Boston: When Nitin Nohria, an alumnus of Indian Institute of Technology, joined Harvard as a faculty in 1988, none would have thought that a history is in the making. Today, after 22 years he stands to be the first Indian-American dean of the prestigious Harvard Business School.
His latest work include a combined effort with his colleague Rakesh Khurana to instrument an oath for businesses globally. Nohria and Khurana were also the protagonists behind the introduction of the MBA Oath in 2009 that emphasized on the ethical behavior of MBA grads.
Though one of the highest profile HBS professors, Prof Nohria was not necessarily the most obvious choice for the job. Many insiders predicted that senior associate dean Srikant Datar or Carl Kester, deputy dean for academic affairs, would be appointed. However, his experience within India and his stints at London Business School made him the right choice to bring in a global perspective to the dean's position.
The 48-year old leadership professor will serve as the 10th dean of Harvard Business School by succeeding the current dean Jay Light. The chemical engineer turned professor Nohria, accepted the role on Tueday and will resume his post from July 1st. "I feel a profound sense of responsibility for continuing Harvard Business School's proud legacy of ground-breaking ideas and transformational educational experiences," he says. Currently he is the Richard P. Chapman Professor of Business Administration at the century-old institution and co-chair of its Leadership Initiative.
Some of his students also recall how he, along with his brother-in-law Bharat N. Anand, the Henry R. Byers Professor of Business Administration at Harvard, are known for their hospitality and the receptions to celebrate Indian festivals and its culture. "As his student, I found his discussion techniques and detailing immensely informative and thought provoking," said Manoj Kumar, managing partner with the Hahhurabi and Solomon, a legal and corporate consultancy firm.
"Prof. Nohria also made the curriculum and case studies very relevant to issues in the Indian business context. He deserves a special mention for making the programme so very insightful," Kumar added.
Nohria received his degree in chemical engineering in 1984 from the Indian Institute of Technology in Mumbai, which also awarded him with its distinguished alumnus medal in 2007.
He then received his doctoral degree in management from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Sloan School of Management in 1988 where he earned an outstanding doctoral thesis award in behavioral and policy sciences.
Following that, he joined the Harvard faculty as an assistant professor in 1988, became an associate professor five years later and then served as the Richard P. Chapman Professor of Business Administration since 1999.
His current academic interests include the theory and practice of leadership, the study of human motivation, the analysis of management practices critical to corporate success, and the strategic and organisational challenges of globalisation.
Among his 16 books, the latest -- "Handbook of Leadership Theory and Practice" - has been co-edited with his Harvard colleague Rakesh Khurana and reflects a colloquium he organised as part of Harvard's centennial in 2008 to stimulate serious scholarly research on leadership.
"Nitin Nohria will be a wonderful dean of Harvard Business School," said Jay Light about his successor. "He is widely respected within our extended community as a perceptive scholar of leadership and as a thoughtful and able academic leader."