Most Influential Business School Professors Of 2021

Once the chief psychologist at British Airways, Lynda Gratton is an expert on human capital and one of the world’s best business school professors


Overall, there are 37 business school professors featured among the 57 thinkers profiled in Thinkers50 (seven were ranked alongside co-authors or partners). In many cases, they include classroom rock stars like London Business School’s Lynda Gratton, Columbia Business School’s Dorie Clark, and IMD’s Michael Watkins. On occasion, you’ll find a Hubert Joly: a former Fortune 500 CEO who made the transition to academia (Harvard Business School, in his case). Speaking of HBS, the school can crow about six faculty members being part of the Thinkers50 list, with INSEAD placing four more. MIT Sloan, Columbia Business School, and London Business School each had three faculty members on Thinkers50, while the Wharton School and Duke Fuqua had two representatives. Dorie Clark, who teaches in the executive education program for Columbia and Duke Fuqua, was included in both totals.

That said, you’ll find plenty of Thinkers50 talent who make a living outside the business school bubble. Heidi Grant heads up research and development learning at Ernst & Young, while Ming Zeng has risen to become chief strategy officer at the Alibaba Group. Some, such as Tiffani Bova and Daniel Pink, have carved out livings as authors, speakers, and influencers who aren’t weighed down by the ‘publish or perish” expectations of academia. Alas, the number of gurus who can live off best-seller royalties long-term are few-and-far-between. Truth be told, you don’t make money off racking up Forbes columns, Twitter followers, TedTalks, virtual panels, or Fox Business bookings. And who really wants to schlep for consulting bookings these days? For many of the best minds, business school is the place to be: a security blanket with flexible schedules and inspiring peers. As an added bonus, their MBA students provide an inside look at the practices and trends in the world’s top organizations.

Laura Morgan Roberts, University of Virginia (Darden)

This year’s Thinkers50 also represents the culmination of a long-standing trend. This year, women make up the majority of the list. There are also 10 countries represented on the list that also feature thinkers from 10 countries including the US, China, the Netherlands, Italy, Denmark, the UK, Switzerland, Canada, Belgium, and France). In addition, there are 15 new members of Thinkers50 in 2021, including Duke Fuqua’s Sanyin Siang, Harvard Business School’s Tsedal Neeley, and Wharton’s Katy Milkman.


The Thinkers50 is just one of the honors that business professors enjoyed in 2021. The organization also produces a list of 30 up-and-comers known as the Radar list. On this year’s Radar, you’ll find distinguished faculty members that include: Matt Beane (UC-Santa Barbara), Hamid Bouchikhi (Solbridge International),  David De Cremer (National University of Singapore), Colleen Cunningham (London Business School), Matthew Gitshaw (Hult Ashridge), Laura Huang (Harvard Business School), Jackson Lu (MIT Sloan), Alyson Meister (IMD), Leon Prieto (Clayton State), Simone Phipps (Middle Georgia State), Laura Morgan Roberts (Virginia Darden), Luz Rello Sanchez (IE Business School), Keyvan Vakili (London Business School), and Dashun Wang (Northwestern Kellogg).

This year’s Thinkers50 Hall of Fame inductees include Mary Gentile (Virginia Darden), Reuel Khoza (University of Stellenbosch), and Sue Vinnicombe (Cranfield School).  The 2021 Lifetime Achievement Award was given to Northwestern Kellogg’s Philip Kotler. Popularly known as the “Father of Modern Marketing,” Kotler has published 80 books, including Marketing Management — the most widely-used textbook in the field according to Thinkers50.


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