Michael Watkins: Biography highlights

Dr. Watkins is professor of leadership and organizational change at IMD. He has spent the last two decades working with leaders as they transition to new roles, build their teams and transform their organizations.

Known for:

Business School Professors

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Full biography of Michael Watkins

He is author of the international bestseller The First 90 Days, Proven Strategies for Getting Up to Speed Faster and Smarter, which The Economist recognized as “the on-boarding bible.” With more than 1,000,000 copies sold in English and translations in 24 languages, The First 90 Days has become the classic reference for leaders in transition and a standard resource of leading change. In 2011, it was named one of the best 100 business books of all time 800-CEO-Read. Amazon declared it “one of the 100 best leadership and success books to read in your lifetime.”

Dr. Watkins is the author or co-author of eleven books and numerous articles on leadership and negotiation. In the field of leadership these include:

  • Master Your Next Move: The Essential Companion to The First 90 Days (HBS Press 2019),
  • Shaping the Game: The New Leader’s Guide to Effective Negotiating (HBS Press 2006)
  • Predictable Surprises: The Disasters You Should Have Seen Coming and How to Avoid Them (HBS Press 2004)

Michael Watkins is a renowned author/co-author of Harvard Business Review articles, including:

  • Initiative Overload (2018)
  • Onboarding Isn’t Enough (2017)
  • Leading the Team You Inherit (2016)
  • It’s All About Day One (2013)
  • How Managers Become Leaders (2012)
  • Picking the Right Transition Strategy (2009)
  • The Leadership Team: Complementary Strengths or Conflicting Agendas (2007)
  • The Successor’s Dilemma (2000)

Predictable Surprises was named one of the best business books of 2004 by Strategy + Business and won the 2006 annual Kulp-Wright Award from The American Risk and Insurance Association.

In addition, he has written extensively on business-government relations, international security and negotiation, most recently co-authoring Case Studies in U.S. Trade Negotiation, Volumes 1 and 2 and Winning the Influence Game: What Every Business Leaders Should Know About Government. His books on negotiation – Breakthrough International Negotiation: How Great Negotiators Transformed the World’s Toughest Post-Cold War Conflicts and Breakthrough Business Negotiation: A Toolbox for Managers, won the CPR Institute’s prize for best books in the field of negotiation in 2001 and 2003.

Prior to joining IMD, Dr. Watkins was an associate professor at the Harvard Business School and the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. While on the faculty of these institutions, he designed and taught world-class programs for high-potential leader development, corporate diplomacy and strategic negotiation. He is the co-founder of Genesis Advisers, a transition acceleration consultancy.

Originally from Canada, Dr. Watkins received his undergraduate degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Waterloo, did graduate work in law and business at the University of Western Ontario and completed his Ph.D. in Decision Sciences at Harvard University.



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After Dinner Engagement
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Organisation Development Programme
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Watch Michael in action

1/4 videos
The First 90 Days® - 5 key questions for your new role
The First 90 Days® - 5 key questions for your new role
Michael Watkins On Transition Challenges for Enterprise Leaders
Michael Watkins On Transition Challenges for Enterprise Leaders
Successful Leadership Transitions
Successful Leadership Transitions
Too Many Projects
Too Many Projects

Dr. Michael Watkins is a guru in the world of leadership development. I am excited to be taking his great thought leadership, research, and frameworks and making them available more broadly to professionals starting new roles. Everyone deserves to be successful and live up to their full potential. I feel energized working with such talented people and leading Genesis Advisers into its next phase of growth.'

Richard Wetzler
President and Chief Executive Officer

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