Job-fit theory and personal development


This blog entry is a personal reflection upon the job-fit theory and the development of peronal skills.

The Job-fit theory states that satisfaction is highest and turnover lowest when personality and occupation are in alignment (Ch5) but isn’t it the case that one’s personality can still change quite a lot? In fact, I hope that I will still change (towards a better self, of course) as I learn and grow in an organization. Meeting different personalities, experiencing work/study programs abroad or discovering a new area of interest has always given me and my values new inputs and reasons to develop into a different direction. Therefore, can’t satisfaction be increased by giving people the opportunity to grow further?

My diverse interests often depend on the input I get from my environment and the people that are currently influencing me the most.Therefore, I believe that an organizational culture and especially supervisors can have a great impact on one’s thoughts and further development. During an internship at a bank, for instance, I experienced an affiliative however demanding leadership style by my boss. She was a very self-confident lady and admired by the people in her department. As we discussed in class as well I was wondering if she had always been able to guide people that well intuitively or whether she actually acquired these skills with experience and self-development. Building good relationships or being able to communicate effectively are certainly skills that can be sharpened and trained with experience and discipline. Since these are key in being a good leader I believe that leaders need a certain set of given things, such as a certain level of IQ, but that most of what makes a good leader is actually acquired. I came across a very interesting book called Leadership Effectiveness Training. The book can be described as an on-going learning experience which helped me acquire a much better understanding and ability to work with people. Thomas Gordon, the author, is a well-known psychologist and recognized as a pioneer in teaching communication skills and conflict resolution. This book supports the view that leaders are not born but rather made and gave me a deeper understanding in how to acquire these skills. It actively teaches how to make use of active listening, I-messages, and no-lose conflict resolution due to a catalogue of examples where I could relate myself to. Each person will find examples they have already experienced or can relate to. Here, a concrete set of tools and skills are introduced that help to succeed in today’s workplace and step up as a leader.

Often, people do not know exactly what they are good at or realize particular strength during projects and tasks. Thus, the Job-fit theory seems to be rather short-term oriented and narrow minded. In my judgement, a Person-Organization fit is a better approach in finding the social capita of one’s organization since it is unlikely to change deep values and one’s cultural view upon situations. Personality, however, can and should be developed further over time.




Gordon, T. (2001). Leader effectiveness training, L.E.T: Proven skills for leading today’s business into tomorrow. New York, N.Y: Berkley Pub. Group

Bass, B. M. (2000). The future of leadership in learning organizations. Journal of Leadership Studies, 7(3), 18-40.

Barrick, M. R., Mitchell, T. R., & Stewart, G. L. (2003). Situational and motivational influences on trait–behavior relationships. In M. R. Barrick, & A. M. Ryan (Eds.), Personality and work: Reconsidering the role of personality in organizations (pp. 60–82). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Hofstede, Geert (1980). Motivation, leadership, and organization: Do American theories apply abroad? Organizational Dynamics, 9(1): 42-63.



Teamwork vs Groupwork

Teamwork is one of the latest trends catching the attention of both the corporate and the academic world. While those final exams which used to account for 90 or 100% of the final grade seem to be sentenced, many universities, probably led by business schools, are increasingly introducing teamwork projects to bring the student’s assessment closer to the real labour market needs. Indeed, recruitment processes do not only assess the technical background of candidates anymore but also evaluate the so-called “soft skills” such as teamwork, empathy or pressure management.

Teamwork benefits are indisputable: higher quality of the outcome, more creative solutions, more scenarios and risks taken into account, higher commitment as well as higher motivation due to the sense of community.

However, looking back at my background as student and intern, I have come up with the impression that despite all these efforts in enhancing teamwork in schools and workplaces, we still talk much more about teamwork than we put it in practise. One might think of the opposite of teamwork as being individual work but it is not. After some years, I have realised that the opposite of teamwork is group work, understood as an aggregation of individuals. While individual work is appropriate for those situations where work needs to be done quickly, teamwork, as the Arab saying states, is suitable to go further. So… what is group work for? It is actually a combination of both that does not drive anywhere. Let’s examine why.

