Chair of Leadership –

Developing actionable insights for Human Resource Management.

About us

The Chair of Leadership at Campus Düsseldorf seeks to improve leadership in different contexts to ultimately create better organizations through scientific research, practice collaborations and education on leadership. We take a holistic approach and consider leadership as a dynamic process in which managers and employees mutually influence each other to achieve a common goal.

Many people across different contexts – e.g., the corporate world, politics, or voluntary organizations – are not satisfied with their leaders. Despite the willingness to improve this situation, many managers are not sure how to adapt their leadership styles to face challenges such as managing through or with the help of Artificial Intelligence (AI), and supervising self-managed teams in which informal leaders take on responsibility.

To help remedy this situation, our Chair investigates leader-follower dynamics as they unfold in organizational life. We are particularly committed to help organizations appreciate diversity among their leaders, with a specific focus on age diversity and female leadership. Our work has been published in leading research journals such as the Academy of Management Journal, Academy of Management Learning & Education, Human Relations, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology or The Leadership Quarterly

Exemplary Research –
Who is talking themselves into a leader role?

News and stories

Read the news from our Chair –
Keep up with the latest events and activities.

Research project about the microdynamics of leadership in virtual meetings to run from 2020 to 2022.

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Effectively establishing diversity is not only important but also challenging.

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Summer in the City: Outdoor Team Day

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Guest Speaker about Friendship at Work

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In celebration of the international women’s day 2020, a conference on “Women. Power. Leadership” took place at WHU.

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The night of science is a public event to discover what researchers do

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Our team

The Chair of Leadership Team:

Professor Dr. Fabiola H. Gerpott

+49-(0)211 44709-375

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Fabienne Wrobel

Personal Assistant
+49-(0)211 44709-376

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Mon-Thurs, 8:00 – 13.30


Lukas Lanz

Research Assistant/Doctoral Candidate
+49-(0)211 44709-377

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Vera M. Schweitzer

Research Assistant/Doctoral Candidate
+49-(0)211 44709-379

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Lioba A. Gierke

Research Assistant/Doctoral Candidate
+49-(0)211 44709-374

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Sofia Schlamp

External Doctoral Student/
Shell Trainee

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Anna van der Velde

External Doctoral Candidate/Daimler HR

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Our research focus

Studying leader-follower dynamics in daily life –
Improving leadership for organizations.

With our research, we seek to inspire leaders in different contexts, share practices, and inform public policy debates.

Our research falls into three broad areas of interest:

In its essence, leadership is communication. To influence others, people have to talk – and some do so more effectively than others. In this stream of research, we answer questions such as:

  • How do people talk themselves into leadership role?
  • Which non-verbal signs do (emergent) leaders use?
  • How and under which circumstances do specific communication styles – such as leading and communicating with respect – positively influence employees?

The workforce is becoming increasingly diverse – not only in terms of easily visible attributes such as age or gender, but also in terms of more subtle attributes such as culture or educational background. This can be an opportunity for creating a richer knowledge base in organizations. However, diversity may also be challenging to handle for leaders. In this stream of research, we seek to provide evidence for leaders to be able to profit from the bright side of diversity and avoid the potential dark sides. We answer questions such as:

  • How can leaders enhance intergenerational learning in organizations?
  • Which tools can leaders use to foster knowledge sharing in a diverse workforce?
  • What are the micro-dynamics occurring in the daily life of female leaders that may prevent them from climbing the career ladder?

Leaders strongly influence the organizational context that shapes employees’ behaviors. In this stream of research, we investigate the interplay of leadership and employee behavior as well as organizational context factors to answer questions such as:

  • Through which mechanisms do leaders enhance employees’ pro-organizational behaviors?
  • How can leaders manage the daily (self-control) demands of their employees in an optimal way?
  • Why are some leaders able to advance their career by using “dark leader behaviors” such as being nice to those above and mean to those below?

Our publications –
A selection of journal articles.

