Ellen R. Auster is Professor of Strategic Management at Schulich and Executive Director of York Change Leadership (YCL) at York University. She was previously the Founding Director of the Schulich Centre for Teaching Excellence. Prior to joining Schulich, she was on the faculty at the Graduate School of Business at Columbia University and Visiting Faculty at the Amos Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth in Hanover, New Hampshire. She earned her B.A. from Colgate University and her PhD from Cornell University.
Ellen has more than 25 years of experience as an academic and consultant specializing in Stragility® – the art of strategic transitions, transformations and turnarounds in the corporate, government and social sector. Working with executives and managers to successfully tackle a wide spectrum of strategic challenges, she creates a shared leadership, stakeholder inclusive, value creating approach that enables the firm to cultivate the short and long-run capabilities needed for continuous evolution and success.
A multiple research and teaching award winner, Ellen has been honored with the prestigious, global, lifetime achievement Academy of Management Distinguished Educator Award. She has also received research awards from the Academy of Management and Management Science, and she has been selected as a Kellogg/Schulich Executive MBA Professor of the Year twice as well as being honored with the Seymour Schulich Award for Teaching Excellence.
She has published widely in academic and practitioners journals including: The Academy of Management Review, Management Science, Sloan Management Review, The Journal of Business Ethics, Human Resource Management, Organization Studies, Research in Organizational Behavior, Research Policy, The Journal of International Management, The International Journal of Strategic Change Management, The Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, The American Journal of Economics and Sociology, Sociological Inquiry, Advances in Strategic Management, The Journal of World Business, Business in the Contemporary World, Women in Management Review, Developing Leaders Quarterly and The Journal of Management Education.
She has two recent books: Stragility®:Excelling at Strategic Changes with former Harley Procter Director of Marketing at Procter and Gamble – Lisa Hillenbrand University of Toronto/Rotman Press, 2016, and Bridging the Values Gap: How Authentic Organizations Bring Values to Life with R. Edward Freeman, Elis and Signe Olsson Professor at the University of Virginia Darden School of Business, Berrett-Koehler, San Francisco, 2015. Stragility was listed by Forbes as the one of the “16 Best Books for Creative Leaders”, and Top 3 books in Strategy for Entrepreneurs”. Ellen has written two prior books Strategic Organizational Change (Palgrave MacMillan, 2005) and Excellence in Business Teaching: A Quick Start Guide (McGraw-Hill Ryerson).
She has been quoted in the business press and appeared on radio and TV including: Business Week, Time, New York Newsday, Economic World, Executive Female, Talk 100 CFRB, WTN, TVO, The Toronto Star, HR Professional Magazine, Newsweek, The Globe and Mail, Vancouver Sun, Calgary Herald, Canadian Business, The National Post/Financial Post, Harvard Business Review- HBR.org and USA Today.
2016 Academy of Management Best Paper Proceedings and OMT Best International Paper Award Finalist. Academy of Management Annual Meetings, Anaheim, California - “Structure from Chaos: The Creation of Libyan Civil Society" by Nada Basir, Ellen R. Auster, and Trish Ruebottom
2015 Seymour Schulich Teaching Excellence Award – Master’s Top Ten
2013 Nominee, Seymour Schulich Award for Teaching Excellence
2013 CWU-CIBER Best Paper Finalist on Emerging Markets, Academy of Management with H. Akbari
2013 Academy of Management, International Management Division, Best Paper Proceedings, with H. Akbari
2012, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001 Merit Award, Schulich School of Business, York University
2009, 2005 Kellogg/Schulich EMBA Professor of the Year Award
2007 Academy of Management Distinguished Educator Award, Academy of Management
2006 3M Teaching Fellow Nominee, York University
2003 Nominee, Technology Innovation Award, The Learning Partnership
2002 Nominee, Rosabeth Moss Kanter Award for Excellence in Work/Family Research
2001 Seymour Schulich Award for Teaching Excellence
1993 Outstanding Educator Award, Faculty of Administrative Studies
Nada Basir, Trish Ruebottom and Ellen Auster (2021), "Collective Identity Development Amid Institutional Chaos: Boundary Evolution in a Women’s Rights Movement in Post Gaddafi Libya", Organization Studies.
Collective identity is important for the cohesion of social movements, yet there is an inherent tension between group unity and heterogeneity when multiple groups are motivated to come together to work for change. Through a three-year investigation of the early stages of a women’s rights movement following the Libyan revolution, we explore the dynamics of collective identity development. Our findings capture how two heterogeneous groups, Libyan locals and Libyan diaspora, interact to negotiate and re-negotiate the boundaries of collective identity. We find that this process unfolds through an ongoing struggle where the point of difference between the groups—their uncommon past—is the mechanism first used to ensure inclusion of insiders, and then to exclude outsiders from the collective identity. Our paper contributes to our understanding of the relational process through which collective identity co-evolves, and the challenges faced by heterogeneous groups engaging in collective action.
Auster, E.R. and Ruebottom, T. (2018), "Reflexive Dis/embedding: Personal Narratives, Empowerment and the Emotional Dynamics of Interstitial Events", Organization Studies, 39(4), 467-490.
Reflexivity is required for institutional work, yet we know very little about the mechanisms for generating such understandings of the social world. We explore this gap through a case study of an interstitial event that aims to create a community of ‘change-makers’. The findings suggest that such events can generate reflexive dis/embedding through two complementary mechanisms. Specifically, personal narratives of injustice and action and individual-collective empowering generate emotional dynamics that disembed actors from their given attachments and embed them within new social bonds. Through these mechanisms, the event in the case study was able to challenge audience members’ conceptions of self and others and change their worldview. This research advances our understanding of how reflexivity can be developed by uncovering the emotional dynamics crucial to the dis/embedding of actors.
