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Prof Janka Stoker: 'Leadership is a very relevant organizational and social theme'

23 March 2007
Prof Janka Stoker
Prof Janka Stoker

Interview by Paul de Kuyper & Reinier Stomp

As Professor in Leadership & Organizational Change Janka Stoker might be ‘the bridge’ between science and society. “This function may be the ‘dreamed’ link between science and practice”, she tells enthusiastically. “But sometimes I think I am the only one who dreams about it.” 

Janka Stoker received her PhD in 1998 with a dissertation entitled “Leading self managing teams”. “There is not one simple way of leading teams”, Stoker explains. “As a leader, you have to take in account that several leadership styles are effective. Another outcome of my research was that there is not only a relationship between the leader and the team. The relations between the leader and the individual team members play an important role too.”


Societal relevance

For Stoker, it is not difficult to explain the interface between her research and the social relevance. “Leadership is a very socially relevant theme. Organizations permanently face questions about leadership. I work for The Change Factory, the group of Berenschot that supports organisations with organisational change and strategy-implementation. I have given organizational advice to companies like NS, Rabobank, Unilever and also to nonprofit organizations like different ministries and Novib.”

“Last week, Vrij Nederland (a Dutch opinion magazine) called me for an interview,” says Stoker, giving another example of how her research has a lot of relevance in society. “Because of the broadcast of the ‘Wouter Tapes’ on television, a series about the electoral campaign of Wouter Bos, they wanted me something to say about what kind of leader Wouter Bos is and how he led his campaign team.”



This bridge between science and practice is very important for Janka Stoker. “My drive in doing research is that I am very curious. But I have also another drive: I like to translate and present this knowledge to others, both students and managers in organisations.” Stoker teaches the Field Course in the master Change Management and in the bachelor program she is teacher of the course Organizational Change.

During her Master-thesis Stoker did research for KPN Research, and she found out that this was what she liked most. “Scientific and managerial questions come together and then you see the value of your research. That’s why I like 3e geldstroom research that much. There are so many interfaces between theory and practice and there is both a gain for science and the company.”

Janka Stoker calls her own function as Professor with an endowed chair “the dreamed link between science and practice.” Stoker: “But sometimes it is also difficult. These are two very different worlds and practice and science have a lot of conflicting views. So, I often say it is a dreamed link, but it seems that I am the only one who dreams about it.”

Female professors
One year ago, in a lecture, Janka Stoker pleaded, in line with the call from Minister van der Hoeven, for more female professors in Dutch universities. “That was because of a study I did together with the Dutch Journal Intermediar. Although women performed as well as men in leadership, most people associated ideal leaders with a masculine person. But when people worked for an organization with more than 20% female leaders, these stereotypes were less strong. So, my conclusion is that when women come in leading positions the stereotype will disappear.”

Thus, universities should have more female professors. “Isn’t it strange that a half or more of the students in our faculty is female and that there are only a handful female professors,” Stoker asks rhetorically. “There is a lot of talent, but universities might have to search better. I think that the RuG takes good steps in its policy. It is very good that at the moment in our Faculties there are two female talents holding a Rosalind Franklin Fellow-position.”

Last modified:31 January 2018 11.51 a.m.

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