de Vitry d’Avaucourt chaired professor of leadership Development, INSEAD
11 19 Pat Wright, Thomas C Vandiver Bicentennial chair, Darla Moore School of Business, University of South Carolina
12 New Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, distinguished professor of psychology, School of Behavioral and Organizational Sciences, Claremont Graduate University, and co-director, Quality of Life Research Center
13 New Martin Seligman, Zellerbach Family professor of psychology and director of the Positive Psychology Center, University of Pennsylvania
14 New Adrian Wilkinson, professor and director Centre for Work, Organisation and Wellbeing, Griffith University, Australia
15 New Jaap Paauwe, professor of human resource studies, Tilburg University
16= 16 Jim Kouzes, dean’s executive fellow of leadership, Leavey School of Business, Santa Clara University
16= New William Pasmore, visiting professor of practice, Teachers College, Columbia University
17 9 Barry Posner, Accolti professor of leadership, Leavey School of Business, Santa Clara University
18 New Karl E Weick, Rensis Likert distinguished university professor, Ross School of Business, University of Michigan
19 New Peter Salovey, Provost of Yale University and Chris Argyris professor of psychology
20 New Bruce Avolio, Marion B Ingersoll professorship and executive directorship, Center for Leadership and Strategic Thinking, Michael G Foster School of Business, University of Washington