The World’s Top 50 Leadership and Management Thinkers

Every two years since 2001, Thinkers50 has published their ranking of the world’s top 50 management and leadership thinkers. I’ve watched the popularity of this ranking grow over the last few years, and today being nominated for a Thinkers50 award is largely considered akin to being nominated for an “Oscar” in management and leadership thinking. Those recognized previously have included Peter Drucker, Michael Porter, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Tom Peters, Richard Branson, Clayton Christensen and other esteemed thinkers. Just today, Thinkers50 announced their shortlist for the 2013 awards. In todays column I’ll take a peek inside Thinkers50 which includes an interview with one of its founders Stuart Crainer.

While I’m honored to have made the shortlist in the leadership category, I must admit to not being overly impressed by most lists of the top this or that. By their very nature any list is exclusive, and I’ve yet to review one that isn’t subjective (at least at some level). The Thinkers50 is no exception to what I’ve just espoused. While they do publish a methodology (see interview below), which includes a public voting component as well as filtering for influence, contribution, and originality of thought, there are still subjective considerations that nobody outside of the Thinkers50 organization has visibility to. These obvious disclaimers aside, I believe the Thinkers50 to be the gold standard of credibility and accomplishment in the field of leadership and management.

Following are those shortlisted in the Strategy, Leadership and Innovation categories for the 2013 Thinkers50 awards. The full list of categories can be found here. Winners will be announced in London on November 11th, at the Thinkers50 awards gala:

  • Strategy Award: Erik Brynjolfsson: The Schussel Family Professor of Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management; Laurence Capron: Author and professor of strategy at INSEAD; Richard D’Aveni: The Bakala Professor of Strategy at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College; Roger Martin: The former dean of Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto; Rita Gunther McGrath: An associate professor of management at Columbia Business School; Cynthia Montgomery: The Timken Professor of Business Administration and former chair of the strategy unit at Harvard Business School; Richard Rumelt: The Harry and Elsa Kunin Chair in Business and Society at UCLA’s Anderson School of Management; Chris Zook: A partner at Bain & Co. where he leads its Global Strategy Practice.
  • Leadership Award: Liu Chuanzhi: The Chairman of Lenovo Group now the second-largest computer group in the world; Amy Edmondson: The Novartis Professor of Leadership and Management at Harvard Business School; Stew Friedman: A practice professor at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania; Linda Hill: the Wallace Brett Donham Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School, and also chairs the school’s leadership initiative; Herminia Ibarra: the Cora Chaired Professor of Leadership and Learning and Professor of Organizational Behavior at INSEAD; Andrew Kakabadse: Professor of Governance and Leadership at Henley Business School; Liz Mellon: Author and former professor of organizational behavior at London Business School; Mike Myatt: An American CEO coach, CEO of N2growth, author, and Forbes Leadership Columnist – my personal favorite:); Wang Shi: A mountaineer who has scaled Everest, founder and chairman of Vanke, the world’s largest residential home developer, and a visiting scholar at Harvard; Liz Wiseman: A former executive at Oracle, President of the Wiseman Group and author.
  • Innovation Award: Ron Adner: Author and Professor of Strategy at the Tuck School at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire; Henry Chesbrough: Author and Director of the Center for Open Innovation at Berkeley’s Haas School of Business; Vijay Govindarajan: Author and The Earl C. Daum 1924 Professor of International Business at the Tuck School of Business; Hal Gregersen: Author and A Professor of Leadership at INSEAD; Matt Kingdon: Author and the co-founder of the innovation international consulting firm ?What If!; Kai-Fu Lee: An author and blogger who now runs a venture fund, he formerly worked for Apple, Silicon Graphics, Microsoft and Google where he was the founding president of Google China; Alexander Osterwalder & Yves Pigneur: Osterwalder and Pigneur are the authors of Business Model Generation: A Handbook for Visionaries, Gamechangers and Challengers (self-published, 2010); Navi Radjou: Author and a fellow of the Cambridge Judge Business School, where he is the former director of the Centre for India & Global Business.

When I asked Stuart Crainer, one of the co-founders of Thinkers50 about the organization here’s what he shared with me:

Myatt: Why was Thinkers50 founded, and what do you hope the organization evolves into over time?

Crainer: The Thinkers50 was the brainchild of Des Dearlove and I. We came up with the idea over a pizza in 2000. Basically, we believe that ideas have the power to change the world. That’s what inspired us to create the Thinkers50. When it was launched in 2001, it was the first-ever global ranking of management thinkers. There have been a few copy cat rankings but ours is the best known. It is published every two years and to the ranking we have now added a number of awards recognizing thinkers in areas such as strategy and leadership. Our objective is to scan, rank and share management ideas. We are continually developing new ways to share the best thinking. The Thinkers50 iPad Apps are a good example of that, and the Thinkers50 continues to introduce new idea-sharing events and technologies.

The ranking itself has also evolved. In the early days, it included famous business leaders such as Steve Jobs and Richard Branson, as well as Nobel Prize-winning economists. In recent years, we have been stricter about the criteria with candidates expected to have a clearly articulated theory or philosophy of management, usually in the form of a book. We now have affiliates in China, India and Turkey so plan to carry on championing ideas and helping people learn from the latest thinking wherever it might originate.

Myatt: Do we really need any more lists? What makes the Thinkers50 list different from other forms of industry recognition?

Crainer: It is open and independent. People can vote or nominate their thinker of choice. It might be a professor at Harvard Business School or an inspirational consultant, coach, or author. We examine the ideas of all who are nominated and voted for.

Myatt: How are those awarded recognition evaluated against their peers, and how is selection determined?

Crainer: The Thinkers50 ranking is based on a combination of voting at the Thinkers50 website and input from a team of advisors led by Des and I. We have 10 established criteria by which thinkers are evaluated:

Criteria 1 – 5 of the criteria are based on how the thinker has performed over the last two years (since the last ranking).

1. Relevance of ideas

2. Rigor of research

3. Presentation of ideas

4. Accessibility/ Dissemination of ideas

5. International outlook

Criteria 6 – 10 are evaluated based on the thinker’s performance over the long term (the last 20 years):

6. Originality of ideas

7. Impact of ideas

8. Practicality of ideas

9. Business sense

10. Power to inspire.

Myatt: Is there a social purpose above and beyond recognizing leadership and management thinkers?

Crainer: The Thinkers50 champions management. Though it is often criticized, misunderstood and maligned, management can be a force for good in the world. Look at CK Prahalad’s work around the Bottom of the Pyramid. Look at companies using the balanced scorecard throughout the world. Better management creates better performance which leads to growth and wealth. The great thing about management is that it is timeless and universal. It took management to tend the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. It takes management to run any organization.

Myatt: What would you like Forbes readers to know about Thinkers50?

Crainer: The new ranking and awards are announced on 11 November. More important than the Thinkers50 is the importance of great management to the world and the future of the world.

Originally published on 9/5/2013

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