Professor Robert Spillane

BCom (Applied Psychology) (UNSW), PhD (Psychology) (Macq)

Professor of Management
Macquarie Graduate School of Management (Sydney, Australia)

Professor Spillane teaches philosophy in the hope that it will be applied to management and psychology in the hope that it will not. Following eight years with BP and Philips, he joined the School of Behavioural Sciences at Macquarie University in 1972 and accepted a full-time position at the Macquarie Graduate School of Management in 1976. From 1989 to 1991 he was Dean of MGSM.

In the 1970s Professor Spillane worked with American psychologist, Dr. Albert Ellis and has worked, since the 1980s, with renowned psychiatrist, Professor Thomas Szasz. He practiced psychotherapy in Sydney for 25 years, working especially on occupational stress, RSI and ADHD.

Professor Spillane has taught at the London Business School, the Universities of NSW and Stockholm and the ABCOR Institute in Germany. From 2003 to 2009 he delivered more than 120 widely-acclaimed lectures on philosphy and psychology for the Art Gallery Society of NSW.

In 2006 he received the Thomas S. Szasz Award from the Center for Independent Thought in New York for his contribution to the cause of human liberty.

Teaching Areas:

  • Managerial Psychology
  • Foundations of Management Thought

Research Interests:

  • History of Western Ideas
  • Philosophies of Management
  • Psychology and its Misapplication to Management
  • Australian Managerial Values
  • Leadership and Management
  • ADHD and other Mental Disorders

Published Research

Professor Spillane has written more than 130 professional articles, twelve books and a play — ‘Entertaining Executives’ — which was first performed at the Mermaid Theatre, London, in May 2006. His recent books are:

  • ‘Philosophy of Leadership: The Power of Authority’, Palgrave Macmillan, 2015. With Jean-Etienne Joullié.
  • ‘Entertaining Executives’, GOKO Publishing, 2015.
  • ‘The Rise of Psychomanagement in Australia’, Melbourne: Michelle Anderson Publishing, 2011.
  • ‘Enlightened Eccentrics’, Melbourne: Michelle Anderson Publishing, 2010.
  • ‘Questionable Behaviour: Psychology’s Undermining of Personal Responsibility’, Melbourne: Michelle Anderson Publishing, 2009.
  • ‘An Eye for an I: Living Philosophy’, Melbourne: Michelle Anderson Publishing, 2007. 2nd edition: GOKO Publising, 2015.
  • ‘Personality & Performance: Foundations for Managerial Psychology’, (with J. Martin), Sydney: UNSW Press, 2005.

Contact Details

Call +61 2 9850 8995 or email.


  1. Doug
    Posted May 7, 2011 at 4:18 am | Permalink

    Professor Spillane,

    Very informative and refreshing website. I came across it from a search I did containing the phrase, “Asperger’s Syndrome is a fraud”, believe it or not. It’s good to see some free thought still being applied to these issues today. However, I must play Devil’s Advocate, and ask, if mental illness is truly a myth, how about the supposed evidence of PET scans showing different brain activity in individuals with mental illness? Isn’t this some sort of physical evidence? Also, what’s all this hype about SSRI’s and serotonin levels? Pseudo-science?

  2. Benjamin Marks
    Posted May 7, 2011 at 5:30 pm | Permalink

    Doug: There is no such thing as mental illness, but there is brain illness. So you’re saying that brain illness is proven by serotonin levels. Well, where are the studies showing what the healthy serotonin levels are? There are none. How do you tell whether depression causes serotonin level changes, or if it is the other way around? Where is the research? Here’s an interesting article.

  3. Posted August 11, 2011 at 10:53 pm | Permalink


    I’m in the process of reading Prof. Spillane’s book ‘Questionable Behaviour’ and I had a niggling fear that he might be involved with Scientology and now am relieved that he’s not.
    I agree with the idea that the mind is not the brain, and like Prof. Spillane I disagree that the soul is located in one little part of the brain somewhere. I think that the mind is closer to the soul than the brain, as the original French translation affirms. Also, it is not a semantic point that the word ‘mind’ is an abstract idea that psychiatrists treat as if it’s a concrete reality. I get it and will encourage others in my course of study (grad Dip Teach) to investigate his book as we are all now currently engaged in studying the various illnesses that afflict the modern youth we will soon have to teach.