Emergent leadership—the ascription of informal leadership responsibilities among team members—is a dynamic phenomenon that comes into place through social interactions. Yet, theory remains sparse about the importance of verbal behaviors for emergent leadership in self- managed teams over a team’s lifecycle. Adopting a functional perspective on leadership, we develop a temporal account that links changes in task-, change-, and relations-oriented communication to emergent leadership in early, middle, and late team phases. We test the hypothesized relationships in 42 teams that provided round-robin emergent leadership ratings and videotapes of their first, midterm, and final meetings. Team members’ verbal behaviors were captured using fine-grained empirical interaction coding. Multilevel modeling showed that task- oriented communication was a stable positive predictor of emergent leadership at all time points. Change-oriented communication predicted emergent leadership at the start of the project and diminished in relevance at the midterm and final meetings. Relations-oriented communication gained importance, such that an increase in relations-oriented behaviors toward the project end predicted emergent leadership. We discuss theoretical implications for conceptualizing the behavioral antecedents of emergent leadership from a time- and context-sensitive perspective.

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This study advances theorizing on human resource development by conceptualizing a training group’s age diversity composition as an antecedent of participants’ learning outcomes in organizational training courses. Drawing from social identity theory, we propose that a high age diversity of the training group can inhibit participants’ learning outcomes because individuals are less likely to share knowledge than in age-homogenous groups. Furthermore, we expect that psychological safety serves as a buffer, such that participants who perceive a high level of psychological safety in a training group will engage in knowledge sharing and consequently report high learning outcomes, regardless of the training group’s age diversity composition. We tested the proposed moderated mediation model in a sample of 211 employees participating in an interactive one-day training at an automobile manufacturer. We found that perceived age diversity, but not objective age diversity, was negatively linked to participants’ learning outcomes and that this relationship was mediated by knowledge sharing. Participants’ perceptions of psychological safety served as a buffer against the negative effect of perceived age diversity. We discuss implications for the conceptual understanding of learning as an active process shaped by the training group and encourage scholars to broaden their understanding of training design elements.

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Context frames such as describing a Prisoner's Dilemma as a “community” or a “stock exchange” game cause significant variation in cooperative behaviour. Here, we draw on recent advances in research on situation construal to propose that perceived conflict of interests is a mechanism underlying framing effects on cooperation in experimental games. Specifically, we argue that people readily think about situations in terms of conflicts of interests, and how people perceive the conflict of interests in different games predicts differences in cooperation across these games. In a formal model, we show that variation in perceived conflict of interests can affect cooperative decisions even when first-order beliefs and social preferences are static. We test this model across two studies (total N = 1615). In each study, we elicited situation perceptions and beliefs about others' behaviour in a framed game. The basic framing effect replicated in a dichotomous-choice Prisoner's Dilemma (study 1), but not in a continuous-choice Prisoner's Dilemma (study 2). Perceptions of conflict of interests mediated between framing and cooperative behaviour, whereas beliefs and preferences did not. Exploratorily, perceptions of conflict of interests had a causal effect on cooperative behaviour when induced orthogonally to the frame. This study provides evidence for perceptions of conflict of interests as a mechanism underlying framing effects and integrates framing effects with the wider literature on situation perception. Moreover, it supports a causal role of situation perception in social decision-making. However, the results also call into question the generalisability of framing effects.

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Knowledge sharing is a discretionary act of employees who might see benefits in keeping their knowledge to themselves. We focus on the other-oriented nature of knowledge sharing to outline how respectful eadership as an other-oriented leadershipstyle can enhance followers’ knowledge sharing through its effect on followers’ other-orientedness. Specifically, we propose that respectful leaders increase followers’ social mindfulness—defined as the cognitive (i.e., perspective taking) and affective (i.e., empathic concern) willingness to behave in a way that increases others’ opportunities— which facilitates knowledge sharing. To test our conceptual model, we conducted a three-wave field study with 275 followers, and a multi-source field study with 83 leaderfollower dyads. In line with our hypotheses, followers’ perspective taking (Study 1 and 2) and empathic concern (Study 1) mediated the positive effect of respectful leadership on followers’ knowledge sharing. Moreover, perspective taking and empathic concern possessed interactive effects in Study 1, suggesting that the relationship between respectful leadership and followers’ knowledge sharing was strongest when both components of social mindfulness were high. We discuss theoretical implications of the identified motivational pathway and elaborate on implications for practitioners who aim to facilitate knowledge sharing at work.

