GLOBE founder: Robert J. House

Trained in that great tradition of leadership studies at the Ohio State University, where he received his Ph.D. in management in 1960, the late Robert J. House was one of the foremost experts on leadership across cultures. The principal investigator, and founder in the early 1990s, of the Global Leadership and Organizational Behavior Effectiveness Research Program (GLOBE), he had visited close to 40 countries during the course of the investigation. The GLOBE project, divided into multiple phases, has published 3 books—one examining culture and leadership in 62 societies; the second taking a more in-depth look at 25 of those societies; and a third book examining strategic leadership behaviours and effectiveness for CEO's based on data from 24 countries. The project has succeeded at providing a valuable resource for managers doing business in other countries and serves as a rich source of information for anyone interested in understanding how leadership grows in different cultural grounds.

In addition to his work developing GLOBE, House is best known for his creation of the Path-Goal Theory of Leader Effectiveness, which he developed in 1971 and revised in 1996. House described the essence of the theory as “the meta proposition that leaders, to be effective, engage in behaviors that complement subordinates’ environments and abilities in a manner that compensates for deficiencies and is instrumental to subordinate satisfaction and individual and work unit performance.”1 The theory, which has been widely studied, also led House to the development, in 1976, of his well-known theory of Charismatic Leadership.

House’s refreshing ability to analyze and revise his own work twenty-five years later, is illustrative of his approach. He quotes D.O. Hebb’s maxim that “a good theory is one that holds together long enough to get you to a better theory,” then continues to reflect that, “the virtue of internalizing the spirit of these assertions is that if one does so one will never be compelled to defend one’s own theory, which inevitably will be shown to be false.”2

A prolific writer, House had authored more than 130 journal articles, which have been reprinted in numerous anthologies. He was a cofounder of the premier leadership journal, Leadership Quarterly, where he also served as executive editor, and had received numerous awards throughout his career. He was a Fellow in the Academy of Management, the American Psychological Association, and the Society for Industrial/Organizational Psychology.

Robert House was honored with the International Leadership Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award on October 28th, 2011.

June 16, 1932 – November 1, 2011 by Mary (House) & Mike Goldman, with permission.

Professor Robert J. House received his Ph.D. degree in Management from Ohio State University, June 1960. He went on to hold faculty appointments at Ohio State University, University of Michigan and City University of New York. He joined the University of Toronto in 1973 as Shell Professor of Organizational Behavior, and was pivotal in the establishment of the school’s PhD program. From 1986 to 1988 House was the Secretary of State Professor of Organizational Effectiveness at the Rotman School of Management. In 1988 he was appointed the Joseph Frank Bernstein Professor Endowed Chair of Organization Studies at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

A prolific writer, he authored more than 130 journal articles and many book chapters. His articles have been reprinted in numerous anthologies. He is a cofounder of the premier leadership journal, Leadership Quarterly, where he also served as executive editor. House received the Award for Distinguished Scholarly Contribution to Management, and four awards for outstanding publications. The awards were conferred by the Academy of Management and the Canadian Association of Administrative Sciences. He has also authored two papers, which are Scientific Citations Classics.

House was the Principle Investigator and Founder of the Global Leadership and Organizational Behavior Effectiveness (GLOBE) Research Program from 1993 through 2003. Among his major contributions is that he founded a non-profit foundation to sustain the GLOBE Project beyond his tenure including a board of directors and a constitution. During this time he visited universities in 38 countries. He has also been a visiting scholar or visiting professor at 14 universities, most of which are in Europe or Asia.

He is a Fellow of the Academy of Management, American Psychological Association, and Society for Industrial/Organizational Psychology. He has served as chairperson of the Academy of Management Division of Organizational Behavior between (1972-73) and President of the Administrative Science Association of Canada (1985-86).

House’s major research interests are the role of personality traits and motives as they relate to effective leadership and organizational performance, power and personality in organizations, leadership, and the implications of cross-cultural variation for effective leadership and organizational performance. For his contributions and friendship, he will be remembered fondly by his colleagues and friends around the world.

Bob’s heart gave up on November 1st. He will be sadly missed by his loving wife Tessa, his adult children, Danny, Tim and Mary, his grandchildren, Ken, James, Gabe, Jessica and Jared, and his two sisters, Mary Lou and Diane.