At Chicago Booth, Zonis has taught courses on International Political Economy, Leadership, and E-Commerce. He was the first professor at the Business School to teach a course on the effects of digital technologies on global business. He also consults to corporations and professional asset management firms throughout the world, helping them to identify, assess, and manage their political risks in the changing global environment.
Zonis is a member of the Board of Directors of CNA Financial, the global insurance and financial services firm and a Fellow of OmniPoint U.S.LLC (formerly Diamond Consultants), a global technology consulting firm. He is a member of the U.S. Comptroller General’s Board of Advisers at the GAO and serves on the Board of the Institute for Psychoanalysis, Chicago. He is a member of the Board of Directors of the Fondation Etats Unis, Paris.
What unites these activities is Zonis’ unique awareness of the intersections of politics, economics, emergent technologies, emotions and leadership. He argues that the global economic slowdown has generated pervasive feelings of humiliation, anxiety, and mistrust. The sense of humiliation has generated rage directed at the elite of country after country. The result has been widespread political instability. Governments, especially in the Middle East, have been toppled while the economic decline of those countries has accelerated.
The despots will be replaced – not by liberal democratic governments — but by Islamic parties committed to the rule of Islamic law. Traditional forms of Islamic expression will become the norm, thus reducing the need for many to turn to more radical forms of religion, including terrorism.
Globalization multiplies the downward spiral. Cross border financial flows and business outsourcing to lower cost countries have begun to decline — major factors driving the slowdown of the global economy. One result has been the decline of cross border trade.
In the face of these global economic, political and financial challenges, business leadership, and a true understanding of what defines leadership, is more essential than ever.
Zonis has written extensively on globalization, digital technologies, emerging markets, Middle Eastern politics, the oil industry, Russia, and U.S. foreign policy. He is a leading authority on the Middle East, and has spent the last 50 years studying the volatile mix of Islam, terrorism, and the Middle East. He is the former director of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Chicago and former president of the American Institute of Iranian Studies. He has lived in Iran, hitchhiked through Afghanistan in the 1960s, studied Islam in Iraq beginning in 1964, and has traveled extensively throughout other parts of the region, as well.
His writings have been published, among other places, in The Financial Times, The New York Times, The International Herald Tribune, Chief Executive Magazine, La Vanguardia, The Boston Globe, and the Japanese journal Nikkei Weekly. His latest book is Risk Rules: How Local Politics Threaten the Global Economy (May 2011). His other books include The Kimchi Matters: Global Business and Local Politics in a Crisis Driven World; The Eastern European Opportunity; Majestic Failure: The Fall of the Shah; Khomeini and the Islamic Republic of Iran; and The Political Elite of Iran.
Zonis has appeared on numerous network television news programs, including Nightline, and CNN’s Larry King Live, as well as a commentator on National Public Radio. He was the International Editor of WBBM-TV, Chicago and was the Middle East Consultant to ABC/Capital Cities television.
He was educated at Yale University, the Harvard Business School, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he received a Ph.D. in Political Science, and the Institute for Psychoanalysis, Chicago, where he received psychoanalytic training. He currently resides in Chicago.