To start with, let’s clarify the difference between team and group. While a team is a single unit formed by members that reject their own self-interest for the benefit of The Team, a group is an aggregation of individuals who just want to have their part done, without regard to any shared goals and common mission. As each individual only cares about his or her own interest, the main difference teams and groups is the creation of synergies. While teamwork outcome is worth more than the sum of the components, when it is about group work the outcome become poorer than the sum of the components because neither the benefits of individual work nor teamwork take place. Since there are not shared goals but self-driven individuals, each one will try to get rid of as much work as possible instead of delivering one’s best to the (nonexistent) shared project. In addition, maybe without bad faith, some members will lean too much on the brightest group mates, thus creating a bad atmosphere and latent conflicts confronting people instead of ideas.

So… If teamwork is so advantageous and group work so bad, why so many people still work in groups instead of teams? I identify 2 complementary answers.

  1. As teamwork usually requires an extra-effort in terms of coordination, negotiation and empathy, many people just choose the easiest and shortest track: forming groups. Nonetheless, I have to recognise that I am pleasingly surprised to see how local students –at least those few I have worked with- are so good at teamwork, unlike the usual way of working in Europe, more individualistic and getting-things-done based, despite playing against teamwork philosophy.
  2. In the corporate world, group work can be the result –and the responsibility- of a bad management. Let me give an example. When Pep Guardiola, former coach of FC Barcelona, arrived at Barça, the first decision he made was sacking a clique of players who were the most selfish and party-goers of the team. These players were Eto’o, who was considered the best center-forward of the world, Ronaldinho, former Ballon d’Or; and Deco, one of the best midfielders of that moment. By doing so, Guardiola was refusing to have the best players of the world in order to have the best team of the world. While Real Madrid was investing hundreds of millions of euros in signing up top stars, Barça was playing with up to 8 players raised at La Masia, the Barça reserve of young players. Two years later, Barça became the second team ever to win all of its tournaments in one year (6 in total), while Madrid has been crossing the dessert for years.


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The Power of Introverts

We learnt about the MBTI personality test in OB, one dimension of which assesses whether a person is more extroverted or introverted. These terms are now widely used in everyday speech, having been adapted into popular culture. However, some misconceptions exist with regards to these two terms, which I would like to clarify.

(1) People are either pure extroverts or pure introverts
If a person gets a result of ENTJ, he might be inclined to think that he is an extrovert, whereas if another got a result of ISFP, she may believe that she is an introvert. However, reality is rarely black and white. To quote Carl G. Jung, the psychiatrist who popularised the terms in the early 20th century, “There is no such thing as a pure introvert or extrovert. Such a person would be in the lunatic asylum.”  Such a strong statement from the proponent himself lends weight to the fact that the terms “extrovert” and “introvert” are actually extreme ends of a scale and most people are actually different degrees of ambiverts, who exhibit both extroverted and introverted tendencies in a complex interaction between biology and situational factors

mno2(2) Extroversion refers to how outgoing a person is, whereas introversion is the same as shyness
Introversion and extroversion actually relate to the source of person’s energy; those with introverted tendencies tend to recharge by spending time alone, while those with extroverted tendencies tend to gain energy when being social with other people. Research has shown that such differences are actually wired in the brain. For extroverts, stimulation runs through a much shorter pathway where taste, touch, visual and auditory processing takes place. However for introverts, the stimulation tends to run through a longer pathway in areas associated with memory, planning and problem solving. Introverts’ tendency towards deep thought explains why they usually think carefully before speaking and tend to be more creative, while extroverts’ multi-sensory processing have made them known for their spontaneity and charm. The two orientations actually mirror the difference between right and left handedness, which also has a neurological basis.


Let us now move on to weightier subject matter. I chanced upon an excellent TED talk “The power of Introverts” by Susan Cain recently, inspiring the title of this post. Being a “self-confessed” introvert herself, she was able to bring across a few salient insights that I wish to share with all of you.

