Dr. Mojtaba Salem

Post-doctoral Researcher

Dr. Mojtaba Salem

Post-doctoral Researcher

Mojtaba Salem is a post-doctoral researcher at the Center for Humanitarian Logistics and Regional Development (CHORD). Mojtaba was previously a post-doctoral researcher in the Chair of Research and Science Management at Technical University of Munich. He completed his PhD studies at Kühne Logistics University under the supervision of Prof. Dr. Maria Besiou and Prof. Dr. Niels Van Quaquebeke with summa cum laude. His PhD dissertation on “Leadership in Humanitarian Operations” earned the 2021 Honorary Mention Award from the Board of Humanitarian Logistics and Supply Chain Research Institute at Hanken School of Economics. Mojtaba received his Master of Science in Management from Kühne Logistics University for which he earned the KLU Best Student Achievement Award (Class of 2015). In 2012, he received his Bachelor of Business Administration from the American University of Afghanistan with summa cum laude.

Mojtaba’s research is interdisciplinary using organizational behavior theories to understand and improve critical outcomes in the context of humanitarian operations. He presented his research findings at various scientific and practitioners conferences in Europe, United States, and Africa. In 2020, his paper on authoritarian leadership has won Best Paper Award in POMS College of Humanitarian Operations and Crisis Management (HOCM). Mojtaba has published papers in Journal of Organizational Behavior, Organizational Psychology Review, and Production and Operations Management. His publication on intergroup leadership in Production and Operations Management has been recognized as one of the most downloaded papers in 2020. As a post-doctoral researcher at CHORD, Mojtaba focuses on designing, developing, and implementing the flagship bi-annual survey of the state and trends in supply chains in the humanitarian sector. Moreover, he is engaged in impact assessment research projects for training and humanitarian response operations.



Professional Experience

Since 2022

Scientific / Post-doctoral Researcher, Center for Humanitarian Logistics & Regional Development (CHORD), Kühne Logistics University, Hamburg, Germany

2020 - 2022        Senior / Post-doctoral Researcher, Chair of Research and Science Management, Technical University of Munich, Munich, Germany


2016 - 2020

PhD Candidate in Leadership and Management, Kühne Logistics University, Hamburg, Germany

2013 - 2015

Master of Science in Management, Kühne Logistics University, Hamburg, Germany

2009 - 2012 Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, American University of Afghanistan, Kabul, Afghanistan


Abstract: Many field office leaders contend that authoritarian leadership improves the performance of humanitarian operations. The common narrative is that authoritarian leadership helps aid workers more quickly adapt to changes and thus deliver better job performance (e.g., by improving operations in their field office). However, given that field reports often highlight extant leadership as the source of serious operational failures, could leaders with an authoritarian style be part of the problem? We draw on psychological theorizing on the nature of human motivation to address this question. Specifically, we note that many aid workers primarily join humanitarian operations with the prosocial motive to help beneficiaries. While proactive adaptability is inherent to prosocial motivation, we hypothesize that authoritarian leadership may curtail the relationship by impeding aid workers’ autonomy. We find support for our theorizing in a sample of 299 humanitarian aid workers from the field. Additionally, we conducted 31 expert interviews to contextualize and validate our empirical findings. The paper concludes by discussing the findings’ theoretical and managerial implications for humanitarian operations.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/20413866221097571 

Abstract: Conducting organizational research via online surveys and experiments offers a host of advantages over traditional forms of data collection when it comes to sampling for more advanced study designs, while also ensuring data quality. To draw attention to these advantages and encourage researchers to fully leverage them, the present paper is structured into two parts. First, along a structure of commonly used research designs, we showcase select organizational psychology (OP) and organizational behavior (OB) research and explain how the Internet makes it feasible to conduct research not only with larger and more representative samples, but also with more complex research designs than circumstances usually allow in offline settings. Subsequently, because online data collections often also come with some data quality concerns, in the second section, we synthesize the methodological literature to outline three improvement areas and several accompanying strategies for bolstering data quality. Plain Language Summary: These days, many theories from the fields of organizational psychology and organizational behavior are tested online simply because it is easier. The point of this paper is to illustrate the unique advantages of the Internet beyond mere convenience—specifically, how the related technologies offer more than simply the ability to mirror offline studies. Accordingly, our paper first guides readers through examples of more ambitious online survey and experimental research designs within the organizational domain. Second, we address the potential data quality drawbacks of these approaches by outlining three concrete areas of improvement. Each comes with specific recommendations that can ensure higher data quality when conducting organizational survey or experimental research online.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.1002/job.2246 

Abstract: Many humanitarian aid workers receive training prior to being dispatched into the field, but they often encounter challenges that require additional learning and creativity. Consequently, aid organizations formally support collaboration among the expatriate and local workers in a field office. At best, those aid workers would not only exploit their joint knowledge but also explore novel ways of managing the challenges at hand. Yet differences between expatriate and local groups (e.g., in ethnicity, religion, education, and salary) often thwart intergroup collaboration in field offices and, by extension, any joint learning or creativity. In response to this issue, we study the role of field office leaders—specifically, how their boundary-spanning behavior may inspire collaboration between the two groups and therefore facilitate joint learning and creativity. We propose that a leader's in-group prototypicality additionally catalyzes this process—that is, a leader's behavior has more impact if s/he is seen as representing his/her group. We tested and found support for our hypothesized moderated mediation model in a field sample of 137 aid workers from 59 humanitarian organizations. Thus, our study generally highlights the pivotal role that field office leaders play for crucial outcomes in humanitarian aid operations. Furthermore, we offer concrete steps for field office leaders who want to inspire better collaboration between the expatriate and local aid workers they lead.

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Abstract: International humanitarian organizations (IHOs) always strive to improve their operational performance in the field. While anecdotes from practice suggest that IHO field office leadership plays a crucial role in this regard, these claims have not been deeply substantiated by primary data. In response, we collected survey data from 125 humanitarian workers, concentrated in disaster response and development programs, on the issues of field office leadership and operational performance. Building on the operations management and organizational behavior literature, we find that leaders who adopt an intergroup leadership style can significantly improve operational performance via enhancing cooperation between local and expatriate subgroups inside a field office. Notably, we find that the intergroup leadership style becomes more effective as humanitarian workers become more entrenched within cohesive subgroups. These results should help IHOs to better select and train their field office leaders and achieve higher operational performance.

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