2021: Michael Frese

Sponsored by the Organizational Behavior Division and established in 2005, the OB Division Lifetime Achievement Award recognizes senior scholars who have made exceptional contributions to our discipline throughout their careers. To be eligible for the award, an individual must have completed his or her PhD (or finished his or her training/education) at least twenty years ago. Second, the individual must be a truly outstanding scholar. He or she will have published in the very best journals, and conducted research that has had a significant impact on the field. Third, recipients of the Lifetime Achievement Award have contributed not only through their scholarship, but through service to the field. For example, they may have served as editors of leading journals, held leadership positions with the Division or the Academy, and/or been exceptional teachers and mentors for doctoral students. Nominations are accepted from all OB Division members.


This year, the award committee consisted of

Maureen Ambrose (chair) (University of Central Florida)

Daniel Brass (University of Kentucky)

Jeanne Brett (Northwestern U)

Herminia Ibarra (London Business School)

Vivien Lim (National U. of Singapore)


Here is what colleagues had to say about Michael’s excellent contributions:


Michael is the quintessential Organizational Behavior (OB) scholar: His intellectual footprint on the science and practice of Organizational Behavior is sizeable. His initial early research on stress at work was among the first in international psychology to point to the importance of psychological stress at work. He subsequently developed action theory, rooted in a more holistic view of human behavior than traditional American theories in industrial-organizational psychology. This foundational work led to his development of the now widely recognized concept of proactive behavior that in turn, is fundamental to job design, self-regulation, organizational change and entrepreneurship among others. He has remained a trailblazer in his research, continuing on to do research in error management, innovation, passion and personal initiative. Overall, Michael has been an extremely productive researcher – he has written 170 articles in peer reviewed journals as well as approximately 200 chapters in books, and he has published or edited about 30 books and special issues.


Michael’s research has made tremendous practical impact as well. He has conducted entrepreneurship research in developing countries and has developed two interventions to reduce poverty and enhance success in developing countries by expanding entrepreneurship. These interventions have been supported by various commissions of UNESCO in developing countries across Africa, Latin American and Asia as well as both the World Bank and Inter-American Bank.


Michael has had a highly visible internal career and has been deeply involved in the academy, including serving as president of the largest and oldest international association in applied psychology (the IAAP - International Association of Applied Psychology); he is credited with revitalizing this organization during his presidency. He has led the application of Organizational Behavior in developing countries in Africa, Eastern Europe and in Asia. He has been an influential mentor and his students span the globe, thus creating a worldwide impact on OB. Denise Rousseau and Gary Latham stated: “In all, we can think of no one who has contributed so much from an international perspective to OB and to management, and who is as worthy of the OB Division Lifetime Achievement Award as Professor Michael Frese."