I think many of us would agree that our culture has a not-so-subtle bias towards extraversion, conditioned into children from an early age and reflected in the architecture of institutions. Classrooms and workplaces are mostly designed for extroverts, with clusters of desks and open plan offices where everyone is subject to the constant noise and gaze of each other. This is done even though research has reported that on average, introverts actually get better grades in school and move on to deliver better leadership outcomes at work! Given that a third to half of any human population tends towards introversion, that’s a pretty big group to discriminate against. So why does this cultural bias continue?

In fact, a major cultural shift occurred around the 20th century because of society’s transition from an agricultural economy to the world of big business. Instead of working alongside familiar people that they had known all their lives, many had to prove themselves to a crowd of strangers. It is under such circumstances that qualities like magnetism and charisma suddenly became hugely important. It has caused subversion from the original culture of character to a culture of personality. Such a change continues to have an indelible impact on the current generation.


Susan Cain advocates a better cultural balance, especially when it comes to creativity and productivity. After all, solitude is a crucial ingredient to creativity because it shields one from groupthink in the crucial initial stages of idea generation. A case in point would be Steve Wozniak, the inventor of the first Apple Computer. He admitted that he had invented it while sitting alone at his desk in Hewlett-Packard and would never have become an expert if he had not been too introverted to leave his house while growing up. Furthermore, examples of transformative leaders who were self-described introverts include Eleanor Roosevelt and Mahatma Gandhi, helping to dispel the notion that great leaders must always be extroverts. In fact, introverted leaders are often superior managers because their hands-off approach helps subordinates’ ideas to surface instead of unwittingly pushing their own ideas through.

I do not advocate abolishing group work altogether – many complex problems in our world do require teamwork to solve- but I believe that what is needed is a greater awareness of the merits of introversion and more freedom for introverts to be themselves and contribute to society in their own unique way. (:
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Transcript of Susan Cain’s TED Talk –

Is fitting into an organization’s culture important?

Is fitting into an organization’s culture important?

I decided to write about this topic after Mr Nolan’s talk about Unilever’s culture. During Mr Nolan’s talk, he mentioned that Unilever is a company that focuses a lot on giving back to the society and the company looks for people who are interested in giving back to the society as well. Thus, one can infer that individual-organization fit is a criteria he uses when deciding whether or not to hire a certain individual. The importance of individual-organizational fit can be illustrated in the fact that many companies, not just Unilever, do look for people who they believe can fit well into their organization culture and hold the same values as their company.

One of the reasons why individual-organization fit is important can be explained by the attraction, selection and attrition (ASA) model. This model posits that (1) Individuals are attracted to organizations whose members are similar to themselves in terms of personality, values, interests, and other attributes; (2) Organizations are more likely to select those who possess knowledge, skills, and abilities similar to the ones their existing members possess; and (3) Those who do not fit in well are more likely to leave over time.

This model implies the importance of organizational fit to companies as those who do not fit in will leave. Thus, if companies do not hire people who fit into the company, turnover rates will likely be high as people are more likely to leave a company where they do not fit in. Gelfand et al. (2007) found that congruence between an individual’s values and the organization’s values predicted turnover. Individual-organization fit is also correlated to organization commitment (Kristof-Brown, Zimmerma & Johnson, 2005). Individuals who do not fit into an organization may feel less loyalty and attachment to a company and may be more likely to leave.

I was also curious as to whether the importance of organization fit may differ across cultures. While person-environment fit remains important across all culture, fit might be less important in developing countries such as Kenya where unemployment rates are high and strong norms suppress individual preferences (see Gelfand et al., 2007). In collectivistic cultures, fitting in with others in the organization may be more important as compared to individualistic cultures, thus individual-organization fit may be more important to collectivistic individuals.

Across different cultures, the idea of what constitute individual-organization fit may differ as well. Chaung, Hsu, Wang and Judge (2013) highlighted that Chinese employees’ idea of individual-organization fit differs from their Western counterparts – Chinese employees care about their competence at work, harmonious connections at work, cultivation and balance between work and family. Thus, HR policies should be culture-sensitive. For example, Chaung et al. (2013) suggests that since competence at work is a criterion that is used for Chinese employees to deem whether or not they fit into a workplace, they suggest that organizations should recognize employees who excel at their jobs and provide employees with feedback regarding their work.

