Getting to Know Brian Lowery
Researcher, teacher, writer, podcaster, shoe maker, motorcycle track rider, and more. Hear how Brian Lowery pursues work and life with passion.
Brian Lowery is always looking to make life more interesting — inside and outside the classroom. Whether he’s researching, teaching, writing, podcasting, or even shoemaking, he’s on a constant quest to help himself and others make sense of the world we live in. Asking questions is where he always starts: “The world is an incredible place: How do you want to engage with it? What kind of life do you want to live?”
Following His Curiosity
“Pursuing a PhD was one of the most courageous things I think I’ve done,” Brian recalls. While college was always expected, Brian didn’t grow up thinking he would be a teacher, or an engineer, or pretty much any particular job. He was much more interested in understanding the world and pondering big questions, like why some people succeeded and others failed and how to make sense of differences in opportunities. Social psychology provided a way to think deeply about those questions. And while the PhD path was more rigorous and longer than other options, to Brian it seemed like the most interesting life available.
As a professor of organizational behavior and a social psychologist by training, Brian likes to shine a light on how people function in the world — in business and beyond. Self reflection is a key component of that discovery. His classes are experiential by design, encouraging people to understand and reflect on how they show up, how they behave, and what that means. “I want to open a window so people can see the world in new ways to help them expand their options and make better decisions in their organizations and their lives.”
Research starts with asking questions. Most recently, Brian’s been asking himself some new ones that are influencing his research like “What does it mean to be a self? Where does it come from? And what role do other people play in who we are and how we show up in the world?” Brian brings this research into the classroom because it has strong implications for leadership and how people think about power, create social networks, and exert influence.
The Art of Teaching
Exploring interesting questions and connecting with interesting people is at the heart of Brian’s research and podcasts, and it also mirrors what happens in the classroom. Engaging in deep conversations and discussing personal experiences brings the learning to life. “I try to create space for people to grow as opposed to giving them the answers.” Brian compares his approach to teaching business classes to teaching art. “This is not paint-by-numbers problem solving. I provide some techniques that will make you a better artist. But I’m not telling you when to use these techniques or how to paint your masterpiece. That’s entirely up to you.”
Engage with What Matters
They say clothes make the man, but in Brian’s case it might be shoes. That’s because, in addition to his professional life at Stanford, he’s committed endless hours to the craft of shoemaking. Beginning in 2010, he took a month off for five years in a row to study and apprentice in London, Sweden, and Budapest. “It’s meditative and consuming to be working with your hands to produce something physical that you can actually wear.” Whether it’s shoemaking or riding motorcycles at the track (another of Brian’s passions), he is always trying to engage deeply with life — and encouraging others to do the same. “Don’t look for answers,” he advises, “look to engage with the mystery of life. I really get that motorcycling doesn’t matter, shoemaking doesn’t matter. But it’s not the thing, it’s how you engage with the thing that matters.”