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Michael Leube

About me

Born and raised in Innsbruck, Austria, I then spent my golden years in San Francisco. For me, everything I do is anthropology, even before I knew how my different academic interests intersected. While in California, I studied anthropology and religion before returning to Europe to get my master’s at the University of Vienna. True love dictated my next step as I followed my future wife to Madrid, where I worked as a translator, completed my Ph.D. thesis and got my start in teaching.

Work brought my family back to my home country until 2013, when we relocated to a small village outside of Madrid. Free of social media and television, I spend my time getting closer to myself and Mother Nature through music, yoga and Hapkido martial arts. With my two daughters and wife, and our Volkswagen van, we explore and camp all over Europe.

Finding the missing link

A deep curiosity for human nature and behavior has led Professor Michael Leube down a path of professional and personal discovery, through corporate and non-corporate worlds and, ultimately, to the classroom. As a student of life, Michael knows how important it is to not only teach his students and clients about human behavior, but also explain the reasons behind how and why we do the things we do. So while he is consumed with the hows and whys of life, Michael knows that even he needs to engage in a healthy disconnect by exploring with his family and engaging in physical activities to ground himself.

Teaching, whether in universities or the private sector, is at the heart of Michael’s career trajectory. His goal is to spread enthusiasm for the capabilities of humans. In 2001, just two years shy of completing his Ph.D. at the University of Zagreb, he began teaching anthropology at various post-secondary schools in Madrid. Michael spent the next five years at a professor in Salzburg University of Applied Sciences’ department of design, where he realized the missing link in his anthropological studies lied in the field of design. It was then he found himself, he says, in the “workshop of culture.”

With this discovery in mind, Professor Leube helps his students and corporate clients understand the connection between design and human behavior to help improve peoples’ lives in the real world, thus becoming a design anthropologist. After experiencing a disconnect in the classroom between teaching and doing, Michael set out on his own volunteer work with NGOs around the world.

Three years ago, Michael joined IE University as a professor in the Bachelor in Design, Bachelor in Behavior & Social Sciences, and Master in Business for Architecture & Design programs. He teaches everything from psychology and design, to research techniques, ethnography and understanding demography. At the core of his classes is the importance of bridging the gap between theory and practice. Michael’s own thirst for knowledge during his own educational career bleeds into the way he teaches today, with a fulfilling understanding of not only the theories behind design and behavior, but how to put them into practice in the real world. Simply put, he aims to inspire his students to go out and change the world as we know it.

Professor Leube is especially passionate about the connection between behavior, design and sustainability. Understanding why people use certain products and services is central to his passion for creating change in the current system of production and consumption. As such, Michael has written extensively on the circular economy, even organizing a conference on circular design in the past.

His personal experience working in the anthropological and design fields brings a higher level of understanding to the classroom for his students. Michael’s teaching career may revolve around how we as humans connect to each other and to our environment, but he chooses to disconnect by ditching his TV and social media. In his free time, he likes to stay active by mountain biking, practicing yoga and traveling Europe—just himself, his two daughters, his wife and their beloved Volkswagen Van.

"Everything I do is anthropology…Human behavior can only be understood contextually. To create any cultural change whatsoever, we must start by looking at how and, even more importantly, why people are users of products and services."
Michael Leube