Malcolm S. Salter

Emeritus Professor

Malcolm Salter has been a member of the Harvard Business School faculty since 1967. His teaching and research focuses on issues of corporate strategy, organization, and governance.

Over the years, Professor Salter has taught and helped develop a wide variety of courses at HBS. Most recently, he has taught courses in Leadership and Corporate Accountability, Governance and Corporate Control, and Competition and Strategy in the MBA Program. In addition to teaching at HBS, he has also taught at the Harvard Law School (2 years) and the Kennedy School of Government (4 years).

Professor Salter is author of Innovation Corrupted (Harvard University Press, 2008), which addresses the origins and legacy of Enron’s collapse; co-author of Changing Alliances (HBS Press, 1987), a study of business-government-labor relations the world auto industry; Diversification through Acquisition (Free Press, 1979), a study of how real economic value can be created through corporate diversification; and many other articles and papers addressing issues of corporate strategy and internal governance and control.

In addition to his scholarly activities, Professor Salter served as Senior Associate Dean for External Relations from 2003 to 2006. He has also served as Chair of the Elective Curriculum in the MBA Program, Chairman of the Advanced Management Program and the International Senior Managers Program (the School's two most senior executive education programs), and Chairman of the General Management Area (a section of the faculty encompassing the subject areas of general management, entrepreneurial management, and international management).

From 1986 to 2006, Professor Salter was also president of Mars & Co., a strategy consulting firm with offices in Greenwich (CT), London, Paris, San Francisco, Tokyo, and Shanghai.

Professor Salter is a Trustee and Director of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute where he serves on the Finance Committee and is Chair of the Trustee's Science Committee. He is also an Overseer of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Active in civic affairs at both the municipal and state levels of government, Professor Salter served as Chair of Newton’s (MA) Citizen Advisory Group from June 1, 2008 to May 1, 2009, charged with developing a new financial and management model for this city of 85,000 residents and thirteen villages. 

He is also a founder of the Friends of Boston Art, a past Overseer of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and the Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University, a former Trustee and Treasurer of the Shady Hill School, and a past director of Schlegel Corporation and Christie's, the London-based auction house.

Professor Salter is a graduate of Harvard University where he received his AB, MBA, and DBA degrees.


  1. Inside Modern Giants

    by Malcolm S. Salter

    This research focuses on the leadership of large, complex firms--'modern giants'--companies of billions of dollars in revenues and tens of thousands of employees. Our interest lies in describing how the corporate center and senior management teams of large companies with a demonstrated capacity to earn their cost of capital and grow their earnings faster than their direct competitors actually influence such corporate performance. Very large companies face three special challenges in achieving superior performance: the 'large numbers' problem affecting top line growth rates, the 'diminshing returns' problem affecting economic returns, and a 'governance and control' problem known in the economics literature as the 'agency problem.' Our research address each of these challenges by focusing on two critical top management activities. The first is promoting innovation and growth—that is, finding ways to generate and exploit more new profit opportunities from the collective whole than that available from the various business properties as separately owned and managed entities. The second critical activity involves exercising effective coordination and control of existing operations—that is, ensuring that the value of the enterprise as a whole is greater than the simple summing of its parts. The first activity places top management teams in an entrepreneurial role. The second places the corporate center in a custodial or trusteeship role. Some leaders and their teams are successful at meeting these somewhat conflicting challenges (and living two quite different roles simultaneously), while others are not. How can we explain the differences in meeting these challenges? We believe that explaining these differences, and coming to an understanding of what makes modern giants more or less effective as organizations, requires a detailed grasp of how their leaders design and use management processes to guide individual and collective action. Using a sample of six to ten U.S. and non-U.S. companies, our goal is to understand what constitutes core management processes for successful modern giants, how and why they vary both within and across firms, how they evolve over time, and how the resulting variety of core processes within large firms are managed.