Meet the Course Director: Dr Nick Jackson

Dr Nick Jackson is Senior Teaching Fellow in Organizational Behaviour at Leeds University Business School. He is also Programme Director for the MA Organizational Behaviour.

Dr Nicholas Jackson, Programme Director for the MA Organizational Behaviour

Tell us about your background and interest in the field of organizational behaviour? 

An interesting question because my background is quite diverse and I certainly cannot be identified as a typical career academic. 

My origins are with the family business where I was a senior partner for a number of years. My next venture was into the world of finance where, during a stint of 10 years at Aviva, I became a senior accountant within the investments arm of their Life and Pensions operations in York. 

I then made a conscious decision to transfer my commercial experiences into academia by first completing a PGCE in post-compulsory education and training, and then undertaking a PhD here at Leeds in my favoured subject interest of Organizational Behaviour. After completing my PhD, I was offered a full-time position here and I have never looked back from taking such a transformative leap.

I feel immensely privileged to have been involved in developing new degree programmes and modules at both undergraduate and postgraduate level, while also undertaking leadership roles as Head of Year, and now the exciting challenge of directing the MA in Organizational Behaviour.

What do you think is special about teaching in organizational behaviour here at Leeds?

Our strong relationships and contacts with industry leaders - we benefit from their specialist knowledge. They enhance our teaching, making guest appearances in lectures and seminars, as well as providing students with a readily available business network.

Also, certainly, the acclaim Leeds has gained in the international arena helps to make it a university with a distinctly diverse student population with a variety of different backgrounds, age-ranges and cultures. As such, our students contribute a wide range of ideas and perspectives based on their own experiences. These insights encourage students to develop a critical awareness, which is so important to the challenging and inquisitive nature that we encourage in the classroom.

This cultural experience is an essential aspect of organizational behaviour and drives a range of other topics that are central to the discipline, such as leadership, working in groups and teams and managing change. I am always enthused by the challenge of capturing and sharing this diversity among the groups I teach.

As well as the international reputation of Leeds, we are very fortunate to welcome students that are focused and self-disciplined in their approach to their education. These factors help to enhance the teaching experience along with the excellent tutor-student relationships, which I have always found to be well-developed at Leeds.

Tell us about the areas of study within MA Organizational Behaviour

Organizational behaviour is an applied behavioural science that has been developed from a number of contributing disciplines. Predominantly, we draw from the field of psychology, social psychology, sociology and anthropology. 

The particular focus of each module is dependent on the level of analysis, which may be described as either micro or macro; in other words, the key focus may be on the behaviour of individuals in the workplace or taken from a much broader perspective.

This is embodied in the design of the programme, which shares some modules with our business psychology degree, but also benefits from a multi-disciplinary approach; it includes modules designed from both organisation and group levels of analysis. We investigate different structural systems alongside group and team working skills, where group cognition and group properties are evaluated for their impact on organisation effectiveness.

In addition to the development of academic skills, there is just as much emphasis on the development of practical skills at all levels of analysis. This may be particularly useful for those looking to enhance their people management skills and perhaps those running a business.

From an academic perspective, the course focuses on the development of conceptual knowledge and necessitates the cultivation of both technical and analytical skills, including complex problem-solving and engaging with empirical research. 

In your experience, what do people enjoy most about studying in the field of organizational behaviour?

Undoubtedly, one of the most positive points of feedback we receive about the subject is how much students enjoy the practical nature of the discipline and the relative ease of transferring knowledge to the workplace.

The interactive and applied nature of our degrees lead to a better understanding of people management at all levels, along with the key influencers of this process. A fundamental part of the student experience is the sharing of knowledge within our tutor-led student groups, which means that our seminars are very interactive and involve much topical debate and group problem-solving.

In my experience of teaching both undergraduate and postgraduate students, the most popular topics are often those that include debates on leadership, groups and teams, organisation cultures and managing change, which also encourages students to share their diverse experiences and opinions.