Interview with Dr. Richard Daft, Professor at Vanderbilt University

Internationally renowned expert, Dr. Richard Daft has been an industry leader in organizational management. He has published 12 books, dozens of articles, and presented at more than 45 universities around the world. Being a former Associate Dean at Owen, Dr. Daft has also developed and managed the Center for Change Leadership, participated in more than $500,000 in research grants, and is a Fellow of the Academy of Management. Dr. Daft is currently professor at the Owen Graduate School of Management, Vanderbilt University. He is the author of the textbook (10 edition), Management. He shares his insight on several management topics this week:

Discuss how you got involved studying management and becoming professor at Vanderbilt University.
During my last semester of college, I met a young professor in the business school. As I learned about his work, I was intrigued, but felt that becoming a professor was too far out of reach. A couple of years later while working in Marshalltown, Iowa, I was in the library and came across a textbook on organizational behavior. I was so interested in the subject matter that I realized in that moment that I would try to be become a professor in organization studies. I came to Vanderbilt 24 years ago when a position opened up and I was ready to make a move from a large state university to a smaller private university. I applied for the position and got it.

What do you feel are the major challenges for American businesses faced with the realities of globalization?
For me, the issue comes down to qualities of both leadership and management. Globalization makes every industry more competitive. Thus businesses have to be super efficient, which is a function of management control and accountability. Businesses also have to be forward-looking and innovative, which is about employee creativity and engagement that are awakened by leadership.

What key leadership traits will be important as the world faces an uncertainty future?
I would say a certain amount of courage, vision and/or purpose, persistence, great soft skills, and knowing oneself. By knowing oneself, I mean knowing your own strengths and weaknesses, and choosing situations that take advantage of your strengths and accommodating weaknesses through others’ strengths. By great soft skills, I mean that people who genuinely care about and get along with others seem to thrive in any environment.

There are 20 million unemployed in our country. What are the positive things for these people to look forward to in 2014 and beyond?
It is hard for me to be positive about the huge number of unemployed people in our country. The trend I am most aware of is the growth of technology that is replacing the need for workers. More businesses are creating or buying technology to do work more efficiently and for less cost than hiring employees to do the work. Hence businesses are thriving while unemployment is decreasing very slowly. I also feel a personal frustration with the legislative and executive branches of our government which seem more loyal to their respective ideologies than to solving the unemployment problem. I would like to see the government focus on designing an economic system that ranks full employment as a top priority.

Any other comments:
I appreciate the opportunity to respond to your questions. I hope the Management text is working well for your students.

Best regards,

Dick Daft
Vanderbilt MBA Program 

Please share your comments on this topic.




Professor Daft is among the most highly cited academics in the fields of economics and business. Richard Daft is studying high performance mental models – which include cognitive models of high performing managers – and examining high performance management systems. He has been involved in management development and consulting for companies and organizations such as the American Banking Association, Bell Canada, Bristol-Myers Squibb, J.C. Bradford & Company, Ford Motor Company, Pratt & Whitney, USAA, First American National Bank, the Tennessee Valley Authority, Central Parking Systems, Performance Food Group, the National Science Foundation, Northern Telecom, State Farm Insurance, the United States Air Force, the United States Army, and Vanderbilt Medical Center.

B.S., University of Nebraska, 1967
M.B.A., University of Chicago, 1971
Ph.D., University of Chicago, 1974

9 thoughts on “Interview with Dr. Richard Daft, Professor at Vanderbilt University

  1. Dr. Daft,

    Thanks for sharing! I work in the oil industry and from my vantage point as an accountant it is amazing to see how technology shapes my company’s administrative work force. As automated, ever more efficient, computer-driven systems continue to be implemented it will be interesting to see how the human element is affected.

  2. Dr. Daft,

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts on the questions. I, too, find the employment situation disturbing. One would think that the government would consider it as a higher priority issue. You had mentioned that companies are investing more in technology to replace human workers. I agree that technology seems to be taking many human jobs, particularly in the service industry. It appears that the economy cannot create new jobs fast enough to replace those jobs that are lost to automation. Technology is moving so quickly by creating faster, cheaper computers and remarkably clever software.

