SMS Emerging Scholar Award

Inaugurated in 2007, the prize is awarded annually to a relatively young or new scholar, who displays exemplary scholarship that promises to have an impact on future strategic management practice.

Award Criteria and Details

Criteria for Selection: 

The criteria for this award recognizes a portfolio of work that suggests the candidate will make fundamental contributions to the way we think about knowledge essential to achieving durable organizational success. Especially considered are contributions that complement existing strategic management theory with ideas from the arts and sciences. Eligible to be nominated are members of the SMS. The likely winner of the award will:

  • be within 5-8 years of active academic work from the date of his/her dissertation
  • have a record of publication and professional activity that has demonstrated their work to be significant and with impact

Award Details: 

The recipient of the SMS Emerging Scholar Award will be recognized at an appropriate, significant event at the SMS Annual Conference and receives prize money of US$ 5,000. In addition, the recipient is invited to present their research in a prominent setting at the SMS Annual Conference and will be recognized and featured in one of the SMS journals.

Nomination Details: 

To nominate an individual, please provide the following: 

  • a letter of nomination by another SMS member, who is not a faculty member at the same university as the nominated individual
  • two additional letters of recommendation
  • a full vita from the nominated individual

*Nominations are accepted throughout the year. The deadline for this award is March 31st of each year. To submit a nomination, please email the materials to the SMS Executive Office at

Ryan Krause, 2020 Emerging Scholar Award Recipient

Ryan Krause is an associate professor of strategy and the Robert and Edith Schumacher Junior Faculty Fellow in the Neeley School of Business at Texas Christian University and is the 2020 SMS Emerging Scholar Recipient.

Ryan received his Ph.D. in Strategic Management and Organization Theory at the Kelley School of Business, Indiana University in 2013. Since then, he has published 17 top-tier journal papers, for many of which he is the first author. His research focuses on corporate governance and strategic leadership, and he has examined a range of important questions regarding the board of directors, such as CEO-Chair separation, lead independent director appointment, and co-CEO models. Ryan's work has substantially advanced our understanding of the role, structure, and process of the board of directors in large public corporations and has already received over 1,000 Google Scholar citations. His research has also received coverage in major news outlets such as The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and Harvard Business Review. Directors at JPMorgan Chase have specially cited his research in a letter to shareholders. Research is relevant when it can help managers and policymakers to improve their decision-making. Ryan’s research exemplifies how strategy scholars can conduct relevant research for practitioners.

Ryan was recognized at the 2020 SMS Annual Conference. As a recipient of the award, he also organized a webinar! Click here to watch the session.

We have conducted a short interview with Ryan, as this year's recipient. Click below to see his answers.

There were two different things that coalesced in me pursuing this career. One was that I was a business undergrad at Indiana University, but I had always been a scholar and a social scientist at heart. Even from a young age, I’ve always been fascinated by social phenomena. So, perhaps not surprisingly, about halfway through my undergrad, I realized I was far more interested in learning about business than I was in actually doing any of it. So, I was looking for a career path I could pursue that would indulge that intellectual curiosity about business. At the same time, my now-wife (then-girlfriend) was a year behind me in college, and I was looking for a way to stay in Bloomington another year. So, those two things were going on when my operations professor during junior year asked if any of us was interested in getting a PhD. Even though I hadn’t been, it immediately clicked for me, and I ran over to the library and looked up what it meant, and I was hooked from that point. And I got into the PhD program at IU by the skin of my teeth. It was fall of 2008, the financial crisis was starting, and they weren’t looking for a strategy student that year. But very luckily for me, Matt Semadeni, who at the time was an assistant professor who’d only been at IU a year, decided I was a risk worth taking, and I’m very grateful to him for that.

I am fascinated by the people who run large organizations partly because I find the task completely intimidating: the thought of being responsible for that many people and that much money, etc. I’m fascinated by people who take on that responsibility. Beyond that, I find the problem of corporate governance fascinating. Technically, boards are responsible for the company. And yet, they don’t really run anything. So, you have this weight of responsibility while having to do everything indirectly through management. I particularly find board leadership fascinating because I think the role of the board chair is possibly the most ambiguous job in corporate America, certainly the most ambiguous highly impactful job. Because as we move in this country to a world where most companies have a chair who is not the CEO, and most other countries are already there, there’s no good rulebook for what this job is. In my research, I’ve found that there’s quite a variance in how people approach this job. That ambiguity I think invites a lot of interpretation, which makes it really interesting to me.

I would say my first suggestion to them is: always ask lots of questions. I think part of the issue that independent directors face is trying to figure out the balance between being vigilant monitors and being good colleagues who support their chosen CEO. And I think that that doesn’t have to be a trade-off; most people view it as a tradeoff. I think the way you avoid that is you focus on asking questions; not being confrontational, but figuring out what information you need to make decisions and pursuing that information relentlessly. No good CEO should be unwilling to provide information when asked by the board. If they are, something’s up. Asking questions can be a pathway to providing advice and guidance as well. My second suggestion would be: understand the role that leaders are playing on the board. I don’t think there’s one best practice for board leadership; it can come from the chair, the CEO, the lead director, or that one really influential director who just sits at the back of the room. But it’s really important to understand where the leadership is coming from and who has the power. A strong board chair can take over a board and make the other directors superfluous. And a weak board chair can be worse than having the CEO and board chair positions combined because either the CEO walks all over the board or the board devolves into unproductive squabbling.

I think the literature is moving fairly swiftly away from purely archival studies. I don’t mean to denigrate them; they have played an important role in the development of the literature. However, as a domain, I think the strategic leadership and governance community is outgrowing them. I think those kinds of studies have served their purpose. It’s getting harder and harder to publish something that just uses data from existing databases. That doesn’t mean people have to collect primary data; it can be data you create from publicly available information, but something finer grained than accounting data and demographic data on boards and TMTs. You’re starting to see studies using primary data on strategic leaders in AMJ and SMJ. It can be done! I think we need those in the mix with archival studies. As for pitfalls, and kind of along the same lines, I worry about the literature becoming a caricature of itself. Agency theory is a very useful theory for specific things, but I feel like we as a discipline need to develop unique paradigms for corporate governance. We are not living in the same world as 30 years ago when boards were asleep at the wheel, and there were widespread governance lapses. Boards are very active now, and I don’t think our paradigms have caught up with that. I want us to avoid becoming staid in our theories and be more open to theoretical exploration rather than having to revert back to the same ones.

I would love to see us draw on the teams literature more for boards, in particular. There’s a lot of discussion about whether top management teams are actually teams, but boards really are teams. They have leaders, none of whom are really a boss in the traditional sense. They have to work together. So, I would love to see the corporate governance literature draw on the wealth of research on teams and team effectiveness. There’s a lot of literature on teams in organizational behavior, and I don’t think we’re making enough use of it.

This career is too long and life is too short to study things that don’t interest you. If you’re looking for research ideas, read the Wall Street Journal or go people-watch, and figure out what strategic phenomena—M&A, alliances, innovation, corporate governance, they’re all in the news every day—find something that you think is weird and interesting. Typically, within that weirdness and that interestingness, you can find a kernel of theoretical gap. If something seems like it doesn’t make sense, you can probably find an opportunity for theoretical contribution there. And design your research around that. Most of what we do should be methodical: designing your study, writing your paper, analyzing your data. You should be very methodical in those things. The inspiration part is different. You can’t make inspiration methodical and you shouldn’t try. Find something that interests you and figure out why it should be interesting to others.