This much I know: Amanda Goodall

06 January 2015 -


A leading scholar in the management field tells us about the importance of authenticity in leadership – and why values must be balanced by data

Colin Marrs

Dr Amanda Goodall is a senior lecturer in management at Cass Business School and author of the Princeton Press book Socrates in the Boardroom – which argued that world-class scholars, not administrators, are best suited to lead top-flight research universities. Her scholarly interests are based on the theory that core-business experts are more effective in organisations than charismatic, general managers.

I was a military brat. I grew up all over the place. My father was in the military and our family travelled about a lot.

I left school at 16 to become a model. I didn’t do my degree until I was 33. I did badly at school, and modelling was a good way of travelling the world and educating myself, but in the end it was intellectually stifling.

Development politics fascinate me. I worked in the charitable campaigning sector in India, where I spent a year after leaving the modelling industry. When I returned to the UK, I was involved in campaigning for several movements on issues such as apartheid, homelessness and nuclear disarmament.

Management and leadership are still topics that I study. During my PhD, I looked at whether organisations are best run by professional managers or professionals with expertise in their business areas. I looked at health organisations in the US and discovered that the most successful hospitals there are run by people with a medical background.

I still believe in MBAs. It is important to do management training – but I would be cautious about parachuting managers in from different organisations.

Chicago is a great place to study. There are lots of things I find difficult about the US, but I still think it is the leading producer of outstanding universities.

My husband is an economist. We both treat our jobs as our hobbies. We discuss social sciences a lot at home. I really benefited from his perspective. He is absolutely one of the most balanced people I know, and is driven by data. I have strong opinions and values – but when you come into academia, you have to fight against that and look at the data.

Soul is my passion. I have always loved soul music from the 1970s and 80s. I can’t wait to see the new James Brown film. During my campaigning days, I used to put a lot of gigs for fundraising.

For more thoughts on authenticity in management and leadership, sign up to this forthcoming CMI seminar.

Find out more about Socrates in the Boardroom.

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