2022 Best 40-Under-40 MBA Professors: Blaine Landis, University College London, UCL School of Management

Blaine Landis

University College London, UCL School of Management

“An outstanding scholar whose research has changed our understanding of how social networks facilitate people’s careers. His co-authored meta-analysis published in 2015 showed that it was the size of the network rather than the spanning across gaps in the network that helped people get ahead. And, crucially, a particular personality orientation termed high self-monitoring — i.e., flexibility in relation to situational demands — predicted who was central in social networks. This article in Organization Science is one of the most downloaded and cited papers in the journal. Blaine is a superb teacher and winner of UCL’s outstanding teaching award, 2021. He brings to the classroom over a decade of experience as head coach of college basketball teams at Cambridge University and Imperial College.” – Martin Kilduff

Blaine Landis, 38, is Assistant Professor of Organizational Behavior at University College London School of Management.

His research takes a psychological approach to understanding social networks in organizations. His published research identifies the personality characteristics linked with advantageous network positions in the workplace, as well as the network positions most closely related to job performance and career success. His review of personality and social network research in organizations discusses the major work in this area.
His work has appeared in Journal of Applied Psychology, Organization SciencePsychological ScienceAcademy of Management Annals, and Journal of Organizational Behavior. Press appearances include The Financial Times, Harvard Business Review, Wired, Society for Personality and Social PsychologyThe Economist, VICEIT Pro, Wired, and HR Magazine.

BACKGROUND

At current institution since what year? 2015

Education: Ph.D. in Organizational Behavior from the University of Cambridge in 2014, MPhil in Innovation, Strategy, and Organization from the University of Cambridge in 2009, MA in Industrial and Organizational Psychology from the University of Tulsa in 2008, and a BA in Psychology (with Honors) from Washburn University in 2006

List of MBA courses you currently teach: Leading Organizations

TELL US ABOUT LIFE AS A BUSINESS SCHOOL PROFESSOR

I knew I wanted to be a business school professor when… I knew I’d love this career when I found myself losing track of time because I was so absorbed in my work. I would start to work on something, and hours would fly by without me even noticing.

What are you currently researching and what is the most significant discovery you’ve made from it? The idea for my most recent paper came from a group activity I often do in class. In this activity, I ask for four volunteers to participate in a group discussion while the rest of the class watches. The volunteers have five minutes to solve a problem together without the use of their phones or other aids. Before the discussion starts, I ask the four volunteers to step outside the classroom for a moment while I talk to the rest of the class. When they step outside, I ask for four additional volunteers to count how many times each person speaks, ask questions, and/or interrupts others. Then I bring the original four volunteers back into the classroom and start the timer. At the end of the five minutes, the rest of the class votes on who emerged as the leader of the group and we discuss the data. The person who speaks the most is usually the leader, but this person also tends to ask fewer questions and interrupts a lot. I use this activity to illustrate the participation-leadership effect, as well as discuss the well-established finding that extraversion is related to leadership emergence. But it got me thinking: If extraverts emerge as informal leaders, what happens to them over time? My colleagues and I explored this question in our recent paper and found that although extraversion is related to being perceived as a leader, they also tend to have more variable networks—different people perceiving you as a leader over time. The paper is about the importance of considering not just the number of people who view you as a leader, but how stable your leadership network is over time. 

If I weren’t a business school professor… I would be a basketball coach.

What do you think makes you stand out as a professor? A theme in my teaching evaluations from students is how enthusiastic I am. I love what I teach! 

One word that describes my first time teaching: Nerve-wracking but fun.  

Here’s what I wish someone would’ve told me about being a business school professor: I didn’t even know it was a career option! I was really lucky to have great mentors along the way who pointed out different career paths, including this one.

Professor I most admire and why: Too many to list! 

TEACHING MBA STUDENTS

What do you enjoy most about teaching business students? They have great stories about interesting things that have happened in their careers. It’s fascinating stuff! 

What is most challenging? Keeping the conversation on track. It’s natural for people to get excited and want to share something that’s only slightly related to what we’re talking about, and then the conversation can drift away from the original topic. Sometimes it’s challenging to have to steer us back to the original topic at hand, especially when the off-topic conversation is proving to be really interesting.

In one word, describe your favorite type of student: Motivated.

In one word, describe your least favorite type of student: Absent.

When it comes to grading, I think students would describe me as… Understanding.

LIFE OUTSIDE OF THE CLASSROOM

What are your hobbies? Travelling, basketball, chess, time with friends.

How will you spend your summer? Travelling, basketball, chess, time with friends.

Favorite place(s) to vacation: Hi An, Vietnam, or Edinburgh, Scotland.

Favorite book(s): A Shorty History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson, Travels by Michael Crichton, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby.

What is currently your favorite movie and/or show and what is it about the film or program that you enjoy so much? One of my favorite TV shows is Breaking Bad — I like to sneak references to it in my published papers.

What is your favorite type of music or artist(s) and why? I like all kinds of music! Especially live music.

THOUGHTS AND REFLECTIONS

In my opinion, companies and organizations today need to do a better job at… Measuring the outcomes they care about in a meaningful way.

I’m grateful for… My dog, Maple!

DON’T MISS: THE ENTIRE 2022 ROSTER OF THE WORD’S BEST 40-UNDER-40 MBA PROFESSORS

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