Steffen Raub

Associate dean for research and academic affairs and Professor of Organizational Behavior at Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne, CH.

“Self-awareness key to leadership development”

Grasping the factors influencing individuals and groups in organizations is a challenge faced by every career communicator, and EMScom visiting professor Steffen Raub said his two-and-a-half day seminar in Organizational Behavior takes a truly hands-on approach to exploring the topic.

Raub, a professor of Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management at Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne (EHL), believes understanding Organizational Behavior is fundamental to both motivating and leading workforces.

“I think you can develop leaders to a certain extent, and you can make people aware of their strengths and weaknesses. Self awareness is key to leadership development,” he said. “So, in Organizational Behavior, we explore how others perceive us, how we interact, and how we can improve or develop as leaders.”

With master’s degrees in business administration from the University of Mannheim, Germany, and ESSEC, France, a Ph.D. in management from the University of Geneva, and teaching credentials that include the Asian Institute of Technology in Bangkok as well as HEC Lausanne and HEC Geneva, Raub says teaching executive level professionals brings unique challenges and a special kind of gratification.

“That feeling that you can bring new insights and stimulate new ways of thinking is very satisfying,” he said. “Teaching young undergraduates is very different from teaching EMScom participants, who are very much in touch with managerial reality. This makes my job more challenging, but also more interesting.”

Lively, intense atmosphere

Raub described his EMScom classes as “extremely lively.”

“Sometimes, they provide a reality check and cause me to rethink my positions, based on their feedback,” he said, emphasizing that stimulating an engaging classroom experience is important to him. “In an executive program, you can’t stand at the front of the classroom and talk non-stop for eight hours. The challenge is to get hold of participants’ experience and foster an exchange between students.”

On the other hand, Raub feels a responsibility to point out how organizational behavior research demonstrates that common sense thinking can be wrong.

“The intensity of putting all this information out on the table and discussing it is fascinating for me,” he said. “EMScom is intense for me, and it’s intense for the students, but it’s also a pleasant experience. The EMScom participants give so much to the course because everyone who has worked in an organization brings a wealth of useful perspectives to our discussions. Every participant can connect to the topic of Organizational Behavior.”

Be prepared for challenges

Raub said that if he could send one message to prospective EMScom participants, he would suggest that they be prepared to have their anecdotal views of organizational behavior challenged.

“It’s human to believe we know everything, based on our personal experiences with motivation and leadership,” he said. “But anecdotal evidence and the vividness of our own experiences can lead us to false conclusions about individuals and groups, and this can lead to irrational decisions in the workplace. That’s what we’re doing: examining those experiences and exploring our own biases in order to get a clearer understanding of organizational behavior.”

He said prospective EMScom participants should also be ready for an intensely challenging academic experience.

“It’s short, condensed and intense, integrating a semester of case studies, exercises, role playing and classroom discussion into two-and-a-half eight- to 10-hour days,” he said. “It’s an exciting way to learn and teach, but it’s certainly not a vacation for the students or faculty. But I’ve found that EMScom participants come to the course ready to learn and participate, and though each class is a little different, they’re all dynamic.”

Text based on interview carried out in June 2005.