Dr Anna Topakas
Lecturer in Work Psychology
+44 114 222 3240
Full contact details
Sheffield University Management School
Prior to joining the University of Sheffield in 2012, I held a Research Associate position at Aston University, Birmingham, where I also completed my PhD in the domain of leadership and teamworking.
My areas of interest and expertise are in organisational leadership and followership, teamworking, workplace relationships and employee health and wellbeing.
- Research interests
Over thousands of years, leadership has been the dominant way for people to organise and coordinate their efforts in pursuing shared objectives, and to nourish and protect themselves and each other. It persists as a mode of organising because it works, mostly. What makes leadership structures and processes effective has been a burning question in the management domain for over six decades. In my work I explore questions around the role of leadership in facilitating individual and collective thriving, and how organisations can support virtuous interactions and relationships to build both collective and individual resilience and productivity.
My recent research projects focus on the role of relationships in facilitating manager and employee wellbeing and good mental health, as well as performance. I am also looking at inter- and intra-organisational collaboration and how it can facilitate improvements in service delivery and achieve performance gains.
My research has received funding from BA/Leverhulme and the Wellcome trust.
I am a reviewer for a number of journals, including the British Journal of Management, Work and Stress, Frontiers in Communication, Applied Psychology: An International Review, and the Institute for Work Psychology International Conference.
Selected Research Projects
I have conducted research with large public-sector organisations as well as international charities.
In healthcare, I worked as a Research Fellow (2009-2013) on a series of large-scale projects focused on using longitudinal survey data to identify the factors contributing to employee engagement, satisfaction and wellbeing, as well as organisational performance (e.g. trust mortality rate, patient satisfaction, infection rates, financial performance). This work resulted in a series of reports that can be found here and here.
In policing, I have been working with South Yorkshire Police and Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council since 2013 on a series of projects exploring the factors that affect the organisational change process, in the context of restructuring initiatives. Some of the findings from this work can be accessed here.
As part of a larger team, I have worked with the Wellcome Trust, a charitable organisation, to explore the effect of diversity and inclusion on the healthcare research industry, with a focus on workforce diversity; a report summarising this work can be found here.
My more recent projects involve the evaluation of manager training in mental health awareness, the role of workplace leadership in tackling loneliness, and leader and follower identity dynamics, among others.
Research to Practice
I work closely with private and public sector organisations to support leaders with their daily challenges and help them foster positive work environments. Below are some resources for managers interested in employee wellbeing:
National Leadership Centre Thinkpieces: Leading to Wellbeing by Dr Anna Topakas
Centre for Loneliness Studies Blog: Managers Responding to Loneliness in the Workplace by Dr Anna Topakas
- Becoming a leader: catalysts and barriers to leader identity construction. European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology. View this article in WRRO
- Transformational instructor-leadership and academic performance : a moderated mediation model of student engagement and structural distance. Journal of Further and Higher Education, 43(7), 884-900. View this article in WRRO
- View this article in WRRO Beyond personality: Exploring the role of motivations, self-evaluations and values in leadership emergence within an organizational setting. European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology in Practice, 8, 32-49.
- Staff satisfaction and organisational performance : evidence from a longitudinal secondary analysis of the NHS staff survey and outcome data. Health Services and Delivery Research, 2(50). View this article in WRRO
- Implicit Leadership and Followership Theories "in the wild": Taking stock of information-processing approaches to leadership and followership in organizational settings. Leadership Quarterly.
- Developmental stability and leadership effectiveness. Leadership Quarterly, 23(2), 281-291.
- Navigating interpersonal feedback seeking in social venturing: The roles of psychological distance and sensemaking. Journal of Business Venturing.
- Climate and Culture for Health Care Performance, The Oxford Handbook of Organizational Climate and Culture Oxford University Press
- A critical review of Leader-Member Relationship (LMX) research: Future prospects and directions. In Hodgkinson, G P & Ford, J K (Ed.), International Review of Industrial and Organizational Psychology (pp. 61-91). Oxford, UK: Wiley-Blackwell.
