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Member Spotlight: Fred Luthans, recipient of the 2021 Distinguished Scholarly Contributions to Management Award

16 Nov 2021

Fred Luthans, AOM Past President, Fellow, recipient of the AOM Distinguished Educator and OB Lifetime Achievement Awards, and winner of the Distinguished Scholarly Contributions to Management Award. On winning this year’s Distinguished Scholarly Contributions to Management Award, Fred said:  

“I feel the Academy had been very generous to me. When I was named this year’s recipient of the Distinguished Scholarly Contributions to Management Award, I must admit I was especially grateful and humbled because I have always considered this to be the top recognition award in the Academy and the academic field of management.” 

Fred Luthans is a University Professor and the George Holmes Distinguished Professor of Management, Emeritus- at the University of Nebraska. He served two years as a captain in the U.S. Army teaching psychology and leadership at USMA, West Point. He then joined the faculty at the University of Nebraska, where he has spent his entire academic career teaching and doing research in organizational behavior. 

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Though Fred didn’t initially have much interest in pursuing a scholarly career, his motivation to get in to teaching and research came from his parents’ value of education. They both came from hard working backgrounds, but did not have the opportunity to attend college which they always regretted. So it was a given that Fred and his older sister Nancy would attend college.

Following his sister, Fred attended the University of Iowa where he received his BA, MBA, and PhD, and credits his MBA management courses for leading to his first intellectual interest in the Management field. 

Fred joined AOM while still a doctoral student in the 1960’s. His faculty mentor Max Wortman was very active in AOM (becoming President of both the Midwest and National academies and was the founding Editor of AMR). 

“Being a member of AOM over the years for me has always been a “no-brainer” because if you are in the management field, this is our professional association. AOM gives us our identity and frankly pleasure to be part of a like-minded professional community of mainly management scholars, professors and thoughtful practitioners.” 

Fred also recognizes Professor Henry H. Albers as a mentor during his years as a doctoral student at Iowa and then his early career when Albers became Chair of the Management Department at Nebraska:

“He urged me to go on for a PhD in management (with an unusual for the time concentration in psychology) under his tutelage, and I quickly jumped at this opportunity and never looked back.” 

While teaching at West Point, Fred was able to draw from and expand his psychology background by teaching the required cadet psych course. After serving his required two years of active duty, as a new professor at Nebraska, he again drew from psychology in teaching and doing research in management and personnel administration and thus was able to get on the ground floor of the then newly emerging field of organizational behavior. 

Fred has devoted his career research to support and better understand the importance of a valid, evidence-based positive approach to organizational behavior. This started in the 1970’s with a stream of research studies using contingent positive reinforcement in behavioral management (specifically with what he called Organizational Behavior Modification or OB Mod). 

He noted, Behaviorism was a major theoretical and research paradigm in psychology at the time, and it was being widely applied in education, clinical psychology, and the mental health field. I discovered this behaviorism paradigm, applied through my OB Mod, could also be effectively used to manage human resources in the workplace. 

Over the past twenty years, continuing with a basic research positive approach, Fred focused on positive organizational behavior (specifically called Psychological Capital or PsyCap consisting of the positive psychological resources of hope, efficacy, resilience, and optimism or the HERO within).  

“Traditionally, in the academic field of management, a positive approach often has been considered too “soft” and lacking valid research back-up and adequate support. To overcome this perception, from the very beginning, I set rigorous, scientific criteria of what was required to be considered included in OB Mod and then especially PsyCap (i.e., based on theory/research, valid measurement, being open to development and having desired, sustainable impact). It is therefore especially gratifying that for this work on a positive approach, I did receive the Distinguished Scholarly Contribution to Management Award.” 

On what advice Fred would give to a potential Academy member: 

“The tremendous growth in AOM membership over the years and the increasingly specialized subject matter in the management field may discourage new or even veteran management professionals from joining AOM. My advice would be that these potential problems and challenges of the classic integration vs. differentiation have been met head-on by the Academy’s leadership over the years through the specialized divisions and interest groups.  

Now, a new member can join a division and/or interest group without fear of being “lost in the shuffle.”  

Also, pragmatically, the annual conference is a wonderful informal networking and formal integrating opportunity available to all AOM members/conference participants through the paper sessions, panels, workshops, and keynote speakers as well as having the exhibitors and the AOM services such as job placement. 

In addition, the numerous journals that come with the relatively inexpensive membership dues are the best deal in professional associations. Most of all, AOM members tend to be not only like -minded professionals but also now part of a large international family of management scholars.” 

Fred has authored several well-known books and over 200 articles and chapters. In total, according to Google Scholar, his publications now have over 105,000 citations and his  H-factor =114 (number of publications with 114 or more citations).