Since we know how important organization fit is to companies, should it matter to us job seekers? I argue that yes, I think it is important. A meta-analysis by Kristof-Brown et al. (2005) found that individual-organization fit is correlated with job satisfaction and other outcomes such as organization satisfaction and negatively correlated with intention to quit and strain. However, I also recognize the fact that it may be difficult to ascertain what an organization’s culture truly is until one starts working at the company. Thus, one possible way of finding out about a company’s culture is talking to people who have worked at the company before or are currently working in the company to ascertain if the company is a company you wish to work for.


Chuang, A., Hsu, S., Wang, A. C., & Judge, T. (2013). DOES WEST” FIT” WITH EAST? IN SEARCH OF A CHINESE MODEL OF PERSON-ENVIRONMENT FIT. Academy of Management Journal, amj-2012.

Gelfand, M. J., Erez, M., & Aycan, Z. (2007). Cross-cultural organizational behavior. Annu. Rev. Psychol., 58, 479-514.


Lee Kuan Yew’s Leadership

Leadership is one of the most discussed and researched topics since the 19th century. Yet still, there is no clear formula for the best leader. That is why I think there is a depth in this topic and is very interesting. In our Organisational Behaviour class, we learned about factors that determine a good leader. I would like to apply this knowledge from the class and my views on leadership to Lee Kuan Yew, founding father of Singapore who has recently passed away.

Nature and nurture is often discussed when looking at leadership. There are researches supporting both sides and I believe that both are important factors contributing to the leadership. In Lee Kuan Yew’s case, nature is easily visible in his family background. Lee Kuan Yew’s grandfather was successful with his large wealth. His aunt, Lee Choo Neo, is known as the first female doctor in Singapore. His three brothers were lawyer, chairman of stockbroker, and the president of Singapore Medical Council. Lee Kuan Yew’s children are current Prime Minister, former CEO of SingTel and Chairman of the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore, and head of the National Neuroscience Institute. As shown, many of his family members take important leadership roles in various professional fields. His personality contributes to his successful leadership also. As a prime minister of Singapore, he was honest with his opinion to the people and attracted people with his charisma.

Nurture is also vital in forming Lee Kuan Yew’s vision and skill as the leader. He faced the horrible reality during the Japanese occupation and experienced the horror of the war. This experience allowed him to become the leader who seeks no conflicts and no war. Lee Kuan Yew was educated in top school and studied in England. There, he learned law and was influenced by the western culture. The knowledge and intellectual he gained through his education provided necessary decision making skill.

Nature and nurture both play strong role in shaping Lee Kuan Yew as a leader of the country. I usually think that nurture weighs more for most people, but Lee Kuan Yew’s personality and characteristics that attracts people and the accomplishments of his family members makes me think that nature weighed more in his case.

As a transformational leader, I believe that Lee Kuan Yew had all four of the “I”s. Lee Kuan Yew had the “I”ndividual consideration because he cared about his people and encouraged them to make Singapore a great country. He was very “I”ntellectually stimulated with all of his ideas that challenged the traditional life style and methods. Lee Kuan Yew was a great speaker and often spoke about his ideal future of Singapore; his “I”nspirational motivation catalyzed the forward movement of Singapore by leading his people. Lee Kuan Yew had “I”dealized attributes and behaviours, because he cared about Singapore and it’s people and took actions himself. He was exemplary role model and had the trust of his people.

Lee Kuan Yew was a unique and successful leader who built and led Singapore. Some people criticize him for violating the freedom of speech, but Lee Kuan Yew argued that some limitation on those opinions are necessary to maintain the respect from people in order to lead the country and avoid unnecessary conflicts that would slow down the growth in Singapore. In regards of his personality, I personally like his honesty and bluntness in his speech. He had ideas and values, which may be different from other people, but he has his reasons to believe in his way and advocates loudly. I think that this is rarely seen in politicians, since this kind of communication may offend people with different views. But in the end, this type of honest and clear voice allowed people to trust in his words and follow his path to build the Singapore to where it is today.