    One point I think is important to make is about nutrition: kids these days eat a lot of degraded, low-nutrition crap. The brain is an organ that uses 25% of the calories consumed in a day. But it needs vitamins and trace elements to function properly.

    I posit that if kids ate better (got their required daily nutritional intake of vitamins and trace elements) then their behaviour would improve drastically. There’s a huge consumer movement towards organically grown, additive free food and the awareness of nutrition in the general population is growing. I think that Professor Spillane should check out the links between brain function and nutrition. It’s important.

    And I’d like to have him on my radio show.



  4. Posted August 14, 2011 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

    ChrispyT: Regarding your radio show, Professor Spillane is contactable via the email and phone number above. It is unlikely he will see your comment here.

  5. Manjit
    Posted February 7, 2012 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

    Professor Spillane’s discussion on ABC radio today was wonderful for me.

  6. Robbo
    Posted February 8, 2012 at 10:13 am | Permalink

    I only heard some of the interview with Richard on the ABC while driving but it was very interesting and as a result I have listened to and read more content from this site and would like to learn more, however Dr Spillane’s books don’t seem to be for sale on this site. Are they available in shops or would I have to buy online? I have still have many questions about Dr Spillane’s views and am not sure whather I fully agree or disagree with any or all of them, but it certainly is an important and interesting set of topics.

  7. Posted February 8, 2012 at 10:16 am | Permalink
  8. Nerida
    Posted February 8, 2012 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

    ChrispyT – here here! If only kids ate properly and not fed on the run by overstressed parents we might not have this problem in the first place!! Fruit & Veg is GST free after all!

  9. Posted February 8, 2012 at 6:03 pm | Permalink

    Hi Robert,
    I just finished listening to your ABC Radio podcast with Richard Fidler. How refreshing it is to me to listen to your words and find common ground.

    In my life I have met with and lived with many troubled people. From people who abuse alcohol & drugs, to people with unusual and sometimes disturbing behaviors to children who have been branded “ADHD”, “ADD” and others labels. I have felt like a lone voice in a great crowd, until now. Through life’s experience I have developed many ideas, theories or some may even call them phylosophies, about why people behave the way they do. Raised eyebows, scoffs and rolled eyes is all i get when i speak about it, but when I heard you speak so eloquently I knew I wanted to know more.

    Thank-you for having the courage to speak the truth

  10. Nick Stuart
    Posted July 11, 2012 at 9:09 am | Permalink

    It has been very interesting to read your article for the skeptic magazine. Even more enlightening has been to read the criticism. It has always amazed me how skeptics, who pride themselves on rational and scientific thinking, can start spouting the most pseudoscientific rubbish when faced with the question of mental ‘illness’. I am really puzzled by this fact. In fact I find it totally bizarre. There is almost a ‘fundamentalist’ religious attitude adopted by the skeptic community regarding the work of Dr. Szasz. See Steven Novella’s blogs and JREF activity on this. Why do you think this is?

  11. Posted February 22, 2013 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

    Hi, I have just listened to your interview with Richard Fidler on conversations. So happy to hear a psychologist say that there is no mental diseases caused by chemical imbalance. I have been a Rebirther/Breathworker for 20yrs,and have written a book about about the dependency/addiction to being depressed. I spend most of my consultation time talking about clients idea of staying depressed about something that happened years ago.Then we go through the detoxification from the anti-depressants , with the support from a GP that understands my work and what I do. Clients are now coming to me to get assistance with the withdrawal from the drugs and the re-entry to being off the drugs and fully doing their lives again…..
    I guess I wonder when it will all end and when the drug companies and big pharma will get exposed for selling drugs for fantasy illnesses….just saying!!

  12. Ruairidh
    Posted February 26, 2013 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

    Just listened to the ABC interview and found it very interesting and affirming. It also seems to be similar in content to a book I just finished called “The Psychopath Test”, by Jon Ronson, which mentions the DSM books and the Hare Psycopath test thingy. I fully agree that the “illnesses” in the DSM books are ridiculous, but what does Mr Spillane (or his theory) think about psychopathy? The advocates of the Hare Test in Ronson’s books seemed convinced that psychopathy was a problem caused by something inherent in the brain, and I was wondering if there is actual evidence for this, or are they mistaking the ‘mind’ for the brain, as Mr Spillane talked about?

