Michael Roberto

Trustee Professor of Management, Bryant University
Michael Roberto is a preeminent authority on strategic decision-making, senior management teams, and neutralizing hidden threats to your organization.

Professor Roberto has studied how interpersonal dynamics cause catastrophic organizational failures (such as the Columbia Space Shuttle accident and the 1996 Mount Everest tragedy) and how to structure decision-making processes for success.

He helps senior executives build the consensus that successful implementation of a strategy requires and uncover potential disasters before they destroy your strategy.

Michael’s current book, Unlocking Creativity: How to Solve Any Problem and Make the Best Decisions, is on creativity and design thinking. The book explores six organizational mindsets that inhibit creativity in many enterprises. Organizational leadership needs to change these mindsets to allow creativity to flourish.

His book, Know What You Don't Know, helps business leaders find and prevent problems before they happen, with practical techniques for recognizing hidden signs of trouble and for defusing the potential threat.

And in his book, Why Great Leaders Don’t Take Yes for an Answer: Managing for Conflict and Consensus, (chosen by The Globe and Mail as one of the top ten business books of 2005), Professor Roberto shows how to manage the interpersonal dimensions of decision making, the social, political and emotional aspects that so often determine success. His new book is a 2nd Edition of Why Great Leaders Don’t Take Yes For An Answer.

In addition to his interactive keynotes, Michael brings a unique and award-winning role-playing format to longer, high-impact experiences.

Michael Roberto is the Trustee Professor of Management at Bryant University. He served for six years on the faculty at Harvard Business School and has been a Visiting Associate Professor of Management at New York University’s Stern School of Business.

Executive Education
In addition to keynotes, Professor Roberto offers executive education seminars and other advisory services focused on helping business leaders translate their strategies and initiatives into successful action. An award-winning teacher, Michael is a three-time winner of the Outstanding MBA Teaching Award at Bryant University. He also has won Harvard’s Allyn Young Prize for Teaching in Economics on two occasions. Bryant named him the Faculty Mentor of the Year in 2009.

Michael has consulted with and taught in the leadership development programs of organizations as diverse as Target, Apple, Morgan Stanley, Coca-Cola, Cisco, Mars, Wal-Mart, Novartis, Siemens, Federal Express, Johnson & Johnson, and Bank of New York Mellon.

Great leaders focus on the decision-making process,
not just the decision at hand.
They decide how to decide.
They ensure a good decision-making process
by stimulating constructive conflict
and then building consensus.


  • Trustee Professor of Management, Bryant University
  • Author, Know What You Don’t Know and Why Great Leaders Don’t Take Yes for an Answer
  • Former professor of management, Harvard Business School
  • Faculty, Nomura School of Advanced Management, Tokyo Japan; teaches an executive education program each summer
  • Former Visiting Professor of Management, Stern School of Business, NYU
  • A.B. with honors, Harvard College; MBA with High Distinction, Harvard Business School


  • Faculty Mentor of the Year (2009), Bryant University
  • George F. Baker Scholar, Harvard Business School
  • Why Great Leaders Don't Take Yes for an Answer named one of the top ten business books of 2005, The Globe and Mail
  • Two-time winner, Allyn Young Prize for Teaching in Economics
  • Levenson Award Nominee as one of the top Teaching Fellows at Harvard College
  • Derek Bok Center Certificate of Distinction in Teaching, Harvard College
  • His 2004 article, "Strategic decision-making processes: Beyond the efficiency-consensus tradeoff," was selected from 20,000 submissions by Emerald Management Reviews as one of the top 50 management articles of 2004
  • Columbia’s Final Mission study earned the Codie Award in 2006 for Best Postsecondary Education Curriculum Solution.
  • Recipient, Robert Litschert Best Doctoral Student Paper, Academy of Management’s Business Policy Division; paper published in the Academy of Management’s Best Paper Proceedings

Consulting Clients
Morgan Stanley
The Home Depot
The World Bank
Johnson & Johnson
Lockheed Martin
Level 3 Communications
Royal Caribbean Cruises
Corporate Executive Board
The Advisory Board


