PhD position Navigating the Leadership–Accountability Dilemma

PhD position Navigating the Leadership–Accountability Dilemma

Published Deadline Location
6 Jun 8 Jul Amsterdam

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Are you curious about the world, a critical thinker, and interested to dive deep into research and shape the future of leadership? We do science with purpose. Are you curious to learn more? Then please apply.

Job description

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam is offering a fully funded, four-year PhD-position on studying how accountability and technical expertise shape leaders’ willingness to take risky decisions. Leadership includes making decisions under uncertainty. Oftentimes, such decisions entail a “safe” option (e.g., one in line with established processes) and a riskier but potentially more beneficial option. Experiencing a high “felt” accountability, the expectation that one will be held accountable for one’s decisions, might propel leaders towards taking the safe option. The PhD candidate would analyse whether having expert knowledge in the core business of the organisation moderates the relationship, such that expert leaders are more willing to choose the risky, less-travelled path, weakening the relationship between felt accountability and playing it safe.

As a PhD candidate, you will engage in both experiment and survey-based research to study how leaders navigate the apparent dilemma between their perceived accountability and the benefits of unconventional, hence risky, decisions. This can include experimental research on the link between felt accountability and taking safe or risky choices, as well as survey and/or experimental research on how technical expertise relates to whether accountability is perceived as a threat or opportunity. As part of the project,you will work directly with Agnes Bäker, Leander de Schutter and Rafael Wilms (Associate and Assistant Professors at VU Amsterdam) and Amanda Goodall (Professor of Leadership at Bayes Business School, London), all experts in the field of leadership.

Your Duties
You will need to develop a thorough understanding of the literature and theoretical frameworks on expert leaders and (felt) accountability. Moreover, under the expert guidance of your PhD supervisors, we expect you to acquire and extend your knowledge of quantitative research methods, facilitated by the PhD training program of ABRI (Amsterdam Business Research Institute).

Expected outcomes are articles on the specific topics studied, to be submitted to scientific and peer-reviewed journals. PhD candidates will give a modest contribution to the department’s teaching program, with the opportunity to obtain a basic qualification teaching certificate (shortened BKO).


Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VU)


  • Motivated to conduct high-quality research with the aim of publishing top-level articles;
  • Research Master or MSc in business administration, organizational studies, economics, psychology, sociology, or a related field;
  • Basic skills and interest in quantitative research methods;
  • Interest in topics of leadership (behaviour), accountability, effects of technical expertise, decision-making;
  • Basic academic writing skills;

Conditions of employment

Fixed-term contract: 1 year.

A challenging position in a socially engaged organisation. At VU Amsterdam, you contribute to education, research and service for a better world. And that is valuable. So in return for your efforts, we offer you:
  • a salary of € 2.770,00 (PhD) and maximum € 3.539,00 (PhD) gross per month in the fourth year, for a full-time employment
  • an employment contract of initially 1 year. If there is sufficient perspective, this will be extended to a total of 4 years. Your dissertation at the end of the fourth year forms the end of your employment contract.

We also offer you attractive fringe benefits and arrangements. Some examples:
  • A full-time 38-hour working week comes with a holiday leave entitlement of 232 hours per year. If you choose to work 40 hours, you have 96 extra holiday leave hours on an annual basis. For part-timers, this is calculated pro rata.
  • 8% holiday allowance and 8.3% end-of-year bonus
  • solid pension scheme (ABP)
  • contribution to commuting expenses
  • optional model for designing a personalized benefits package


Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

Management & Organization
Management & Organization (M&O) (Management & Organization - Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam ( is one of the largest departments of SBE at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. M&O researchers study topics around organizations and organizing (management) from multiple perspectives, encompassing entrepreneurship, organisational behaviour/HRM, strategy, and organisational theory. The PhD candidate would be associated with the Organisational Behaviour & HRM group within M&O. In our research, we consider organizations as responsible actors in their broader technological, political, social and economic contexts. As a community, we are driven by our mission to do “science with purpose”, that enables scholars to do relevant and rigorous research, facilitates business and management educators to offer innovative education, and equips practitioners with evidence-based tools and approaches to help organisations to operate effectively, while also serving society.

The Department is characterised by its collaborative ethos, entrepreneurial spirit, great diversity of cultural and disciplinary backgrounds, and distinct international outlook. Many of our scholars have received prestigious teaching awards, and as a Department we have built a strong track record by publishing regularly in leading journals such as the Academy of Management Journal, Academy of Management Review, Journal of Applied Psychology, Journal of Management Studies, Management Science, and Organization Science.

School of Business and Economics
We at the School of Business and Economics (SBE) at VU Amsterdam bring together socially relevant teaching and research in the areas of business administration and economics. We focus on real-life issues that have a huge impact on society, economics and ecology: from robotics to big data, and from job market participation to change management.

Collaboration and cooperation, transparency and social responsibility are four keywords that embody our approach. Students, researchers and staff at SBE share real-world knowledge in order to devise solutions together to global economic and social challenges. In order to make a positive impact on the world, society and the lives of others.

Are you interested in joining SBE? You will work in a stimulating, dynamic and international environment with motivated colleagues dedicated to helping society make informed choices. SBE employs roughly 600 staff, with 7,250 students enrolled in the Bachelor’s and Master’s programmes and 1,700 executive students.

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam stands for values-driven education and research. We are open-minded experts with the ability to think freely. - a broader mind. Maintaining an entrepreneurial perspective and concentrating on diversity, significance and humanity, we work on sustainable solutions with social impact. By joining forces, across the boundaries of disciplines, we work towards a better world for people and planet. Together we create a safe and respectful working and study climate, and an inspiring environment for education and research. Learn more about our codes of conduct

We are located on one physical campus, in the heart of Amsterdam's Zuidas business district, with excellent location and accessibility. Over 6,150 staff work at the VU and over 31,000 students attend academic education.

Diversity is the driving force of the VU. The VU wants to be accessible and receptive to diversity in disciplines, cultures, ideas, nationalities, beliefs, preferences and worldviews. We believe that trust, respect, interest and differences lead to new insights and innovation, to sharpness and clarity, to excellence and a broader understanding.

We stand for an inclusive community and believe that diversity and internationalisation contribute to the quality of education, research and our services.

Therefore, we are always searching for people whose backgrounds and experience contribute to the diversity of the VU community.


  • PhD
  • Economics; Behaviour and society
  • €2770—€3539 per month
  • University graduate
  • 4117


Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VU)

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De Boelelaan 1105, 1081HV, Amsterdam

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