  13. Chip Fisher
    Posted May 25, 2013 at 8:24 am | Permalink

    I enjoyed your comments on the DSM V video.

    We are in a heated battle with the FDA to reclassify our non-invasive medical device, which treats depression, anxiety and insomnia without drugs.

    It is therefore a pleasure to see others not giving into the corruption of the APA and the pharmaceutical industry.


    Chip Fisher
    Fisher Wallace Laboratories

  14. Janet Brady
    Posted June 28, 2013 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

    I just finished reading Prof Spillane’s book “The Rise of Psychomanagement in Australia”. This book provides a convincing argument against the use/misuse of psychology in the workplace. In particular, it highlights research findings that suggest practices such as personality testing and support for various non-cognitive intelligences should be relegated to the dust bin. This book should be read by all managers and HR personnel. However, I suspect the latter would find the book too challenging as it calls into question many of their taken-for-granted professional practices.

    Prof Spillane writes for a wide audience so the book is easy to follow, and I particularly enjoy his dry sense of humour.

    I look forward to reading his other books.

    Janet Brady
    PhD Candidate
    Dept. Linguistics
    Macquarie University

  15. Glenn Archibald
    Posted April 6, 2014 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

    Hello, I have listened with great interest to Professor Spillane’s podcast from Conversations with Richard Fidler of 7 Feb 2012. I was diagnosed with OCD, ADD and Narcissistic Personality Disorder and put through DBT. This treatment, far from alleviating my symptoms, exacerbated them and I went from daily suicidal ideation to setting a date. Fortunately I raised this concern with my GP who prescribed me seroquel. So immediate was the relief that, that evening, I terminated the DBT with the Psychiatric Registrar and medical student. Shortly thereafter I terminated treatment by the psychiatrist. Seroquel changed by perceptions and cleared up the disordered and chaotic thinking and has given me a more decent quality of life. I did express concern to my GP that there was something wrong with my brain rather than psychological causes. The OCD has been greatly alleviated as had the ADD. The NPD traits, I think, are completely gone. Whilst wrongly medicated, pre seroquel, I was very highly suggestible, believing all the rubbish that the medical student told me. I look back now and laugh but always wonder had I continued with DBT whether I would have gotten to the point of taking my own life. By listening to the podcast I have asked myself why I was depressed and have finally found a reason and it was not for the reasons the psychs projected on to me. I actually wonder if I was diagnosed not on facts, but based on the beliefs of the psychs. Their treatment clearly failed.

  16. Max Rawnsley
    Posted September 7, 2015 at 5:20 pm | Permalink

    I had the benefit of Robert Spillane during an MBA at Macquarie. As someone who had not taken an academic interest in Philosophy previously it was the most rewarding series of lectures and discussions I have attended, And that covers a lot of territory! Having just come across the more recent publications they will become my off line interest and I look forward to it. RS was a challenging lecturer and I can still recall the joy I experienced in receiving his introduction to the subject matter.

  17. Matt Grech
    Posted November 13, 2016 at 10:31 am | Permalink

    I have also just finished an MBA at Macquarie. Robert has has given me the tools to help question things about management I previously mistook for universal truths. His teachings have had a significant effect on the way I approach many aspects of my work life, especially in the power of critical thinking and argument.

  18. David Lee
    Posted December 30, 2016 at 9:30 pm | Permalink

    I had the privilege of studying under Robert Spillane during my MBA at AGSM 12 years ago. I had no previous interest in philosophy. Dr Spillane opened my eyes to understanding why we accept that an ethos is ‘good’ or ‘bad’ or some shade of grey in between. Those beliefs have shifted over time as beliefs aka philosophies have gained support and ultimately accepted as ‘true’ and ‘good’. For example, under a modernist view, it was a commonly accepted belief that people had a free will with choices and consequences. Over time this changed to a post-modern view that we do not have a free will with our choices and actions governed by internal and external influences that are not us. This is the current widespread belief in Australia today. Think of the parent who excuses their child’s behaviour because the GP/Psychiatrist has diagnosed that their child is ‘suffering from ADHD’ or a myriad of other syndromes and disorders. Dr Spillane pointed out that these are categorisations of behaviour, and not a cause of the behaviour. I came away from Robert’s tuition on this and many other topics feeling like Neo in The Matrix after being unplugged from his artificial fantasy world and realises what the real world is. I will be eternally grateful to Dr Spillane for this enlightenment.

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