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Research on work and aging predominantly relies on self-report data to create new insights relevant to individuals, organizations, and society. Whereas surveys and interviews based on self-reports offer a valuable inward-directed perspective on individuals and their understanding of others, they can only provide limited knowledge on the behaviors of employees at different ages and in age-diverse settings. This is because what employees actually do is often considerably different from their survey-based reports of what they or others do. In this commentary, we challenge the field to move beyond a science of questionnaires by complementing survey research with behavioral data. First, this would allow scholars to identify when and how behaviors accurately translate into surveyed perceptions of behaviors. Second, such an approach can advance our understanding of the micro-dynamics occurring in age-diverse workforces that ultimately manifest in emerging phenomena (e.g., age-inclusive climate, psychological safety perceptions, or group affective tone). Lastly, studying concrete and specific behaviors also allows scholars to develop better interventions and provide meaningful recommendations for practice that differentiate actual from perceived behaviors.

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Despite the proliferation of research on ethical leadership, there remains a limited understanding of how specifically the assumingly moral component of this leadership style affects employee behavior. Taking an identity perspective, we integrate the ethical leadership literature with research on the dynamics of the moral self-concept to posit that ethical leadership will foster a sense of moral identity among employees, which then inspires followers to adopt more ethical actions, such as increased organization citizenship behavior (OCB). We further argue that these identity effects should be more pronounced when leaders are perceived to be group prototypical, as their actions then speak louder to followers’ sense of identity. Two studies—a scenario experiment with 138 participants and a field study with 225 employees—provided support for our hypothesized moderated mediation model. Perceived ethical leadership positively affected OCB via followers’ moral identity but only under conditions of high perceived leader group prototypicality. We discuss how the identity pathway of ethical leadership can facilitate novel theorizing about moral transference. Our findings also suggest that, when hiring external ethical leaders or training internal managers, practitioners are well advised to consider that these individuals may only be effective in morally transforming followers when they are perceived as prototypical for the group.

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Integrating evolutionary signaling theory with a social attention approach, we argue that individuals possess a fast, automated mechanism for detecting leadership signals in fellow humans that is reflected in higher visual attention toward emergent leaders compared to non-leaders. To test this notion, we first videotaped meetings of project teams and collected leadership ratings for the team members from three rating sources. Second, we provided 18 naïve observers with 42 brief, muted video clips of the team meetings and analyzed their eye gazing patterns. Observers gazed at emergent leaders more often, and for an average longer duration, than at non-leaders. Gender effects occurred such that male emergent leaders received a higher number of fixations than female emergent leaders. Non-verbal behavior analysis indicated that emergent leaders showed a higher amount of active gestures and less passive facial expressions than non-leaders. We discuss theoretical and methodological directions for emergent leadership research in teams.

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Demographic changes challenge organizations to qualify employees across all career stages and to ensure the transfer of company-specific knowledge between experienced and young workers. Human resource development programs for employees from different generations may help address these challenges. However, there is a lack of insight into what types of knowledge employees in intergenerational training groups acquire from one another, as well as how these learning processes differ at different time points. Over a span of 3 years, we conducted 31 interviews at an automobile company involving young (16–19 years) and experienced participants (41–47 years) of a full-time intergenerational learning program and their instructors. Our findings show that both generations possess distinct expert, practical, social, and metacognitive knowledge, and that they exchange different types of knowledge at different time points. We integrate these findings into a phase model of intergenerational learning comprising three phases: (1) familiarization, (2) assimilation, and (3) detachment. Our results suggest that intergenerational learning should be conceptualized as a bidirectional process with different foci of mutual knowledge exchange across different temporal phases. To facilitate intergenerational learning, instructors should adapt their teaching methods to employees’ phase-specific needs and find ways to systematically map older and younger employees’ specific knowledge contents.

