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Harvard Business Review Creates Case Study Based on Research by Two ODU Doctoral Business Students

The research findings of two doctoral business students at Old Dominion University were included in the June online version of the Harvard Business Review.

The prestigious publication selected a paper co-authored by Krista Lewellyn, a Ph.D. student in strategic management, and Maureen Muller-Kahle, a recent doctoral graduate of the program. The paper, titled "Flash Case," is a miniature case study looking into what is called the approach and inhibition theory of power.

Lewellyn and Muller-Kahle, now an assistant professor at Penn State, looked at how CEOs take risks that threaten their operations because their position of power gives them feelings of infallibility. The research asks whether the approach/inhibition theory may explain the lack of restraint exhibited by U.S. financial executives who engaged in risky subprime mortgage lending practices. Those practices played a large role in the inflation and bursting of the housing bubble several years ago, precipitating the global financial crisis.

The two doctoral students presented their research two years ago at the Global Financial Crisis Conference hosted by the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School in Philadelphia. That formed the basis of the journal article "CEO Power and Risk Taking: Evidence from the Subprime Lending Industry," which appeared in the May 2012 issue of Corporate Governance: An International Review.

The Harvard Business Review, in selecting the analysis of approach/inhibition theory, changed the scenario, asking Lewellyn and Muller-Kahle to write about a CEO having an inappropriate relationship with a subordinate, and how it might affect a company.

The mini-case study dramatizes a dilemma faced by leaders in real companies. It features a scenario in which a married, male CEO was texting inappropriately with a far younger female subordinate. After a conversation between Amanda and Howard, fictional colleagues of the CEO, the case study asks readers: "Should Amanda start a movement on the board to oust the CEO over his office relationship?"

The mini-case study will be used in teaching-session academic materials produced by the Harvard Business Review, which are used in business schools across the United States.

Lewellyn, who returned to ODU to finish her Ph.D. after a number of years working in corporate finance, will graduate next May. Her adviser is William Judge, professor of business management in ODU's College of Business and Public Administration.

Lewellyn's experience going back to school at Old Dominion (she returned in 2009) has been rewarding. "It really has been wonderful," she said. "I go to a lot of conferences, and in talking to colleagues at other schools, I'm struck by the accessibility of our faculty. They really do treat us as valued colleagues."

This article was posted on: July 21, 2012

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