2016 Best 40 Under 40 Professors: Michael Smets, Saïd Business School

Michael Smets Oxford

Michael Smets

Associate Professor in Management and Organisation Studies

Saïd Business School, University of Oxford

Saïd Business School’s Michael Smets is best known for his role as lead researcher and author of the CEO Report. In 2015 Michael launched this study, the culmination of an in depth study of over 150 CEOs who collectively had over 880 years of CEO experience. Sure enough, CEO Report received significant media interest for its new insights into how the role and the attributes of CEOs have changed in a rapidly-changing global environment. This insight, alongside his research into the internationalisation, innovation and regulation of professional service firms, and career systems and innovation capacity, has helped inform a Leadership Fundamentals course that he has developed for Saïd MBAs.

Age: 38

At current institution since: 2013

Education: DPhil in Management, Organisation Studies, Oxford University, 2009

Courses you currently teach: Leadership Fundamentals, Developing Others, Designing High-Performing Teams, CEO Perspectives on Leadership

Professor you most admire: Tim Morris, an incredibly empowering supervisor and an inspiring storyteller in the classroom.

“I knew I wanted to be a b-school professor when…I realized the many ways in which you can help people at various stages of their careers and how far beyond business that impact can reach.”

“If I weren’t a b-school professor…I’d probably be re-building the event marketing agency I set up while still studying back in Germany.”

Most memorable moment in the classroom or in general as a professor: A “robust” discussion with the CEO of a local company on one of my very first executive courses. He didn’t agree with some of my material in class, but wrote in the feedback notes that our disagreement was still his “lightbulb moment” of the course. Lesson: Let those sparks fly, as long as they create light, rather than just heat.

What professional achievement are you most proud of? The first paper from my doctorate went straight on to receive the Academy of Management Journals ‘Best Paper’ Award in 2013.

What do you enjoy most about being a business school professor? When students turn “my stuff” into “their stuff.” They take one of your arguments or ideas, bounce them around among themselves and forget about you for a little while. That’s when you know you have given them something with relevance for them – not just for their grade.

What do you enjoy least about being a business school professor? Marking

Fun fact about yourself: Fun? I’m German!

Favorite book: ‘An instance of the fingerpost’ by Iain Pears. A 17th century murder mystery, told from the contradictory vantage points of four main characters. Each version of the story is entirely plausible, until you read the next one.

Favorite movie: Whiplash. An amazing soundtrack and a powerful reminder of the responsibility leaders and mentors have for those in their care.

Favorite type of music: Anything that builds bridges and blends different styles. But on a run or rowing machine, a healthy dose of good old techno never goes amiss.

Favorite television show: The Big Bang Theory, because academics really shouldn’t take themselves too seriously all the time.

Favorite vacation spot: A little village in Switzerland which my family and close friends have been descending upon for Easter every year for the last 25 years. Being in the mountains clears your mind and gets you grounded – and ready for the summer term.

What are your hobbies? Rowing and good food. Luckily they go together quite well.

Twitter handle: @michael_smets

“If I had my way, the business school of the future would have…fully integrated digital, experiential and classroom learning.”


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