Making the Tough Call: Decisive Leadership

Leaders frequently face tough decisions. You have to make difficult choices about project plans, the allocation of scarce resources, and managing people. How can you become more effective at making the tough call? You must tackle three key challenges. First, you have to dodge the common mental traps and biases that cause many of us to make poor choices. Second, you have to avoid groupthink — be wary of just conforming to the majority view or conventional wisdom in your company and your industry. Finally, you must build the commitment and buy-in among your team members so that you can execute your plans successfully. In this presentation, you will learn how to tackle these three challenges so that you can make the right call in tough situations.

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Leadership in a Time of Crisis

In this time of crisis, the need for effective decision-making and teamwork is even more essential. How do you handle ambiguous information and make decisions in the face of uncertainty? How do we garner the best advice and information possible from our team members in order to make timely and effective decisions? Leaders need to create a climate of candor, in which employees are willing to share bad news, offer dissenting opinions, and talk openly about failures and the lessons that can be derived from them. Senior leaders won’t have all the answers. However, they can ask the right questions, and they can stimulate constructive debate within their management teams. Through healthy give-and-take, they can sharpen their critical thinking, test key assumptions, and examine a wider range of alternative solutions before making crucial decisions. In the face of high ambiguity and uncertainly, there may be no clear right answer to pressing problems. Instead, leaders will have to experiment frequently. They will have to test different ideas out in a low cost, fast manner. By learning from these experiments, and adapting quickly, leaders can get to the best solution. In short, debate and analysis may not always get you to the solution in these turbulent times. Sometimes, you will need to act with limited data, and then learn rapidly from your tests, prototypes, and experiments. You will have to learn by doing, not just by thinking.

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Leadership and Corporate Culture: Learning from General Motors' Mistakes

In this speech, Michael explores the challenges of leadership and decision-making through the lens of the current crisis at GM. After reviewing the basic facts of the situation, Michael turns to GM’s corporate culture. How did it exacerbate existing problems? How has it changed, if at all, since GM’s restructuring? What does it say when Mary Barra, despite her senior position and long experience, was unaware of key problems? Michael and his audience work through these questions together to determine how such crises can be avoided.

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Facing Ambiguous Threats

An Interactive Leadership Exercise Based on Columbia's Final Mission. Background The space shuttle Columbia’s final mission in January 2003 ended in tragedy. According to the investigating commission, seven astronauts died because of leadership failures, tied primarily to the natural human tendency to downgrade ambiguous threats and to a management culture that suppressed vigorous debate and constructive conflict. The case Michael Roberto has prepared one of the most authentic and interactive multi-media case studies ever assembled for use in leadership development. And he’s developed an executive education seminar based on the case that delivers an extraordinary experience. Columbia’s Final Mission is Harvard Business School Press’s best-selling case study and won the prestigious Cody Award. The session The case is packaged on a CD that includes an original background documentary on NASA and the mission, real launch footage and other unique multimedia features. Your participants are pre-assigned one of six managers or engineers that were key to the program and given password access to transcripts and, in some cases, the real audio of crucial meetings attended by their role-play personae, and to their actual emails, documents, reports, slide presentations, and other real materials. Each participant gets only his or her own persona’s materials covering the seven days leading up to the critical Mission Management Team meeting that took place on Flight Day 8, when the decision to proceed was made. Then the group role plays the meeting and analyzes the organizational causes of the tragedy (not the technical causes). The first-person perspective combined with the extraordinary value of authentic prep materials makes the role play and ensuing discussion extremely rich. The take-aways Participants learn to recognize and deal with the forces that cause leaders to ignore weak signals that should tell them that disaster looms. They experience first-hand the pressures that tend to undermine effective decision-making and practice overcoming these pressures to find their own path to strong leadership. Participants aggressively explore the question of leadership accountability and apply the lessons to their own roles as leaders, with concrete take-aways.

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Leading Virtual Teams
Michael Roberto


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Michael Roberto Blog


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