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Identifying leadership: London School of Economics

Posted on by from LSE

Are you a thought leader? Emily Sexton-Brown asks professors from across the globe to pinpoint just what true leadership looks like. Professor Shoshana Dobrow Riza, LSE enlightens...

1. What is your name and job title?

Shoshana Dobrow Riza, assistant professor of management.


2. Where do you work?

London School of Economics, Department of Management


3. What led you onto your career path?

I’ve always been deeply interested in discovering what makes people tick. Why do people do the things they do? I studied anthropology as an undergraduate and although I loved studying the evolutionary history of human beings as well as primatology, I realised that I was better suited to studying people in modern settings – as we do in organisational behaviour – rather than by trekking through rainforests, etc.

In parallel, I have also had a career as a musician. I was not just performing but also engaging with and observing my fellow musicians over the years. This process led me to observe a phenomenon at the core of the music world that comes up again and again. It captivated my attention and has become what the main stream of my research has been based on since my early days in graduate school; why do so many people make the seemingly “irrational” choice to pursue career paths like music in which the odds of objective success are so low? In my academic career I have been able to bring both of my interests together to try to understand what makes people tick in their careers.

4. What or who has been the biggest influence within your career to date?

People. My graduate school advisors and classmates have had an incredibly positive influence on my career. Collectively and individually, they have taught me, inspired me, shared with me, and provided me with moral support throughout my career – and I can only hope that I have done some of the same for them. 

5. In your opinion, what does true leadership look like?

True leadership in organisations involves a move away from focusing solely on financial outcomes to focusing on the people who are there. In particular, leaders need to focus on what is meaningful to people in their jobs – and do their best to match things up accordingly.


6. To be an innovative leader, what key skills are needed and how can leaders develop these effectively?

A critical skill for leaders to innovate, and to succeed in general, is to aim to be “learning managers” who strive to engage in continuous learning rather than viewing themselves “learned managers” who have accumulated a big enough body of knowledge in school or early in their careers to feel that that’s enough. It’s not. To innovate, leaders need to constantly keep their minds open to – and actively seek out – new, fresh ideas that they can consider using in their organisations.

7. How do you anticipate leadership evolving in the coming years?

As I mentioned above, people and organisations are increasingly recognising the importance of finding meaning in our work. The quest for meaning is a central for drive for all human beings. We’re seeing, both in research and in practice, that how people derive meaning from work and whether they’re able to do so successfully is critical in understanding individuals and organisations and, especially, the match between the two. So, I anticipate leadership evolving in tandem with this increased focus on meaningful work, such that leaders prioritize meaningful work for their employees along with more “traditional” organisational goals. 

8. In your opinion, what are the top three management books aspiring leaders should read?

Daniel Kahneman: Thinking, Fast and Slow

Adam Grant: Give and Take and Originals

Richard Hackman: Leading Teams: Setting the Stage for Great Performances


Emily  Sexton-Brown

By Emily Sexton-Brown

Emily is the commissioning editor at Changeboard

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