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Radical Business Leaders

Bauer Researcher Looks at Need for Leaders to be Transformative to Make Global Change

Published on April 21, 2021

Photo: Sana Chiu

New research from the C. T. Bauer College of Business recommends proactively developing radically different business leaders in response to global sustainability crises.

In “Wanted: Heroic Leaders to Drive the Transition to ‘Business Beyond Usual,’” published in Strategic Organization, Assistant Professor Shih-Chi (Sana) Chiu of the Department of Management & Leadership and two co-authors note that a recent World Economic Forum report concludes that the five biggest global risks are linked to environmental issues.

But because CEO’s and others in leadership positions face huge hurdles when it comes to making the substantive changes needed to reverse the impact of decades of industrial activity, the researchers say it is imperative to proactively cultivate leaders with the courage and insight needed to act in a transformative way.

“We cannot await heroic leaders to pop up of their own volition,’ Chiu said. “We propose a framework for identifying and empowering changemakers, rather than waiting for them to magically appear.”

Professor Judith Walls of the University of St. Gallen, Switzerland and Ashley Salaiz, who received her doctorate at the Bauer College and is now an Assistant Professor at the University of Tampa, collaborated with Chiu in summarizing key research findings on the micro-foundational, socio-cognitive and motivational underpinnings that impact corporate sustainability. They address research gaps before recommending how to identify, develop and empower leaders with transformational potential.

Trustworthiness, for instance, is known as a key trait for people who have the potential to create “positive deviant change,” the researchers write.

Optimism and humility often lead to self-trust that underlies trustworthiness, Chiu said. Society as a collective should be looking for leaders who embrace paradox by shifting from “either/or” to “both/and.”

Human industrial activity has created the need for heroic leaders, and it’s important to uncover how individual-level psychological traits of leaders matter for corporate transformation, the researchers say.

Chiu's research focuses on the antecedents, process, and outcomes of corporate restructuring, strategic leadership, and corporate sustainability (i.e., social, environmental, and financial performance). She is interested in the psychological and cognitive factors that influence strategic leaders' decision-making in relation to corporate behaviors and outcomes. Her research has appeared in the Journal of Management, Leadership Quarterly, Journal of Business Ethics, Journal of Business Research, and Journal of Management Studies, among others.

Chiu received her Ph.D. in Strategic Management from the Robert J. Trulaske College of Business at the University of Missouri in Columbia. She earned an M.A. in IT/Communications Management from Michigan State University. Chiu has received a Certificate in Case Method Teaching and an Executive Business Certificate in Board Governance from Harvard Business School.