David A. Thomas

H. Naylor Fitzhugh Professor of Business Administration, Retired

David Thomas is H. Naylor Fitzhugh Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School. He joined the HBS faculty in 1990 and became a tenured professor in 1998. He is the head of the Organizational Behavior Unit and from 2005 to 2008 served as Senior Associate Dean and Director of Faculty Recruitment

David Thomas is a recognized thought leader in the area of strategic human resource management. His research addresses issues related to executive development, cultural diversity in organizations, leadership and organizational change. He is the author of two books and over sixty cases studies and articles appearing in leading academic journals and practitioner oriented periodicals. He is the recipient of numerous awards including the Executive Development Roundtable’s Marion Gislaison Award for Contributions to Executive Development Theory and Practice, Academy of Management Mentoring Legacy Award for pioneering research on mentoring, and ASQ Scholarly Contribution Award for the most influential management article published between 2001 and 2005.

He is co-author of the best selling Harvard Business Review article “Making Differences Matter: A New Paradigm for Managing Diversity.” His book Breaking Through: The Making of Minority Executives in Corporate America (with John Gabarro) has met with critical acclaim in reviews by academics and journalists, and is the recipient of the Academy of Management's George R. Terry Book Award for outstanding contribution to the advancement of management knowledge. His most recent book, Leading for Equity (with Stacey Childress and Dennis Doyle), examines urban public school district reform. 

Professor Thomas served as Course Head for the Harvard Business School's required first-year MBA course, Leadership and Organizational Behavior.  He was the faculty chair for the HBS Executive Education program, Strategic Human Resource Management, and teaches in the Public Education Leadership Program. For seven years, he taught and developed materials for the popular second-year elective course, Self-Assessment and Career Development. He is a frequent presenter in executive education programs as well as a consultant to private sector corporations, government agencies and not-for-profit organizations. Currently he teaches the popular HBS elective Power and Influence.

Professor Thomas received his Bachelor of Arts (1978), Master of Philosophy (1984) and Doctor of Philosophy (1986) degrees from Yale University. He also holds a Master of Arts (1981) in Organizational Psychology from Columbia University.

Prior to joining the faculty of the Harvard Business School, he was on the faculty of the Wharton School of Finance. Professor Thomas sits on the boards of several organizations, among them Cambridge Trust Company, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Partners Healthcare, Center for Creative Leadership and the Posse Foundation.

  1. Breaking Through: The Making of Minority Executives in Corporate America


     

    In one of the first in-depth studies to focus on minorities who have made it to the top, Breaking Through examines the crucial connection between corporate culture and the advancement of people of color. American companies may tout their equal opportunity initiatives, but with 95% of all executive-level positions in the United States held by white males, most of these programs clearly fall far short of their goals when it comes to diversifying upper management. Yet, even in the face of such overwhelming odds, some minority executives do break through to the highest leadership ranks. What can we learn from these success stories? The often surprising conclusions drawn by authors Thomas and Gabarro represent important milestones both for the study of organizational practice and for minorities planning their own course of professional achievement. Here are the determining factors--both individual and organizational--that correspond to the advancement of minority executives to the highest levels.