“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.

Application for the 2024-2025 Nobles Fellowship 

The deadline is February 29, 2024.

The Bill & Connie Nobles Fellowship

For the study of servant leadership in liberating organizations 

This fellowship will support research on leadership in the process of developing liberating organizations. While there are many studies of the theories, the practices, the policies, and the structural formats of liberating organizations such as Theory Y, reduced hierarchical levels, cross-functional teams, the matrix organization, this fellowship will be unique in supporting studies of the leaders themselves. 

What is the process that a leader goes through in terms of leadership in order to transform an organization from a command-and-control organization? How does a leader go about the process of organizational transformation to an organization where associates are encouraged to create new organizational forms that satisfy the fundamental human needs for trust and self-respect, self-realization and development on one’s talents, and autonomy and self-direction? This is sometimes referred to as “freedom-based management.” 

The proposed study may involve interviews and case studies of individuals or groups of leaders themselves or case studies of this process in different organizations from the individual leader perspective. Approaches for including employees in sharing equity and profits in these types of organizations should be addressed in the proposal if applicable to the organization being studied. Doctoral candidates, untenured and tenured professors and senior scholars in the social sciences and humanities with a Ph.D. in a related discipline may apply for a $25,000 stipend that can be use for research/travel/personal expenses in order to accomplish the study. 

Please submit an email application with a 1500 word proposal and a vita by February 29, 2024 to fellowship_program@smlr.rutgers.edu with decisions by April 15, 2024 in order to begin research July 1, 2024. The proposal should address in detail how the scholar plans to carry out the study within one year. Recipients will be Fellows in the fellowship program of the Institute for the Study of Employee Ownership and Profit Sharing and part of its national scholarly network and are expected to attend fellows conferences annually. Please have three letters of reference sent separately to: fellowship_program@smlr.rutgers.edu