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Ginka Toegel is a professor of organisational behaviour and leadership at IMD business school in Lausanne, Switzerland. She directs two open-enrolment programmes: Strategies for Leadership, which is aimed solely at women executives, and Mobilising People, a 10-day leadership development programme. Her current research interests include leadership effectiveness and emotion in organisations.
Ms Toegel grew up in Bulgaria and has two PhDs: one in psychology from Leipzig University and one from London Business School in organisational behaviour. Before joining IMD she taught at the London School of Economics, London Business School and Duke Corporate Education. She has also worked as a psychotherapist.
In her spare time Ms Toegel enjoys interior design and ikebana, the Japanese art of flower arranging.
1. What do you enjoy most about your job?
Three things. First, I like the high degree of autonomy that academic positions offer. Second, I get to learn from others, because executives all have views and opinions on economics and organisations. Third, it’s incredibly gratifying when I see the impact that programmes can have not just on participants themselves but also on their co-workers and families.
2. What is the strangest thing you have ever done when teaching?
When I taught leadership in organisations at the LSE, I was lecturing to 120 students. In my first session, every time a late-comer arrived, I would start again. The initial reaction of the students was laughter, but pretty soon they showed their irritation with the late-comer. It was all about sending a message about time boundaries. I never needed to mention punctuality explicitly. No one arrived late for the following sessions.
3. What is your earliest memory of school?
When I was seven years old, Yuri Gagarin – the Soviet cosmonaut who was the first person to journey into outer space – visited our school. I was chosen to help him plant a tree. I have fond memories of that. He was a sunny person, smiling a lot.
4. What is the best piece of advice given to you by a teacher?
Aim high. Don’t be afraid to aim high.
5. What academic achievement are you most proud of?
Finishing my second PhD at LBS when I was in my 40s, which was quite unusual. Your perspective changes a lot when you become a student again and I enjoyed that. I also managed to balance doing the PhD with family commitments.
6. What is your biggest lesson learnt?
That education always pays back. It doesn’t matter what stage you’re at in your life – it’s never too late.
7. What is the worst job you have ever had?
When I was a psychology student in Berlin I had a temporary job inspecting bananas, sorting the good from the bad. I couldn’t eat bananas for weeks after that.
8. What advice would you give to women in business?
You can have it all – a happy family and a good career. Just maybe not at the same time, because you might need to prioritise at different moments in your life.
9. What is the last book you read?
The book I keep on going back to is Lord of the Flies by William Golding. It is the ultimate case study of dysfunctional dynamics in groups.
10. Where would be your favourite place to teach?
Any place that is different from the office and enables people to see things differently. The Globe Theatre, a circus, or an amphitheatre, for example.
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