Auster, E.R. and Prasad, A. (2016), "Why Do Women Still Not Make It to the Top? Dominant Organizational Ideologies and Biases by Promotion Committees Limit Opportunities to Destination Positions", Sex Roles, 75(5), 177-196.Keywords
Prior studies have made important strides in understanding the drivers of gender bias facing women at the top. Yet, relatively little is known about the intra-organizational power dynamics of how and why these patterns still persist despite a plethora of initiatives to redress the phenomenon over the last several decades. This paper develops an intra-organizational power perspective on the dynamics of promotion bias to destination positions. We propose that social dominance emerges as social categorization based on a candidate’s visible and invisible markers leads to distorted perceptions and stereotyping which, when combined with group favoritism and conformity pressures within committee practices, engender the perceived degree of ideological asymmetry between the candidate and the organization. It is the magnitude of the perceived degree of ideological asymmetry that drives promotion bias. This bias has potent effects on the institutionalization of power over time. Our perspective ultimately offers new insights into the role of dominant organizational ideology and dynamics of biases that continue to limit promotion opportunities of women to destination positions.
Auster, E.R. and Hillenbrand, L. (2016), "Stragility: The Ultimate Competitive Advantage", Leader to Leader Quarterly, 82, 40-46.
Auster and Hillenbrand introduce Stragility, described as the “art of strategic, agile, people‐powered change.” They discuss four interrelated skills: “sensing and shifting, embracing our inner politician, inspiring and engaging, and cultivating change fitness.” They draw on such corporate examples as Apple, Macy’s, and Whole Foods Market. There is also the counter‐example of Research in Motion—later renamed BlackBerry, Ltd.—and the loss of their business to Apple and its iPhones. Stragility requires hyper‐awareness and the ability and willingness to listen to skeptics and critics. “We need to anticipate disruptive game changers,” the authors write, “and monitor our competitive landscape while also keeping an eye on what’s happening on the periphery.
Auster, E.R., Freeman, R.E. and Manno, C. (2016), "Bridging the Values Gap", Developing Leaders Quarterly, 22, 18-22.
Values are the wellspring – the foundation – of building a great company. They are one of the most important components of how any business creates value in the inarguably global approach to twenty-first-century capitalism.
Auster, E.R., Basir, N., Cruikshank, R.A. and Ruebottom, T. (2015), "Middle Management Knowledge of Articulated Strategy: Antecedents, Cognitive Accuracy and Awareness", International Journal of Strategic Change Management, 6(1), 73-99.Keywords
Middle managers provide a powerful conduit for strategy execution particularly in fast paced environments. Their knowledge of strategy is critical for strategic change to be successful. Yet, little research directly examines how aware middle managers are of corporate strategy and how accurate they are in their understanding of how that strategy translates into divisional goals. Framed in cognition theory, this exploratory study uses qualitative and quantitative analysis to investigate the antecedents, accuracy and self-awareness of middle managers’ knowledge of strategy within a large North American financial firm (N = 294). Implications for research and practice are highlighted.
Auster, E. and Freeman, R. (2013), "Values and Poetic Organizations: Beyond Value Fit Towards Values Through Conversation", Journal of Business Ethics, 113, 39–49.
In the midst of greed, corruption, the economic crash and the general disillusionment of business, current conceptions of leadership, organizational values, and authenticity are being questioned. In this article, we fill a prior research gap by directly exploring the intersection of these three concepts. We begin by delving into the relationship between individual values and organizational values. This analysis reveals that the “value fit” approach to creating authenticity is limited, and also indicates that a deeper exploration of the nature of values and the role of leadership is necessary. More specifically, we propose that organizational values should be viewed as an opportunity for ongoing conversations about who we are and how we connect. Through this type of dialogue which we define as “value through conversation”, we can create what we call poetic organizations. A typology of four interconnected values each of which forms a foundation for the critical questioning and inquiry that might be found in poetic organizations is developed. We suggest that this conceptualization offers a new and dynamic approach for thinking about the relationships between leadership, values, and authenticity and has important implications for both research and practice.
Auster, E. and Ruebottom, T. (2012), "Navigating the Politics and Emotions of Change", MIT Sloan Management Review, 54, 31-36.
Courses TaughtPhD Teaching:
Seminar on Contemporary Strategy: SGMT 7020
Macro Organization Theory
Seminar on Interorganizational Linkages
Master’s Level Teaching (MBA) and Executive Teaching – Kellogg/Schulich EMBA:
Leadership of Organizational Change (Executive MBA), Kellogg/Schulich EMBA Program
Strategic Capability Development (MBA)
Strategic Organizational Change, Executive Learning Center, Schulich School of Business
Leading Change, Executive Director’s Institutes, York University/Maytree Foundation
Strategic Organizational Design: SGMT 6700 (MBA)
Strategy Study: Management 6010 (MBA)
Organizational Analysis: OBIR 5020 (MBA)
Managerial Behavior in the Firm (MBA)
Project Title Role Award Amount Year Awarded Granting Agency Project Title Role Award Amount$30,000.00 Year Awarded2014 Granting AgencyCIRA Grant - with Mekki MacAulay, Canadian Internet Registry Authority Project Title RolePrincipal Investigator Award Amount$ Year Awarded2002 Granting AgencySchulich School of Business - Internal Research Grant Project Title RolePrincipal Investigator Award Amount$ Year Awarded2001 Granting AgencySchulich School of Business - Internal Research Grant