“Between being loved and being feared, I have always believed Machiavelli was right. If nobody is afraid of me, I’m meaningless.” – Lee Kuan Yew



CSR as a hiring strategy?

csr cover



Time and time again, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) pops up in business articles and Harvard Business Reviews as a sustainable business strategy, and these articles never fail to mention CSR as a strategy to win consumers over.


After the class interaction with John Nolan from Proctor & Gamble, I thought about why people want to work for P&G so badly. The fact that they are amongst the first 50 companies on Fortune 500 list is understandable, as was the fact that they provide excellent training and overseas exposure. Does their CSR business model act in any way in attracting not just consumers, but also employees?


CSR refers to the activities, decisions, or policies that organisations engage to effect positive social change and environment sustainability. (Aguilera, Rupp, Williams, & Ganapathi, 2006) It is a powerful driver of sustainability spanning across different functions such as R&D, supply chain and marketing as we all know it.  Research also mainly focused on the effects of CSR on performance-based measures such as profit, sales and market share (Greening & Turban, 2000). What about recruitment? CSR is seldom associated as a hiring strategy and I wanted to find out more.


Research demonstrates that employee attitudes and behaviours are heavily influenced by organisational justice; how fair they consider their organization’s treatment of individuals within the organisation (Cropanzano, Byrne & Rupp, 2001). CSR is similar in a sense, with the slight modification that this time, it’s about how employees consider the treatment of individuals and environment external to the organisation.

Screen Shot 2015-04-03 at 9.53.34 pm

The above shows the result of a survey conducted to young working adults from Generation Y, the demographic group known for the most socially conscious consumption to date. This phenomenon can also be explained by the famous social identity theory proposed by the British social psychologist Henri Tajfel, who said that the groups which people belonged to were an important source of pride and self-esteem, giving individuals a sense of belonging to the social world. He said that to increase an individual’s self-image, one had to first enhance the status of the group in which he belonged. Organisation’s reputation in supporting socially responsible causes is definitely a major bonus point in today’s society and the importance placed on sustainability. Such reputation gives employees pride and job seekers the desire to belong to the organisation.

Be it the social identity theory, or the fact that we like to see fair treatment both within and outside the organisation, or the fact that we Generation Y kids are the most socially conscious consumers, there is a common understanding: CSR boosts a company’s competitiveness in terms of its reputation and social image to job seekers. So the answer to my initial question of “Does their CSR business model act in any way in attracting not just consumers, but also employees?” is yes. 

I am also interested in finding out if there are factors other than the improved organisational reputation and image due to CSR, that help to attract talents in today’s context. Intuitively, we all want to work for organisations with good reputation and image, but could there be more to CSR? I can’t wait to find out more!


Rupp, D. E., Ganapathi, J., Aguilera, R. V., & Williams, C. A. (2006). Employee reactions to corporate social responsibility: An organizational justice framework.Journal of Organizational Behavior, 27(4), 537-543

Aguilera, R., Rupp, D. E., Williams, C., & Ganapathi, J. (in press). Putting the S back in corporate social responsibility: A multi-level theory of social change in organizations. Academy of Management Review.

Tajfel, H. (Ed.). (2010). Social identity and intergroup relations (Vol. 7). Cambridge University Press.
Cropanzano, R., Byrne, Z. S., Bobocel, D. R., & Rupp, D. E. (2001). Moral virtues, fairness heuristics, social entities, and other denizens of organizational justice. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 58, 164–209.
Greening, D. W., & Turban, D. B. (2000). Corporate social performance as a competitive advantage in attracting a quality workforce. Business & Society,39(3), 254-280.

Employee Engagement: A Long and Winding Road

In class, we learned about the importance of employee engagement for an organisation. Employees who are engaged and committed to their work tend to have better performance, are more innovative, take less sick absences and are less likely to quit their jobs (MacLeod, 2009). These are all very important factors for success, and impact the company’s bottom line directly in terms of productivity, costs and stability.

