Richard S. Tedlow

MBA Class of 1949 Professor of Business Administration, Emeritus

Richard S. Tedlow is the Class of 1949 Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School, where he is a specialist in the history of business.

Professor Tedlow received his B.A. from Yale in 1969 and his M.A. and Ph.D. in history from Columbia in 1971 and 1976 respectively. He came to the Harvard Business School on a fellowship in 1978 and joined the faculty in 1979. From 1979 through 1982, he taught First Year Marketing. His involvement in marketing has continued, and he has been a member of the faculty of the "Strategic Retail Management Seminar," the "Top Management Seminar for Retailers and Suppliers," "Managing Brand Meaning," and the "Strategic Marketing Management" executive education programs. From 1978 to the present, he has been involved in the School's Business History program. In 1992 and 1993, he taught a course entitled "Business, Government, and the International Economy." He has also taught in numerous executive programs at the Harvard Business School as well as at corporations, including programs in marketing strategy and general management. His book -- Giants of Enterprise: Seven Business Innovators and the Empires They Built (HarperBusiness, 2001) -- was selected by Business Week as one of the top ten business books of 2001.

Prof. Tedlow’s book, Andy Grove: The Life and Times of an American, was published by Portfolio, an imprint of Penguin Group USA, in November 2006. It was selected by Business Week as one of the top ten business books of 2006.

Prof. Tedlow's most recent book, Denial: Why Business Leaders Fail to Look Facts in the Face, was published by Portfolio in March, 2010. It was selected by strategy+business as one of the best business books of 2010.

  1. Denial: Why Business Leaders Fail to Look Facts in the Face

    Richard S. Tedlow is currently working on a book concerning historical examples of outstanding businesspeople who faced daunting challenges.  The book is divided into two parts:  "Getting It Wrong" and "Getting It Right."  Many times, great businesspeople have simply refused to face reality, and they and their organizations have suffered dreadfully as a result.  The reality of which Prof. Tedlow writes was not only knowable to these businesspeople at the time, it was in fact known by them.  This is not a book that exploits hindsight.  The question which the first half of the book explores is:  Why, knowing that they were facing disaster, did these great businesspeople not change course?  The second part of the book explores business executives facing similarly difficult dilemmas who did change course.  The question with which the book deals is:  Why is it that some people "get it wrong" while others "get it right"?
  2. The American Chief Executive from 1850 to 2000

    Richard S. Tedlow's research explores changes in the leadership strategies, styles, and backgrounds of corporate chief executive officers in the United States over the past century and a half. This project has both a qualitative and a quantitative component. The qualitative issues are described and analyzed in his book Giants of Enterprise: Seven Business Leaders and the Empires They Built (New York: HarperBusiness, 2001). The discussion of these seven business visionaries provides a prism through which we can see the evolution of American business and the American chief executive officer over the course of a century and a half. Business Week selected Giants of Enterprise as one of the top 10 business books of 2001. The quantitative side of this research is composed of data gathered on the CEOs of the nation's 250 largest corporations at different points in history. This database consists of demographic information (such as age, income, education, and place of birth) and information on career path (including number of companies worked at, number of jobs held, and number of years in business before reaching the top). Professor Tedlow's most recent book is a dual biography of the Thomas J. Watsons, Sr. and Jr., and the long term impact of their leadership on IBM. Entitled The Watson Dynasty: The Fiery Reign and Troubled Legacy of IBM's Founding Father and Son. This book was published by HarperBusiness in November 2003. Professor Tedlow has just competed Andy Grove: The Life and Times of an American. It is forthcoming from Portfolio, an imprint of Penguin Group USA, on November 2, 2006.