2022 Best 40-Under-40 MBA Professors: Cécile Emery, University of Exeter Business School

Cécile Emery

University of Exeter Business School

“Cécile’s teaching left a lasting impression on me during the Exeter MBA. She managed to weave in her research on networks while maintaining a light hearted atmosphere which was was essential for inviting contributions. She partnered with other professors which helped us to identify different perspectives, in turn encouraging reflection on what we had learned. Games were used to encourage participation and create illustrative examples of complex organisational problems. This has helped me to retain the information and apply it to my own leadership development.” – Gemma Jones

Cécile Emery, 39, is Senior Lecturer in Leadership at University of Exeter Business School.

Previously, she has held posts at the University of Surrey, University of Greenwich and London School of Economics & Political Science. Her research uses advanced social network techniques – exponential random graphs and longitudinal network analysis – to study relationships in the workplace and the relationship that leaders develop with their followers. She published her work in outlets such as the Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, Organization Science, Journal of Applied Psychology, and Social Networks.

She has won several teaching awards from the London School of Economics and University of Greenwhich.


Current age on June 30, 2022: 39

At current institution since what year? 2019


  • Ph.D. in Management, Università della Svizzera italiana (USI) in Switzerland
  • MSc in Decision Sciences, London School of Economics & Political Sciences
  • License in Management, Hautes Études Commerciales (HEC) in Switzerland

List of MBA courses you currently teach: Leading Self & Organizations


I knew I wanted to be a business school professor when…  I never really planned to become a business school professor. I would say that my curiosity brought me to where I am today. I encountered decision analysis and system dynamics as an undergrad and adored learning about ways to model the complexity of work and to use simulation methods to facilitate decision-making. That same curiosity led me to my Ph.D. during which I became fascinated with the world of social network analysis and intra-organizational networks. And here I am today: still researching and teaching about how leaders can build effective professional networks! 

What are you currently researching and what is the most significant discovery you’ve made from it? My research examines relationships in the workplace and, more precisely, the relationship that leaders develop with their followers. Relationships reveal the “organization behind the chart”: accurate perceptions of Intra-organizational networks allow leaders to identify influential and knowledgeable individuals, informal leaders, the existence of sub-groups or cliques, and potential allies. By understanding how networks influence human behavior, leaders can communicate better, build stronger cultures and collaborate more effectively. 

If I weren’t a business school professor… I would be a wedding planner! Event planning is my jam. Funny story: when I was a student, I took the Margerison-McCann Team Management Wheel, a psychometric tool aimed at identifying work role preferences. It turned out that only 2% of respondents scored higher on the “organizer role” than I did! 

What do you think makes you stand out as a professor? My creativity when it comes to experiential learning exercises. To discuss and reflect upon leadership, I expose my students to a variety of class activities such as serious games, large-scale simulations, facilitation methods, role-plays, case studies, exercises using drawings and photography, group activities, real-case consultancy, guest speakers, and case studies. On a couple of occasions, I have gone so far as to include professional musicians in my sessions on shared leadership and team dynamics. Another unique opportunity that I offer my students is a leadership expedition where they get a whole week in the Norwegian wilderness to challenge themselves, reflect on who they are as leaders, and shape their capacity to lead effectively.

One word that describes my first time teaching: Nerve-wracking!

Here’s what I wish someone would’ve told me about being a business school professor: Learn to manage your work-life balance earlier in your career. 

Professor I most admire and why:  Connson Locke from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). Connson is one of the most incredible professors I have ever met: she has received numerous teaching awards including the Department of Management Outstanding Teaching Contribution Award and the LSE Excellence in Education Award. Connson has been an incredible mentor to me when it came to improving my teaching skills and confidence. I owe her a lot.


What do you enjoy most about teaching business students? The best feeling I experience in teaching comes from seeing my students develop their self-confidence. I feel deeply humbled to witness this journey. 

What is most challenging? Experiential learning is not everybody’s cup of tea. Some students do not immediately understand the benefits of this approach and need more convincing than others.

In one word, describe your favorite type of student: Engaged 

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

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


What are your hobbies? Hiking, Diving, Cooking, Video Games

How will you spend your summer? Typical academic summer: working on papers, taking my MBA students on a leadership skill expedition in Norway, attending conferences – after two years of the pandemic, I look forward to reconnect with colleagues and friends -, enjoying some well-deserved time off. 

Favorite place(s) to vacation: Mexico

Favorite book(s): Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer; 

What is currently your favorite movie and/or show and what is it about the film or program that you enjoy so much? Arrival by Denis Villeneuve. I am always up for a good sci-fi flick, but I was particularly moved by Arrival as it shares deep truths about language, perceptions of reality, imagination, and human relationships. 

What is your favorite type of music or artist(s) and why? It is very hard to answer this question: my iPod (yes, I still have an iPod) contains a great variety of musical styles and genres, and the music I listen to really depends on my mood, and the task at hand. But, when I am walking to the office in the morning, it is Latino pop music that gives me positive vibes and prepares me for a day at work! 


If I had my way, the business school of the future would have much more of this… Kindness at work, relationship building

In my opinion, companies and organizations today need to do a better job at… Reassuring future generations of the sustainability of their business

I’m grateful for… My family and friends for their incredible support, love, opportunities, joy, and friendship that they all give me. I am grateful to have lived so many extraordinary experiences, around the world, with people that mean the world to me.  

During my academic journey, I have had the privilege to learn from many great business school professors. These professors, in their own way, shaped who I am today as a scholar, a teacher, and also a person. A warm thank you to Ann van Ackere, Michael Rockinger, Erik Larsen, Gianluca Carnabuci, Jonathan Booth, Connson Locke, Kyle Ingram, Bex Hewett, Bethania Antunes, Alexandra Gerbasi, and Jackie Bagnall. Merci à tous!


Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.