Since MacLeod’s report in 2009 on the importance of employee engagement and its benefits, this topic has gained much awareness and has now become an important consideration for the majority of business leaders – 70% of them believe that employee engagement is mission critical for their business (Corporate Leadership Council, 2011), and over 90% of medium to large sized organisations are planning to or are already conducting engagement surveys internally. However, for all the focus on employee engagement in recent years, employee engagement has not grown proportionally. In the U.S., less than one-third of employees were engaged in their jobs according to Gallup’s U.S. Employee Engagement monthly tracking index. Although employee engagement was at a 3-year high of 32.9% in February 2015, this number has not grown by much since 2011 when the survey began.

Globally, the percentage of engaged employees is even poorer, with a dismal 13% of employees reporting that they were being engaged at work (Gallup, 2013). This number drops even further to an alarming 9% when we look at employees surveyed in Singapore. In the figure below, we see that Gallup classifies responses into “Engaged” which refers to committed employees who are likely to make positive contributions to the organisation, “Not Engaged” which refers to employees who lack motivation and are unlikely to put in extra effort to benefit the organisation and “Actively Disengaged” which refers to employees who are unhappy and unproductive at work and may spread negativity in the workplace.

Source: Gallup Global Workplace Report 2013

What then could be the reason behind these poor performing metrics? Our class discussions have revolved around how companies can implement policies to increase employee engagement levels: leaders should make efforts to reach out to employees to listen to and get to know them, organisational culture should be aligned with employees, increase the level of autonomy given to employees, ensure the integrity of the organisation is upheld – these methods have been identified to theoretically help employees to be more committed to their work and the organisation. Yet, the increase in employee engagement has been marginal at best. Given the awareness and intent that has been generated, this speaks to problems in the implementation of these engagement measures.

According to Nita Clarke, the co-author of the employee engagement government report in 2009, a key factor in the failure in implementation comes from the fact that all too often the responsibility of increasing employee engagement in an organisation is simply passed on to human resources. Hence, engagement programmes are seldom launched beyond the paperwork stage and do not bring real improvements into the organisation. Clarke believes that employee engagement needs to occur at the manager-employee level and this is something that is overlooked by many organisations. She believes that the most effective method to increase employee engagement is to groom leaders out of current employees who exhibit the right leadership behaviours, who would then carry forward their mantra and spread it in the organisation. This however, would require leaders to groom their successors to take over their own positions, and may either lead to a conflict of interests or simply take a long time for results to show.

According to Gallup’s research, others fail at more advanced stages – despite changes to work environment such as remote work arrangements, creative benefits (snack bars come to mind) and hip office spaces, they fail to increase engagement meaningfully. Instead of these superficial changes, they point to seven key elements identified in companies with the best employee engagement scores that help to deepen employee ties to their managers and organisations:

1. Have involved and curious leaders who want to improve.
2. Have cracking HR functions.
3. Ensure the basic engagement requirements are met before expecting an inspiring mission to matter.
4. Never use a downturn as an excuse.
5. Trust, hold accountable, and relentlessly support their managers and teams.
6. Have a straightforward and decisive approach to performance management.
7. Do not pursue engagement for its own sake.
(Harvard Business Review, 2014)

Unfortunately, it seems that there is no shortcut and overnight solution to building a committed, motivated and thoroughly engaged workforce. Despite the substantial benefits that are so obvious to the organisation, reaping it takes a lot of hard work, time, commitment and change in entrenched mindsets.


MacLeod, D., & Clarke, N. (2009) Engaging for Success: enhancing performance through employee engagement. A Report to Government. London, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.

Corporate Leadership Council (2011) Essay: Building Capital Engagement, 2011. Retrieved from

Adkins, A. (2015, March 9). U.S. Employee Engagement Reaches Three-Year High. Retrieved April 3, 2015.

Gallup (2013) State of the Global Workplace. Retrieved from

Uttley, H. (2014, June 19). London HR Connection: Why employee engagement programmes ‘suck’. Workplace Savings and Benefits. Retrieved April 3, 2015.

Flade, P., Harter, J., & Asplund, J. (2014, April 1). Seven Things Great Employers Do (that Others Don’t). Harvard Business Review. Retrieved April 3, 2015.

