Institute for Religion, Politics & Culture

Michael Harvey

Associate Professor, Department of Business Management

My focus: the questions that spark leadership.



  • M.S., International Business, University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, 1998
  • Ph.D., Government, Cornell University, 1995
  • M.A., Government, Cornell University, 1990
  • B.A., English, University of Maryland, 1982
  • Non-degree studies, Intercollegiate Center for Classical Studies (Rome), 1982

My main current research-related responsibility is to serve as editor-in-chief of Leadership and the Humanities, a peer-reviewed interdisciplinary journal published by the International Leadership Association and Edward Elgar Publishing.

I’m the co-editor of Leadership Studies: The Dialogue of Disciplines (Elgar, 2011), along with Prof. Ronald F. Riggio of Claremont College. I wrote the concluding chapter. The book was recognized as one of the year’s best books in leadership studies by the International Leadership Association.

In my work, I’m interested in the questions that spark leadership. A good leader is the group’s “asker-in-chief.” The leader bears primary responsibility for asking hard questions about the group’s identity, survival, and purpose, for helping the group find answers, and for activating the answers, turning them into effective actions.

In some heroic or charismatic models of leadership, the leader may try to do all this himself or herself. But in most groups and organizations these tasks of asking, answering, and activating are  collaborative or distributed, and the leader’s most important role is to model and foster a culture of action-based inquiry.

My research is interdisciplinary, drawing on the social sciences, interviews, imaginative literature, and classic texts stretching back to ancient literature. I’ve written about everything from Gilgamesh to Henry Ford. Leadership doesn’t come in neat little boxes, so we have to be imaginative and creative in how we explore it.


I’ve taught at Washington College since 1998. My departmental teaching focuses on groups, collaboration, and leaders. I also teach a first-year seminar, ‘The Business of Organized Crime,’ and in the summers I often teach a course on culture, leadership and innovation in Rome, Italy.

Teaching in a liberal-arts environment is a dream come true. I love weaving together good managerial education with a liberal-arts perspective. The key is to immerse students in a fun but challenging learning environment that introduces enduring organizational concepts (like division of labor, authority, bureaucracy, and motivation) with sharp questions and careful, patient reading of lots of wide-ranging texts, from very old to cutting-edge. If it works, students end up working harder–and learning more–than they ever imagined they could. A favorite assignment in my Organizational Behavior course is the work interview: all students interview an experienced working individual. Usually they choose a parent, and for some students it’s the first serious discussion about work, careers, and self-management they’ve ever had with their mother or father.

If my teaching helps students appreciate the power of questions, the joy of discovery, and the importance of powerful but old ideas, then I feel as if I’ve earned my paycheck. It’s a great feeling!

Fun stuff

My wife Sabine and I have two children. Sabine, a master gardener, loves to garden and teach young people about gardens and local, sustainable agriculture. (You can learn more about the amazing gardens she has helped start here.)

I love chess and am fascinated by its history (you can check out my self-published chess primer from our local library). I’ve served as a volunteer chess coach in schools, churches, and the library.