Mojtaba Salem

PhD Candidate

Mojtaba Salem

PhD Candidate

Mojtaba Salem is a PhD Candidate under the supervision of Prof. Dr. Maria Besiou (Kühne Logistics University) and Prof. Dr. Niels Van Quaquebeke (Kühne Logistics University) since December 2015. In his research, Mojtaba is interested in applying behavioral leadership theories in a humanitarian environment. More specifically, he seeks to examine the impact of humanitarian leaders on the performance of humanitarian development and relief aid operations.

Mojtaba completed his Bachelor program in Business Administration at the American University of Afghanistan where he graduated with highest honors (i.e., summa cum laude) and received outstanding student leader award. In 2013, he joined Kühne Logistics University (KLU) and completed the Master of Science Program in Management for which he received the KLU Best Student Award (Class of 2015). Highlighting the under-researched issues pertaining to intergroup relations between aid workers, his master thesis investigated the impact of leader boundary-spanning behaviors on leadership effectiveness in humanitarian organizations. Mojtaba has gained valuable experience during his research internship with Hamburgisches WeltWirtschaftsInstitut. In April 2015, he became a research assistant at the KLU. Mojtaba is also Head of Projects at Research Institute on Leadership and Operations in Humanitarian Aid (RILOHA).


Tel: +49 40 328707-307
Fax: +49 40 328707-109


Professional Experience


Research Assistant at Kühne Logistics University


Research Assistant - Internship at Hamburgisches WeltWirtschaftsInstitut, Hamburg, Germany


Teaching Assistant at American University of Afghanistan, Kabul, Afghanistan


Since 2015

PhD  Candidate in Leadership at Kühne Logistics University, Hamburg, and Leuphana Universität, Lüneburg, Germany


Semester Abroad, Participation in Executive MBA at Özyeğin University, Istanbul, Turkey

2013 - 2015Master of Science in Management at Kühne Logistics University
2012Summer School at American University of Central Asia, Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan
2009 - 2012Bachelor of Business Administration in Accounting at American University of Afghanistan, Kabul, Afghanistan
  • Salem, M., Besiou, M., Van Quaquebeke, N., & Meyer, L. (2018). Intergroup Leadership: How Leaders Can Enhance Efficiency and Effectiveness of Humanitarian Operations. Production and Operations Management Annual Conference, Houston, US, May 4th – 7th.
  • Salem, M., Besiou, M., Van Quaquebeke, N., Meyer, L. (2017). Leading local and expatriate humanitarian aid worker in the field: A case for intergroup leadership. Paper presented at POMS 28th Annual Conference, Seattle, USA, May 5th – 8th.


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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Open reference in new window "Intergroup leadership: How leaders can enhance performance of humanitarian operations"

DOI: 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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Open reference in new window "How field office leaders drive learning and creativity in humanitarian aid: Exploring the role of boundary-spanning leadership for expatriate and local aid worker collaboration"