Importance of Feedback

Throughout my last two internships, I have learned the importance of feedback in an organization. Constant feedback, being given in informal ways as well as formal processes, was essential to keep me going and engage me in work. As office vibe suggests “65% of employees said they want more feedback,” which demonstrates how essential it is in organizations. Also, “58% of managers think they give enough feedback” which again demonstrates that there is a lack of feedback in organizations. In most cases large firms have systems in place that promote managers and employees to give feedback to each other. In many cases these are anonymous to allow employees to actually criticize their managers. By using this system, the entire organization benefits and becomes more efficient. In other cases feedback is given straight forward in such a way that promotes communication between employees. Companies also promote informal feedback to have all team members “in the same page”. This is done by simple conversations that discuss the current performance and attitudes of employees.

More specifically, in my experience when working for an investment bank, there were several ways in which we received feedback. The most common technique was simple conversation with one’s colleges. The company emphasized the importance of constantly having conversations with colleagues about one’s performance and future improvements. During training we, interns, were told to ask as many times as we wanted how we were doing and what we could do to improve. This really kept us in the same page in terms of expectations. Moreover, the firm also organized each intern to have a “body”. A “body” is a person that works close to you and helps the intern with any questions he/she may have. Every intern would “get a coffee” with this person at least once a week, which created consistency. The benefits of such a strategy were invaluable. In my case my “body” gave me very specific evaluations of how I was doing and what I could do to improve. This was essential to my success during the summer. The systems work differently depending on the intern and the “body,” but if used correctly it can be very beneficial for both parties. This technique feels very informal and its enjoyable if one has a good relationship with the “body.” It promotes friendship, which is key in the development of the internship. The last way in which the company promoted feedback was mid and end evaluations. The intern had to choose 6 to 10 employees that worked closely with him or her to write an evaluation on his performance during the time. This evaluation focused on positive and negative aspects of the intern. Then the head of the team explained it. The evaluation was never given to the intern; it was only summarized to promote anonymity. This mid-evaluation was essential for the intern to understand his or her current performance and improve in the second half of the internship. It gave the intern a good idea of what the team thought about his or her performance. On the other hand, the end evaluation gave the intern a good idea if he or she will get a permanent offer. It explains essentially what the employees thought about his performance and if her or she would be a good fit for the team.

After my last two internships, I believe that constant feedback in an organization is essential for performance. It motivates employees to work harder and improve their flaws. In my case it was essential and an important factor to receiving another offer for this coming summer.


Power and Corruption

Historian Baron John Acton once declared that ‘power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.’ In our class discussions, we have been focusing primarily on the positive aspects of power and how it can be used as a tool to advance one’s career. However, it is also imperative to recognise its dark side and its ability to corrupt even the seemingly honest.

In the classic Stanford Prison Experiment, 24 students were assigned roles as guards and prisoners, in which the prison situation was then simulated. However, despite it being just an experiment, many guards adapted their roles beyond expectation and subjected the prisoners to psychological torture. In the end, the experiment was called off prematurely in order to stabilise the mental trauma faced by some prisoners.

The outcome of the experiment is haunting but real. When power is placed with seemingly normal and honest people (students), they have the ability to conduct extreme behaviours that even they themselves might not expect. While the experiment clearly shows the ability of power to corrupt, this point was driven even more intensely to me after returning from a recent museum trip in Belgrade.

In 1974, performance artist Marina Abramović conducted her most famous act, Rhythm 0 in Serbia, Belgrade, where she placed 72 objects on the table that the public were allowed to use in any way on her while she laid motionless. It was a horrific process showing how the acts became increasingly perverse and violent as time passed.

The table with the 72 items

The audience using various items on Marina during the 6-hour performance

Marina later claimed, “What I learned was that… if you leave it up to the audience, they can kill you. I felt really violated: they cut up my clothes, stuck rose thorns in my stomach, one person aimed the gun at my head, and another took it away.”

It is certainly disturbing to see how possessing merely some power over someone with no relations whatsoever for a few hours can drive such barbaric behaviours. It is no surprise to me then why so many leaders who have much more power and influence engage in corrupt acts. From the above examples, the question which then begets us is, how does power actually corrupt people?