    It will be very interesting to see where technology takes us in the next decade.
    We appreciate the value that your Contemporary Management textbook has added to our class.

  3. Dr. Draft,

    Thank you for taking the time to give your expert insight on some key questions concerning our country and our economy as a whole. Your text book along with your DAFT management overview has helped me tremendously in the understanding of management.
    I think you are absolutely correct in being critical of the of the government’s handling of this unemployment crisis. It seems to me that the employment of our country’s citizens would be at the forefront of issues in Washington but sometimes the government doesn’t see the well being of its citizens as a top priority.
    The leadership skills that you listed are great attributes for anyone to have, especially in the business field. I think the “soft skills” you described are definitely the most important for a leader to possess because if you are a leader in any facet, you have to really care about the people you are leading. Of course get along with them as well, so they may perform at the best of their ability for you. If a leader’s “soft skills” are homed, then that leader will earn the respect of those they are leading.

    Thank you again for the great textbook you have provided for our Contemporary Management course.

  4. Dr. Draft,

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts on the questions. I heard a lot about the employment situations here in the states, but I did not what it means until I have started studying in the states, because where I came from we have not had the economy problems. I found lots of people without jobs even with their big experiences. I tried to read what is the best solution for this kind of situation until I have seen a great idea on TV; which is what David Siegel The CEO of Frontier Airlines has done. He did not fire his employees, but he decreased their salaries until the economic situations be fixed. I do not know if this a good idea or not, but that was from my humble reading and seeing.

    Thank you again Dr. Draft..


  5. Leading blogger, Daniel Newman asserts that to truly lead a team “we have to get on board with a little less recognition and a little more humility” (2013). I think that has a lot to do with why people who care and get along with others thrive as you put it. I have been blessed with good managers and yet I have seen my spouse struggle with poor bosses until just recently. One of the key factors which my supervisors and my spouse’s current boss have in common is also one addressed by Newman. That is the need to not just have an open door policy but “what is more important is your presence in the moment” (Newman, 2013). It can be challenging to get on my boss’s schedule, yet every time I truly need guidance she is able to stop and focus on the issue at hand. Likewise my spouse’s boss regularly drops in ostensibly for the candy dish, but in effect has established a relationship beyond just as the ‘boss’. This leads to better performance from both of us.

    Thank you for your insights and your very well written and informative textbook.

    Newman, D. (2013, January 28). Leadership: 5 ways to stand out by blending in. [Web Log Post]. Retrieved

  6. Dr. Daft,
    Thank you for taking the time to share your insight. I have enjoyed your book this semester. I agree with what you say about key leadership traits. “What you do as a leader will depend on who you are. And regardless of your own perceptions of yourself, those around you in the workplace— colleagues and employees— can determine who you are only by observing what you do. They can’t see inside your head, they can’t know what you think or how you feel, they can’t subliminally detect your compassion or pain or joy or goodwill. In other words, the only way you can manifest your character, your personhood, and your spirit in the workplace is through your behavior” (Autry, 2004). A true leader is someone that people can get along with. If you would not want your manager as your friend then you are going to be unhappy in your job.

    Autry, James A.. Servant Leader : How to Build a Creative Team, Develop Great Morale, and Improve Bottom Line Performance.
    Westminster, MD, USA: Crown Publishing Group, 2004. p 1.
    Copyright © 2004. Crown Publishing Group. All rights reserved.

  7. Dr. Daft,

    Thank you for taking the time to respond to Dr. Green’s questions. I wanted to say that I appreciate your response to his question on leadership and the uncertain future. I think it is interesting (and slightly ironic) that the traits you pointed out are not necessarily ones that a student can learn in a class room. Perhaps they can glean an understanding of their strength and weaknesses and develop soft skills as part of their education experience, but these are things that are difficult to teach. Maybe one of the better ways to cultivate these skills is by learning from someone who emulates them currently. Michael Williams talk about this concept of “close-quarter leadership” in his book, “Leadership for Leaders”. He proposes coaching and designating role-models as a way of developing these skills in leaders. To me, this seems the most practical way to grow as a leader and become better equipped for the future.

    Williams, M. (2005). Chapter TWO: Leadership theories, role models – and common sense. Leadership for Leaders (pp. 29-47). Thorogood Publishing Ltd.

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