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The nature of the consequences of knowledge hiding, defined as an intentional attempt to withhold knowledge that has been requested, and the mechanisms through which knowledge hiding affects outcomes are undertheorized. In this research, we propose that knowledge hiding can evoke guilt and shame in the knowledge hiding perpetrator. We zoom into the three types of knowledge hiding – evasive hiding, playing dumb, and rationalized hiding – and predict that the more deceptive knowledge hiding types, namely evasive hiding and playing dumb, evoke stronger feelings of guilt and shame than rationalized hiding. We further argue that guilt and shame trigger differential emotion‐based reparatory mechanisms, such that guilt induces the motivation to correct one's transgressions through organizational citizenship behaviour (OCB), whereas shame induces the tendency to withdraw after hiding knowledge, as reflected in lower levels of OCB. We test the proposed positive indirect relation between knowledge hiding and OCB via guilt, and the proposed negative indirect relation via shame in a scenario‐based experiment and a two‐wave field study. The studies provided support for most of our hypotheses. We discuss how the proposed emotion pathway can facilitate nuanced theorizing about consequences of knowledge hiding for different types of negative emotions and subsequent compensatory work behaviours.

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Interdependence is a fundamental characteristic of social interactions. Interdependence Theory states that 6 dimensions describe differences between social situations. Here we examine if these 6 dimensions describe how people think about their interdependence with others in a situation. We find that people (in situ and ex situ) can reliably differentiate situations according to 5, but not 6, dimensions of interdependence: (a) mutual dependence, (b) power, (c) conflict, (d) future interdependence, and (e) information certainty. This model offers a unique framework for understanding how people think about social situations compared to another recent model of situation construal (DIAMONDS). Furthermore, we examine factors that are theorized to shape perceptions of interdependence, such as situational cues (e.g., nonverbal behavior) and personality (e.g., HEXACO and Social Value Orientation). We also study the implications of subjective interdependence for emotions and cooperative behavior during social interactions. This model of subjective interdependence explains substantial variation in the emotions people experience in situations (i.e., happiness, sadness, anger, and disgust), and explains 24% of the variance in cooperation, above and beyond the DIAMONDS model. Throughout these studies, we develop and validate a multidimensional measure of subjective outcome interdependence that can be used in diverse situations and relationships—the Situational Interdependence Scale (SIS). We discuss how this model of interdependence can be used to better understand how people think about social situations encountered in close relationships, organizations, and society.

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Extreme success among entrepreneurs is often attributed to their charisma. In contrast, this essay claims that success causes the ascription of charisma to entrepreneurs. The proponents of the entrepreneurial ideology uphold successful charismatic entrepreneurs as role models to attract aspiring entrepreneurs in the face of deterrent information like the share of luck accountable for many prosperous entrepreneurial projects, startups’ low success rate, the entrepreneur’s restricted role in creating economic growth, and the routinization of the entrepreneurial function. Yet, due to the ideological functionality of attributing charisma to successful entrepreneurs, we suggest that – despite the strong contrary evidence – the glorification of entrepreneurs will continue to exist (and might become even stronger) in times of “alternative facts”. Yet, such a strategy of biased fact interpretation may have considerable negative side effects on society and individuals striving for entrepreneurship. Therefore, we not only call for more research taking into account the multidimensional nature of entrepreneurship, but also sensitize researchers for the threat of post-factual thinking when engaging in an ideological intervened research stream.

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A large number of organizations restructured their Human Resource Management (HRM) departments according to their interpretation of Ulrich’s (1997) business partner model into strategic business partners, centers of expertise and shared service centers. I argue that this approach could gain widespread acceptance in organizational practice because of its functionality in addressing tensions inherent in HRM. I relate to paradox research and categorize contradictory HRM demands into tensions of (1) identity, (2) learning, (3) performing and (4) organizing. The implementation of the business partner model resolves these tensions in the short-term by addressing the opposing forces separately. Yet, these resolution strategies are not sustainable and threaten the long-term impact of HRM. I discuss the shortcomings of the business partner model and explore how organizational actors can reframe HRM work to embrace the multifaceted nature of HRM.

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Get in touch

Get in touch with us –
We look forward to hearing from you.

Prof. Dr. Fabiola H. Gerpott


Tel.: +49 211 44709-375
Cell: +49 176 6461 2659


WHU – Otto Beisheim School of Management

Erkrather Straße 224a
D-40233 Düsseldorf

Entrance 228c
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