George Kohlrieser is an organizational and clinical psychologist, hostage negotiator, award-winning author, consultant, conference speaker, and media commentator. His research, teaching, and consulting activities focus on high-performance leadership, high-performance teamwork, conflict management, change management, dialogue and negotiation, coaching, stress management, work-life balance, and personal and professional development.
In his work, he draws on various scientific disciplines such as attachment theory, brain science, cognitive science, social neuroscience, and performance studies. He is best known for his use of the hostage metaphor as applied to leadership development and his secure base leadership concept and its impact on high performance.
Kohlrieser completed his doctorate at Ohio State University, where he wrote his dissertation on cardiovascular recovery of law enforcement leaders following high-stress situations. His research has made significant contributions to understanding the role of self-mastery and social dialogue in helping leaders sustain high performance.
After becoming a licensed psychologist, he worked with the police department of Dayton, Ohio to reduce homicides in domestic violence situations, and was held hostage himself four times during this period. He then started to teach hostage negotiation techniques at the Dayton Police Academy and worked at a psychiatric hospital, teaching mental health professionals how to work with chronic schizophrenics. These roles early in his career led him to his deep conviction in the power of emotional bonding and what it can accomplish. He has since worked with the police, the military, and humanitarian organizations in hotspots such as Israel, the Palestinian territories, and Croatia, as well as with police departments and police academies around the world. He has taught crisis management and hostage negotiation to the FBI, the Los Angeles Police and Sheriff’s Departments, the Senior Command Academy in France, and the Dutch and German Police Academies.
Kohlrieser now uses this experience in the world of executive education and corporate leadership training, focusing on how to resolve conflicts through dialogue and communicate with stakeholders, politicians, investors, community members, and protestors – particularly when these people are adversarial, aggressive, or emotional.
He believes that high-performing leaders need to be able to use hostage negotiation techniques in any personal or business relationship to ensure they are never a hostage to anyone, unleash potential by turning losses into sources of inspiration, and influence others through words, dialogue, and negotiation.
At IMD, Kohlrieser is the Founder and Director of the flagship High Performance Leadership (HPL) program, an intense six-day IMD program for experienced senior leaders, and the Advanced High Performance Leadership (AHPL) program for former HPL participants. He also directs the Inspirational Leadership online program, which was awarded a Gold Medal for the best advance in unique learning technology by research firm Brandon Hall.
He works with a wide range of organizations on high performance leadership and teamwork, conflict and change management, dialogue, negotiations, and stress management, and has advised Accenture, Amer Sports, Borealis, Cisco, Coca-Cola, HP, Hitachi, IBM, IFC, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Mondelez, Morgan Stanley, Motorola, NASA, Navis, Nestlé, Nokia, Pictet, Rio Tinto, Roche, Santander, Swarovski, Sara Lee, Tetra Pak, Toyota, UBS, and many others.
Kohlrieser has won numerous personal and program awards during his career, and his 2006 best-selling book Hostage at the Table: How Leaders Can Overcome Conflict, Influence Others, and Raise Performance was named Best Business Book of the year by French business leaders association Dirigeants Commerciaux de France and Best Management Book of the year by German business bookseller Managementbuch.de. His second book, Care to Dare: Unleashing Astonishing Potential through Secure Base Leadership, was listed among Soundview’s best business books of the year in 2013.
He frequently speaks at management and professional conferences around the world including the World Business Forum, the World Economic Forum, and the United Nations. He has been a speaker at TEDx talks in both New York and Lausanne, and he appears regularly on global business content hub WOBI, where he recently delivered a two-day masterclass on the psychology of negotiation.
A notable media commentator on issues related to leadership, conflict, aggression management, and hostage negotiation, he also had his own highly acclaimed radio call-in talk show in the US for over 10 years and has appeared on the BBC, CNN, ABC and CBS. His work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, the Economist, the Financial Times, Forbes and other leading newspapers and magazines.
He is also Associate Clinical Professor of Psychology at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio, and was recently named Honorary Professor at Amity University Uttar Pradesh in India. He has held adjunct faculty member positions at Union Graduate School in Antioch, Ohio, the Fielding Institute in San Francisco, and Zagreb University in Croatia, and is past president of the International Transactional Analysis Association and a former advisory board member of the NeuroLeadership Institute. He is a member of the Society of International Business Fellows (SIBF).
The hidden perils of unresolved grief (McKinsey Quarterly, 2020)
Embrace conflict – Put the fish on the table (LinkedIn, 2017)
Care to Dare: Unleashing Astonishing Potential through Secure Base Leadership (Jossey-Bass, 2012)
Hostage at the Table: How Leaders Can Overcome Conflict, Influence Others, and Raise Performance (John Wiley & Sons, 2006)
The power of authentic dialogue (Leader to Leader, 2006)
Brandon Hall Group Best Advance in Unique Learning Technology Gold Award (2015)
CEEMAN Global Champion Award for Excellence in Teaching (2013)
Named on Soundview best business books of the year list (2013)
ECCH Case Award winner (2011)
BrandLaureate International Brand Personality Award from Asia Pacific Brand Foundation (2010)
Winner of Managementbuch.de Best Management Book award (2008)
Winner of Dirigeants Commerciaux de France Best Business Book Award (2007)
BA (Psychology and Philosophy)
University of Dayton
Ohio State University