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Researcher in focus: Dr Inmaculada Adarves-Yorno

21 November 2016

4 minutes to read

Researcher in focus: Dr Inmaculada Adarves-Yorno

Dr Inmaculada Adarves-Yorno is Senior Lecturer in Leadership Studies and will be speaking at a talk marking International Women’s Day from inspirational women leaders who have ‘been there, done that’.

The talk will be an informal, interactive panel sessions led by women at different stages of their studies and/or career honestly discussing how they made the move to the next stage and showing casing what supported them.

Dr Adarves-Yorno was based at the University of Exeter’s Psychology department until 2006 when she moved to the Business School’s Centre for Leadership Studies.

Why did you want to speak at the Been There, Done That talk?

When I was asked, I felt an instant desire to say yes. I’m passionate about my work and I have had a long professional journey with many different chapters: from a health psychologist specialised in gender and working at Spain’s Ministry of Social Issues, to a CEO advisor and HR practitioner working in a private company, to a researcher fascinated by a wide range of topics and a teacher strongly committed to a new way of learning.

I’ve also experienced the tensions and joys of motherhood and working part-time. Above and beyond all I feel I have learnt a lot not only from my successes but also from my challenges and failures – I feel that’s important and valuable to share.

Why did you move from the School of Psychology to the Centre for Leadership Studies (CLS)?

Although I loved being in the Psychology department during that time, however my skills, knowledge and expertise beyond academia were underutilised.

Moving to the Centre for Leadership Studies allowed me to make use of everything I had. We were running workshops for business leaders as well as engaging with consultants and exploring their questions and viewpoints. This was complementary to my research.

What are your research areas?

While I was in Psychology, my main research was on creativity. We developed a new approach to creativity based on the social identity perspective.  Since 2007 I’ve been exploring what areas resonate not only with my intellect but with my whole being.

I’ve immersed myself more and more into understanding authentic leadership development and sustainability change agents – people who drive changes to make organisations more sustainable. Although it’s argued we need more change agents to deal with the current sustainability crisis, there are lots of unknowns that surround them.

In our work we have started to explore who those individuals are, their motivations, their resources, challenges, well-being, as well as their influence. Furthermore, we are currently starting to investigate nuances and paradoxes such as “are their sustainability values a driving force or a barrier for their work?”

In this early stage of the research we’ve received internal grants and worked with people in Schumacher College and Embercome.

We’ll also start working with the Environment Agency. We are expecting to hear soon from the British Academy about a grant proposal and we just submitted another to the Leverhulme Trust.

Are there any big differences in your new area of research – and does this change how you approach your work?

When I was working in psychology most of my research was experimental and quantitative. The current research with change agents is a new area with very little research previously conducted.

So I’ve chosen to use a more inductive approach to explore all the nuances and complexities. This method will later be combined with questionnaires and some experiments.

Right now I’m out of my comfort zone in terms of research methods and analysis. However it’s exciting to know I’ll be able to work appropriately with a range of methods including some innovative ones we are developing.

You used to work for a private firm as a psychologist – has this fed into your academic work?

It’s strongly shaped my understanding of organisations, leaders and employees. It has provided me with great material that is invaluable for my work with consultants and my MBA teaching.

I’m responsible for the leadership development module of the The Exeter MBA. Many of my students aim to become sustainability change agents. On one level my work is to provide them with the tools to become more successful, on another my commitment is to keep on learning from them once they are in the workplace.

As an organisational psychologist I advised my CEO and acted as a HR practitioner. Advising the CEO enabled me to see how her inner state was having a critical impact on her actions. Then in my work with the employees and one to one meetings I could observe how the CEO actions were in turn not only having an impact on employees’ performance but also their inner state.

Although this seems obvious, it is relatively ignored in academia. One of the innovative studies I have developed in the last few years revolves around developing leaders through their inner and outer journeys.

In addition, from our research it is also clear that the resources and challenges change agents possess and encounter are also located at these two levels. Therefore my work as a practitioner has greatly informed and guided my teaching and research.

You’re working with charity Embercombe on leadership courses – what are you doing with them?

Embercombe is a great social enterprise which is providing transformational leadership courses. Among other things, they aim to develop authentic leaders and sustainability change agents.

I started collaborating with them five years ago looking at their programme called Catalyst; we shared ideas and evaluated the programme using a pre and post intervention. Furthermore, many of my students have greatly benefitted from participating in their courses and sessions as part of their programme – both MBAs and Grand Challenges students. In terms of research we have conducted longitudinal research, focus groups and interviews with some of their alumni and change agents.



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