Conference proceedings papers
- Advancing the Relational View of Followership: Behaviors and Experiences of Followers and Leaders. Academy of Management Proceedings, Vol. 2020(1) (pp 13274-13274)
- The Role of Distance in Shaping Relationship Quality between Leaders and Followers. Academy of Management Proceedings, Vol. 2019(1) (pp 16378-16378)
- Founder Identity: A Review and Framework of Multiple Identities in Entrepreneurship. Academy of Management Proceedings, Vol. 2018(1) (pp 12424-12424)
- Leadership Identity Construction Through Reciprocal Identity Claims and Grants. Symposium Program
- Portfolio assessment for postgraduate professional skills development. ‘‘Engaging Students in a Research - Intensive Environment’’ Book of Abstracts
- The effect of the variation in leader-member exchange (LMX) on the wellbeing of teams and their members. Paper presented as part of symposium 'Does one cure really fit all? Team identification, group negative affective tone and LMX' chaired by K. Hildenbrand and P. Daher. EAWOP 2017 Abstract Book
- To Ask or not to Ask? How Entrepreneurs Manage the Feedback-seeking Paradox. Academy of Management Proceedings, Vol. 2016(1) (pp 12216-12216)
- It’s not all in the personality: Motivation to lead as an antecedent of leadership emergence. Paper presented as part of symposium "New Insights on Motivation to Lead" (chaired by T. Moldzio). IWP Conference Programme
- Co-creating and maintaining wellbeing through feedback seeking: The topics of feedback requests. ISIRC 2016, Glasgow, Abstract Book
- Organisational Change in Police Organisations: Lessons from the Intelligence Centralisation Case Study (Poster). IWP Conference Programme
- Implicit Leadership Theories (ILT) congruence and its effect on individual and team outcomes: The mediating role of Leader-Member Exchange. Presented as part of symposium "Implicit Leadership Theories: Content, Stability, and Outcomes" (chaired by B. Schyns, discussant R. J. Foti). AOM 2015 Annual Meeting Program
- High-Performance Work Systems and Performance in the Healthcare Sector: A systematic Review of the Evidence. GIHRM Conference Programme
- View this article in WRRO The Diversity Dividend: does a more diverse and inclusive research community produce better biomedical and health research?
- View this article in WRRO Review of diversity and inclusion literature and an evaluation of methodologies and metrics relating to health research.
- Teaching interests
Teaching is how I learn, with my students, from my students and for my students; it is my intellectual oxygen that never fails to invigorate my passion for understanding and discovery. I focus on lifting the veil of mystery from leaders and the leadership process and empowering individuals to pursue responsible and effective leadership, equipped with a deep understanding of the processes and dynamics that account for leadership outcomes, including followership skills and behaviours.
By supporting learners to understand their strengths, as well as the areas where they can make a difference by investing in their learning and development, I aim to empower them to take ownership of their developmental journey as a leader and a follower.
I am providing teaching and training in Executive and Professional Education, delivering courses on leadership and organisational behaviour more broadly. In addition I deliver short courses on a range of leadership-related topics and competencies to diverse audiences, such as private and public sector managers, scientists and entrepreneurs. My courses, workshops, seminars and programmes focus on improving the effectiveness of the leadership process for managers, their teams, and the organisation as a whole.
In the past I have taught a wide range of topics at undergraduate, postgraduate and professional levels. These include among others leadership, learning, training and development in organisations, HR, cross-cultural management, and organisational behaviour. I am a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.
- PhD supervision
I am interested in supervising projects in the following areas:
- Workplace relationships: How can leaders and co-workers fulfil our needs for meaningful work and social interaction?
- Leadership as a facilitator of mental health and wellbeing.
- How leaders and followers experience workplace relationships: the role of attachment styles and emotions.
- The role of gender and/or minority status in perceptions, attitudes and behaviours relating to leadership.
- The role of identity and identification in the leadership process.
- How does leader humour affect perceptions about and reactions to leadership efforts?
Recent and current PhD supervision:
Christos Mavros: Leading for creativity: How ambidextrous leaders facilitate follower’s innovative behaviours
Godbless Akaighe: Narcissistic leaders and team-mates: A toxic combination?
Michael Duffy Jr: Understanding and sustaining entrepreneurs’ wellbeing
Paul Nwanna: Line managers HR attribution and servant leadership: Implications for employee wellbeing and performance
Queyu Ren: The influence of attachment styles on leader-follower relationships and wellbeing
Samet Arslan: Leader development: The role of identity and gender
John Briggs: CEO practice: Towards a framework of past, present and future (completed 2019)
Evelyn Lanka: I know that I am a leader: Interactions, catalysts, barrier and control of the leader identity construction process (completed 2019)
Andreana Drencheva: To ask or not to ask? Entrepreneurs ambidextrous feedback seeking (completed 2016)
Paul Balwant: Transformational and destructive instructor-leadership and their association with student engagement, burnout and achievement in higher education (completed 2015)