I believe the answer can be clearly derived from a simple distinction between two forms of power established by psychologists David McClelland and David Winter. The first form is called socialized power, which is power used to benefit others, while the other form is called personalized power, which is using power for personal gain. Importantly, these two forms of power are not mutually exclusive. A leader can use his/her power to benefit others, but can also gain personally. The problem thus arises when personalized power dominates and the leader gains at his/her followers’ expense.

However, leaders and organizations can sometimes rationalize that they are working for the greater good, but actually engage in actions that is ethically wrong. A sense of power can cause a leader to engage in what famous leadership ethicist Terry Price coins, “exception making”, where a leader believes that the rules that govern what is right and wrong does not apply to himself. This is apparent during the Watergate scandal, where despite knowing the legal implications, President Nixon still engaged in various illegal acts such as wiretapping to spy on his opponents. President Nixon could possibly see himself as someone so powerful such that he is above the rule of law.

Leaders can also become intoxicated by power, whereby they engage in corrupt behaviour because they know they can get away with it. After the same performance as mentioned above by Marina, she claimed, “After exactly 6 hours, as planned, I stood up and started walking towards the audience. Everyone ran away, to escape an actual confrontation.” This showed that her abusers had done what they did because they knew there would be no repercussions for their actions. When given the opportunity, even the honest may be tempted to engage in deviant acts if they knew no one will find out.

Similarly, we can see how this phenomenon has proliferated in the wider context of powerful organizations globally. In South Korea, there are numerous cases of influential executives from large conglomerates, or chaebols, who have received preferential treatment from government officials. For example, former President Lee Myung-Bak had pardoned Chey Tae-Won, chairman of SK from a four-year sentence for a massive accounting fraud and pardoned the chairman of Samsung, Lee Kun-Hee, for embezzlement. The main rationale was because they were deemed too important for the country’s economy. Unfortunately, this has nonetheless served to proliferate more white-collar crimes because they know they can get away with it.

Hence, as potential future leaders with power, I believe we will all at some point be exposed to the temptation of engaging in corrupt behaviour. It is hence important to be aware of these evil nudges and to use the power that we possess responsibly.



Being a Leader vs. Leadership Performance

During the last week we had a class discussion on the topic of leadership. We talked about the sources of leadership traits and different styles of leadership. To me, this has always been a very interesting and important topic and thus, I’ve chosen to write this blog entry around that particular class session.

Unlike other texts and unlike my first blog entry, this text won’t cover a specific question. It will rather be a potpourri of my own opinion on the class discussion, self-reflection and additional input from research. In the end, it might not be interesting for an outside-person to read, however, I hope that it will help me personally – to have a clearer idea of leadership and if leadership is something I should/can work on.

In class, we started off by talking about whether leadership is born or made. This discussion is extremely important for me, as it has direct implications on my attitude (not only) in my professional life: Should I work with what I’ve got? Or should I invest my efforts into becoming a better leader?

My opinion has always been that 70% of leadership is born (if fostered) and 30% can be acquired. People who are extraverts and intelligent tend to fit better into a leadership role. However, as I am not an extravert that has often conveyed to me that I cannot show the same leading qualities as more extrovert people around me. The correlation between extraversion and intelligence, and “leading behavior” has been confirmed by research. That alone seems to confirm the “bad news” – that I might not be suitable for leading roles. However, as I digged deeper into articles, I came across a very interesting finding by leadership researcher Connson Chou Locke that was published by the Harvard Business Review. In the article titled “Asking whether leaders are born or made is the wrong question”, Locke claimed that the people that show leadership traits are not necessarily the ones who excel in formal leadership roles. That, he says, is a totally different question. He differentiates between the “leadership performance” in leading roles, and the emergence of a leader within a peer group. Just because extravert people tend to be the leader of a peer group, and I do not tend to be the leader of a peer group, they are not better or equally well performing as leaders in a formal role.

What I take from this is that my perception, that extrovert and intelligent people tend be leaders, is not wrong. In fact it is true: They do tend to be leaders. But I should not derive that I (just because I don’t show typical traits) can hence not excel in a position of leadership. And in the same way, leadership positions should not be awarded to someone who is showing a charismatic, open, extravert personality (“Seems like a good leader”). Because that might not make him a leader after all.



Locke, Connson Chou (2014):