“Many management theorists recommend changes within the traditional management philosophy without considering a replacement for hierarchical control. I believe that some organizations have undergone a leadership paradigm shift from “hierarchical control” to “vision-led freedom.” This is characterized by providing employees encouragement and authority to grow, to take risks, and to learn from mistakes as they expand their contributions to enterprise success while managers lead, coach, and help—instead of controlling them.”

– Bill Nobles

Photo of Bill Nobles

The Bill Nobles Fellowship

This Fellowship supports research on alternatives to hierarchical organization in the corporation. Scholars will address whether management has any fundamental reason to control employees. Is there a practical alternative to far-reaching hierarchical control by management that can eliminate the root cause of some problems that hierarchical organizations face? The negative impacts of such control on human development and behavior became more apparent as managers sought to maximize the contributions of knowledge workers and encourage employees to think economically. The study may involve innovations in theory or practice, or case studies. Approaches for including employees in sharing equity and profits should be addressed in the proposal. Doctoral candidates and pre/post tenure scholars in the social sciences and humanities may apply for the $25,000 stipend that can be used for research/travel expenses.

The Bill Nobles Fellowship was established to support case studies and research on companies where employees feel that they share ownership in the business and a different, freedom-oriented management approach profoundly influences their behavior and growth to produce extraordinary business results. Bill earned his B.S. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Mississippi in 1961 and had a long Exxon career in a variety of management positions. His interest in what he calls “freedom-based management” grew from post-retirement research (with Paul Staley) into why and how his trial and error culture transformation of a 500 person internal services company produced such extraordinarily positive results for Exxon, its managers, and its employees. Bill and his wife Connie enjoy numerous and frequent family activities—especially with their seven grandchildren, and share time between home in New Jersey and their New Hampshire lake house.

For more information or questions, please email fellowship_program@smlr.rutgers.edu.