Madrid’s IE University is putting an American expatriate who earned his MBA at MIT Sloan, worked for McKinsey & Co. and has built a well-earned reputation as an academic visionary in the dean’s job of IE Business School.
Lee Newman, 54, currently dean of IE’s School of Human Sciences and Technology, succeeds Martin Boehm, a German-born marketing professor who took over the business school in January of 2017. Boehm led the business school during a challenging time through a rankings decline and the disruptions of the pandemic. A year into the job as dean, Boehm found IE’s MBA program removed from the Financial Times ranking due to “irregularities” that included surveys completed by users who were not surveyed alumni. When the school returned to the ranking in 2019, its MBA was ranked 31st, 23 places below its lofty eighth-place finish in 2017. In this year’s ranking, IE’s full-time MBA placed 39th.
Like Boehm, who earned praise for his “exemplary performance” as dean, Newman is described by IE insiders as a “really good guy, thoughtful, energetic, kind and agreeable.” Newman has worked closely with IE University President and former IE Business School Dean Santiago Íñiguez de Onzoño for over a decade. His appointment–effective in June–occurred without a search. He is expected to formally present his strategy for the school this September, the same month IE is expected to officially open a new campus in a skyscraper in Madrid for its undergraduate business school.
A LOVE OF BILL EVANS, ÉPOISSES CHEESE & ZEN BUDDHIST PHILOSOPHY
Iñiguez publicly thanked Boehm on the completion of his mandate as Dean: “I want to extend my deepest appreciation to Martin Boehm for his dedication and performance. During his four years as Dean of IE Business School and five years as Dean of Programs, the Business School has grown, diversified and strengthened its quality and international presence. His intelligence and accomplished leadership have resulted in multiple new programs and initiatives at IE Business School, which deserve our enduring recognition. Martin has been an excellent, loyal and committed collaborator, and has led the School with exemplary competence.”
Newman, who led the launch and development of IE’s School of Human Sciences and Technology, is something of a modern-day Renaissance Man, with interests in psychology, computer science, music, cheese and wine, travel and zen. He has been a management consultant, having worked as an engagement manager in McKinsey’s Chicago office in the early 1990s, an entrepreneur of two companies in New York from 1996 to 2002, and since then an academic, having earned a PhD in an unusual interdisciplinary pairing of cognitive psychology and computer science from the University of Michigan in 2009.
A thoughtful iconoclast, Newman plays the guitar, has ecclectic tastes in music, ranging from jazz pianist Bill Evans to the 1950s doo-wop group The Heartbeats. His favorite cheeses are Époisses, Fromage de Meaux, and Brie de Nangis, in that order. He has traveled extensively, in the early days with a backpack, through all of Western Europe, most of Eastern Europe and the Baltics, a good part of South America, some of Central America, the Middle East, Turkey, and North Africa. Newman even ventured a climb of Mt. Cotopaxi which he describes as “the toughest physical and mental experience I’ve ever experienced.” And he professes a deep interest in Zen Buddhist philosophy and practice. “For me,” he writes, “Zen is a psychological approach to being human — a practice of perception and awareness — and one that has turned out to be very related to my research.”
After serving as a graduate student instructor to undergraduates in Michigan’s departments of psychology and computer science. he moved to Madrid to join IE in 2009 and in the following year became the founding dean of what is now known as the IE School of Human Sciences & Technology. Lee not only got the school off the ground; he drove its strategy and growth, overseeing the development of 12 master’s programs and five bachelor degrees. It now serves 1,500 students annually from more than 100 countries.
Newman is also no stranger to IE’s Business School, having been dean of innovation and behavior at IE Business School from 2013 to 2015 and a professor of behavioral science and leadership at the school for many years.
‘A COMFORTABLE, SHELTERED MIDWESTERN CHILDHOOD BEFORE HEADING TO BROWN’
Newman has one of the most extensive personal websites for any academic. A self-described dean, teacher, trainer and educational entrepreneur, the site prominently displays a quote from Mahatma Gandhi: “Your BELIEFS become your thoughts, your THOUGHTS become your words, your WORDS become your actions, your ACTIONS become your habits, your HABITS become your values, your VALUES become YOUR DESTINY.”
Originally from St. Louis, he went to Brown University for his undergraduate degree in electrical engineering, where he played rugby and was on the freshmen crew team and ultimately graduated magna cum laude in 1992. “I had a very comfortable, sheltered Midwestern childhood before heading to college,” he writes on his website. “Brown offered somewhat of a shock-treatment for someone used to the more conservative Midwest — one that in retrospect, I needed badly, and that changed my perspectives forever. I went straight from Brown to grad school at MIT.”
He has written essays for The Wall Street Journal, the Financial Times, and the Harvard Business Review on everything from “positive leadership” to “behavioral fitness” at work. define positive leadership is to say that it enables high engagement and performance in three ways. Asked to define positive leadership in an interview, Newman described the concept as a way to achieve high engagement and performance in the world of work.
“The first core element is what I call mindware training, and the idea is literally to rethink the way that we think in the workplace,” he says. “Psychology and neuroscience have made great inroads in circumscribing a set of components that drive how we think, feel, and act. We can call these components ‘mindware,’ and science has shown pretty clearly that there is a set of predictable defaults, biases, and errors that can produce behaviors that are far less productive and effective than they otherwise could be. Our attention wanders, we tend jump too quickly to conclusions about people and facts, and we take ownership of our early ideas and close ourselves to contradictory information and opinions.”
Iñiguez heaped praise on Newman for his strategic vision and his leadership. “The business world has been revolutionized by artificial intelligence and behavioral sciences and it is with this in mind that I am particularly proud to announce the appointment of Lee Newman as Dean of IE Business School,” he said in a statement. “Given his expertise in these two areas, combined with his professional experience, I have no doubt that Lee will continue to advance IE Business School’s position as a leading international educational institution. Throughout the years that I have known Lee, he has demonstrated solid strategic vision and a great ability to lead teams, to anticipate trends and innovate – all of which will enable him to successfully lead IE Business School into the next stage of its evolution.”
Newman’s wife, Ellen, who also has a PhD in psychology, is a professor of behavioral science at IE. The pair married in Philadelphia in January of 2008 and have a daughter, Ella, and a dog, Beni, a Jack Russell and a Tibetan Spaniel.
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