Dr Anna Topakas

Lecturer in Work Psychology

Room: C049
Phone: +44 (0)114 222 3240
Email: A.Topakas@Sheffield.ac.uk
Anna Topakas  


I am a member of the Institute of Work Psychology (IWP) research centre, within the Work, Employment People and Organisations (WEPO) Division of the Sheffield University Management School. I am a programme director for the Executive MBA (TUOS) with a path to the Senior Leader Apprenticeship.

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.

Teaching, Training and Development

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:

Godbless Akaighe (leader narcissism)
John Briggs (CEO strategic conduct)
Evelyn Lanka (leader identity construction process)
Christos Mavros (leading for creativity and innovation)
Paul Nwanna (high-performance work systems and servant leadership)
Queyu Ren (the influence of attachment styles on leader-follower relationships)
Paul Balwant (transformational instructor-leadership and student engagement) (completed)
Andreana Drencheva (entrepreneur feedback-seeking) (completed)