First, he was dubbed the quintessential “academic decathlete.” Now Tom Lee is being touted as an “inspiring exemplar” for young academics in any discipline. This by the authors of a new paper that outlines a soundly reasoned—and impeccably researched—set of best practices for the modern aspiring scholar.
Lee, the Hughes M. Blake Endowed Professor of Management at the University of Washington Foster School of Business, figures prominently in the recently published paper, “How to enhance scholarly impact: recommendations for university administrators, researchers and educators.”
Its authors, led by Herman Aguinis of George Washington University, hold Lee as an exemplary case study in the multi-faceted impacts that a versatile scholar can—and should aspire to—make in their department, school and discipline.
The very model of the modern management scholar
“There are many exemplary academic decathletes,” the authors write. “We would like to highlight Professor Tom Lee.”
The term was coined in a 2013 Journal of Management Inquiry article describing the kind of professor who excels at research, teaching, and service (plus mentoring and leadership) over the course of a career.
That paper’s prime example was Lee.
The new paper, equally enthralled, lays out a long list of Lee’s accolades. He served as the Foster School’s associate dean for academic and faculty affairs for more than a decade. He has held several leadership positions in academic associations, including serving as president of the Academy of Management and editor of the Academy of Management Journal. He has taught undergraduate, MBA and Executive MBA students (earning consistently stellar ratings) and mentored scores of candidates in Foster’s PhD Program. He is a fellow of the Academy of Management and the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology. And he has authored 95 papers in peer-reviewed journals, receiving 24,000+ Google Scholar citations and registering an “h-index” of 51, meaning 51 of his publications have received at least 50 citations each.
“This example of an academic decathlete,” the authors note, “illustrates the multiple dimensions of a high-impact scholar who has had an important influence on a broad range of stakeholders.”
Demystifying employee turnover
The paper’s accounting of Lee’s career highlights only scratches the surface.
Since joining the Foster School’s Department of Management and Organization in 1983, Lee has been a veritable publishing powerhouse, profoundly shaping the way that scholars and managers understand employee turnover and retention.
In a recent paper, he distills the wisdom from 100 years of research on voluntary job turnover into a set of best practices for managers. In another, he collaborates with the world’s foremost organizational behavior experts to produce an evidence-based guide to greater government efficiency.
Lee has earned many research accolades, including the 2013 Scholarly Achievement Award from the Academy of Management’s Human Resources Division for his study finding that job satisfaction, over time and in context, is the best predictor of voluntary turnover (with long-time colleague Terry Mitchell and former students Dong Liu and Brooks Holtom).
His paper, “Increasing human and social capital by applying job embeddedness theory” (with Holtom and Mitchell), was named the Outstanding Practitioner Oriented Publication in Organizational Behavior for 2006.
And Lee earned the 2001 Outstanding Organizational Behavior Publication award from the OB Division of the Academy of Management for “The unfolding model of voluntary turnover and job embeddedness: foundations for a comprehensive theory of attachment” (with Mitchell).
Career to be emulated
In 2015, the Human Relations Division of the Academy of Management honored Lee with its Herbert Heneman Jr. Award for Career Achievement.
The Academy went even further in 2016, bestowing upon Lee its overall Career Achievement Award for Distinguished Service.
Not that he’s winding down. Even late into his fourth decade at the Foster School, Lee remains remarkably productive. He continues publish new research, teach, mentor and serve his discipline. He received the 2019 Excellence in Reviewing Award from the journal Human Resources Management. His paper (with Alex Rubenstein, Marion Eberly and Terry Mitchell) analyzing the antecedents of voluntary employee turnover was one a finalist for the 2020 Best Article Award in Personnel Psychology.
It’s quite a record to follow. But striving to become an academic decathlete is the way to make the most impact in an academic career, and a path well worth pursuing, according to Aquinis, et al.
“Can we do it all?” the authors ask. “Clearly, to become an academic decathlete seems to be a daunting aspiration for all faculty and particularly for early career ones. However, we believe this is the strategic direction faculty should consider, though this does not involve necessarily excelling in all dimensions, but at least some of them.”
Tom Lee has excelled in all—often at the same time.