Michael Hitt makes doing the right things look easy, and when he is mentoring others, he makes them feel as if the right decisions were theirs all along — even if he quietly helped nudge them in that direction.
In other words, he is a gifted teacher.
He is also a prolific researcher with a knack for putting his research into action. He has coauthored or co-edited 26 books and authored or coauthored many journal articles, and the attention to his research on strategic management attracts rivals top scholars in other fields.
A forthcoming article in the Academy of Management Perspectives recognizes Hitt’s scholarly influence on audiences outside his field — indeed, outside of academia — based on the number of citations and Google entries. And a recent article listed Hitt as one of the 10 most-cited authors in management over a 25-year period. The Times Higher Education in 2010 listed him among the top scholars in economics, finance and management and that he is first among management scholars (tied) with the largest number of highly cited articles.
Hitt’s professional accolades are many: He is a University Distinguished Professor in management at Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School and holds the Joe B. Foster Chair in Business Leadership. He received his PhD from the University of Colorado.
He has served on the editorial review boards of multiple journals and is a former editor of the Academy of Management Journal and a former co-editor of the Strategic Entrepreneurship Journal.
Teaching, research entwined
Hitt says the relationship between research and teaching is complicated and that the two can’t be easily separated.
“The detractors don’t realize how research changes what we teach in the classroom. For example, in my field, the textbooks in the 1980s did not have much text, they were composed of almost all case studies. Now the content of those books is almost all based on research that is translated for practice.”
Without research, instruction becomes static, Hitt explains. “Outstanding teachers always want to learn more about what is emerging. For me, what is exciting is what will benefit the undergraduates and the graduates — from the MBAs to the executive MBAs to the professional MBAs to the executive development programs. It’s not just my specific research, it’s reading what other people are learning. I don’t have to invent or discover everything, but I do think it’s my responsibility to be aware of all that I can.”
Hitt says the laboratory for research in the field of business is the workplace. “I study organizations – what the executives and the employees do — and I study entrepreneurs.” For his research, he collected data from 640 entrepreneurs across four countries – a task that took two years. “That information has implications far beyond what I am even going to be able to do with it.”
Jerry Strawser, Hitt’s dean at Mays Business School, calls him “truly a one-of-a-kind scholar. â€¦ The numerous awards and accolades he has received reflect the fact that his research findings direct the work of other scholars and course of future study in the academic profession. In addition, he studies relevant issues that affect the business world and impact economic development. In short, his research affects both the academic and business worlds and is used both in the classroom and in the boardroom.”
Kai Xu, who has completed her second year in the doctoral program under Hitt’s guidance, calls him “a very established but incredibly nice professor.” She says: “He always helps his students in a very insightful but also respectful way. Sometimes, you cannot even feel the help until someday you suddenly realize how helpful he is and how valuable his advice is in your research projects.”
Joanna Campbell, who recently defended her dissertation successfully and remains at Texas A&M, says Hitt is very passionate about research, and that his work has had an enormous impact on the field of strategic management. She calls him one of the most prolific management researchers as well as a great role model for young scholars.
“He has made major contributions to multiple research areas, including mergers and acquisitions, corporate governance, and human capital. Yet, he is one of the most humble people I know. He also knows how to translate his research and make it accessible for people outside of academia, including executives.”
Campbell says Hitt’s patience is valuable when working with doctoral students. She adds, “while he always offers his input, he lets us make our own decisions, even if he disagrees with them. In the end, he is always right, but I think he would rather let us learn from our mistakes than force someone into doing something they are not comfortable with.”