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Institute for Religion, Politics & Culture

Michael Harvey

Associate Professor and Chair, Department of Business Management

My focus: the questions that spark leadership

Follow me [@profharvey] on Twitter:


  • 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 most recent publication is  Leadership Studies: The Dialogue of Disciplines  (Elgar, 2011), co-edited it with Prof. Ronald F. Riggio of Claremont College. I wrote the concluding chapter. The book has been 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. The leader, I believe, is an organization or group’s “asker-in-chief.” The leader bears primary responsibility for asking hard questions about the group’s identity, survival, and purpose, for finding 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 distribute, and the leader’s most important role will be in modeling and fostering 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 teaching focuses on Organizational Behavior and Leadership. I also teach a lot of writing-intensive courses, and I often teach first-year courses on leadership topics.

Teaching in a liberal-arts environment is a dream come true for me. It’s an ongoing fun challenge to weave together good business management education with a liberal-arts perspective. One of my favorite assignments for achieving this is the work interview: all my students in BUS 302 Organizational Behavior have to interview an experienced working individual. Usually they choose a parent, and for some students it’s the first serious, prolonged discussion about work and careers they’ve ever had with their parent.

If I help students appreciate the power of questions to spark insight, action and change–and if I help students analyze, speak, and write with more clarity and impact–then I feel I’ve done my job.


I currently serve on the School Board in Kent County, helping oversee Maryland’s smallest school system, with just over 2,000 students from kindergarten to 12th grade.

Fun stuff

My wife Sabine and I have a daughter in college and a son in high school. 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 playing chess and am fascinated by its history. I’ve served as a volunteer chess coach in schools, churches, and our local library.