2016 Best 40 Under 40 Professors: Niro Sivanathan, London Business School

Niro Sivanathan LBS

Niro Sivanathan

Associate Professor of Organisational Behaviour

London Business School

“Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Pretty catchy, huh? Well, there is also some pretty strong evidence behind it – and Niro Sivanathan is on the forefront of how forces like power and status can influence decision-making – and erode integrity.

A psychologist at heart, Sivanathan’s research in areas like conspicuous consumption and judgment has been a staple in leading academic journals like the Psychological Science – along with global press outlets like CNN, the Financial times, and the Wall Street Journal. A highly decorated teacher – including a 2014 Best Teacher Award for MBAs at LBS in 2014 – Sivanathan’s teaching has been described as combining “a direct, non-nonsense communication style with a personal touch and humor.” Outside class, he also teaches negotiation skills to underprivileged children at local London schools.

Age: 37

At current institution since: 2008


Ph.D., Management & Organizations, Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University, 2010

M.Sc., Management, Queen’s School of Business, Queen’s University, 2002

B.A. (Hons) Psychology, Queen’s University, 2001.

Courses you currently teach:

Negotiations & Bargaining (MBA Elective)

Leading Teams for Emerging Leaders Programme (Exec-Ed)

Leading Change Programme (Exec-Ed)

Organisational Behaviour Seminar (PhD)

Professor you most admire: I have been fortunate to have had many mentors, but Keith Murnighan stands out.  He is a scholar with a rare blend of intelligence, care, geniality and generosity. Striving to be half the advisor he was to me and all his students is a tall order for any faculty.

“I knew I wanted to be a b-school professor when…I started my undergraduate degree majoring in Life Sciences, and registered for a course on Brain and Behaviour in my second year. During that time, I read Oliver Sacks’ “The man who mistook his wife for a hat” – a wonderful peek into the deeply mysterious and complex intersection of neurology and psychology. I switched to a psychology major and continued that path to a PhD.”

“If I weren’t a b-school professor…I would try my luck (and a lot will be needed) as a general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs.”

Most memorable moment in the classroom or in general as a professor: They tend to be the moments when a student “gets” it.  It is usually when something covered in class questions their assumptions and triggers a natural curiosity.  These moments are energizing.

What professional achievement are you most proud of? I am proud of my collaboration with my colleague and friend, Nate Pettit at NYU. I am also proud to be a member of London Business School – a wonderfully supportive institution that provides the right platform to be successful.

What do you enjoy most about being a business school professor? I enjoy the freedom to study any topic and having the added luxury to share the research with students who are keen and capable of applying the findings immediately in their professional and daily lives.

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

Fun fact about yourself: I am a fainter. I have perfected the art of passing out each time I give blood at the doctor’s office.

Favorite book: Current favourite is ‘A Short History Of Nearly Everything’.

Favorite movie: Cinema Paradiso & (almost) every Kubrick film.

Favorite type of music: U2, Imagine Dragons, U2, Of Monsters and Men, U2 would be a typical playlist.

Favorite television show: Seinfeld and The Wire.

Favorite vacation spot: Maldives.

What are your hobbies? Lately, building Lego with my five year old son and providing backup vocals for the countless times my three year old daughter sings ‘Let It Go’.

Twitter handle: Don’t have one.

“If I had my way, the business school of the future would have…business education accessible to those who can least afford it.”

Students say…

“We all took his course Negotiation and Bargaining in 2013 and believe that he was the best teacher each of us experienced at LBS. His unique teaching style is grounded in a deep knowledge of the scientific literature, brought to light in an engaging manner with “real world” examples and exercises. As a result of his academic contributions, Dr. Sivanathan was awarded tenure 2 years early in 2013. His excellence in teaching was acknowledged by his selection as the Best Teacher at London Business School in 2014.”

James M. Schmitz, M.D.

” I undertook a Sloan Fellowship at LBS in 2013, taking a career break from a senior role in investment banking, and I quite surprisingly found Niro’s Negotiation & Bargaining class astonishingly good.  He was interesting, thoughtful, engaging, and most importantly, educational, and would recommend him to experienced professionals as well as MBA’s.  He is a real talent and lovely guy.”

Ivan Power

“Niro not only has a theoretical understanding of the subject matter. Most importantly, he is able to engage and enthuse his class with the thorny topic of negotiation & bargaining. His course has been designed entirely around students and the practical application of negotiation tactics in several real-life situations. Niro creates a safe environment in which to practice multiple negotiation tactics and combines a direct, non-nonsense communication style with a personal touch and humor.

It was one of the best classes I have taken in my life-time and I was able to apply my lessons learnt directly to my own personal circumstances, e.g. negotiating salary and benefits for a new job, resolving a landlord dispute, and so on.”

Niels Hamelink

“Niro is without a doubt the best professor I had at LBS. He promised us in his first class that he would make us ‘Rockstar’ negotiators and given the impact his teachings have had on my business negotiations since, I would say he definitely made me significantly better. His classes are over-subscribed and many students have been known to bid ALL their elective points on his class!”

Nav Kaplish

“Niro is one of the truly awesome professors at LBS and I’d love to recommend him for this award!  What makes him so special – it is that he genuinely cares about his students, not as a collective but as individuals. He really goes out of his way, again and again, and often way beyond the term of a subject, to take the time to learn about the personal circumstances a student is facing and to find incredibly helpful and innovative ways to make a difference for them and better prepare them for their upcoming personal and professional challenges. For example, he offers to study negotiation tactics on video and then gives 1-1 personal follow-up advice session on tactics used and better strategies and approaches and even consults on key challenges – which is not just incredibly generous on his own time but also utterly awesome and effective advice – thank you Niro!”

Anonymous Student


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