John Weeks

Professor of Leadership and Organizational Behaviour

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John Weeks is Professor of Leadership and Organizational Behavior. He works at the intersection of leadership, organizational culture, and change. He helps leaders understand how they can manage themselves to lead others more effectively and to have a positive and intentional impact on the culture of their organizations.

He believes leadership is about helping people to change their mindsets, and that the most important legacy of a leader is the culture they help create around them. Defining organizational culture as what people say and do when they think their bosses are not looking, he argues that leaders influence culture even when they don’t mean to. Leaders are role models – even, or maybe especially, when they don’t intend to be. And the more senior we become, the more we are in the spotlight all the time. Weeks’ work helps leaders to be their best selves as often as possible in order to have a consistent, insistent, and persistent influence on the culture they want to create.

The basis of leadership is the capacity of the leader to help people change their mindset. The most enduring legacy of a leader is the culture they leave behind.

His work has focused on the future of the office in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, including a 2021 Harvard Business Review article on the topic entitled Designing the Hybrid Office. He concludes that although we have seen that, for many jobs, individual work and task-related meetings can be carried out well through remote working and without the need for a daily commute, the office retains an important role for functions that technology cannot easily replicate such as driving culture, strengthening relationships, and fostering learning. And this means that office design, technology, and management practices need to evolve so that offices can become equally effective as social, learning and innovation spaces.

Weeks has worked with a long list of clients in Europe, the Americas, and Asia, including ABB, Actelion, Aggreko, Alcatel-Lucent, AXA, BAT, BMW, Bolton Group, Bühler, Grosvenor, Group SEB, Firmenich, Georg Fischer, Hempel, Holcim, Iberdrola, Imerys, KPMG, Kone, LafargeHolcim, LDC, LEGO Group, Maersk, Mars, Mazda, Neste, Nestlé, Nokia, Novartis, Orion, Pon, PwC, SABIC, Société Générale, STADA, Tenaris, Tetra Pak, Van Oord, VAT, X5, and WWF.

He is also Associate Director of IMD’s High Performance Leadership (HPL) open program, an intensive six-day program for experienced senior leaders, and until recently served as a board member at LEO Pharma.

His book, Unpopular Culture, on the corporate culture of a British bank, won widespread praise from the Financial Times, The Economist, BBC Radio 4, The Guardian, The Spectator, Times Higher Education, The Boston Globe, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, CIO Magazine, and Business Digest (France), as well as the American Journal of Sociology, Administrative Science Quarterly, Contemporary Sociology, and Work and Occupations. The Financial Times said that the book’s thinking applies to all companies in all countries.

His work has also been published in Harvard Business Review, the Financial Times, Academy of Management Review and Organization Studies, and he previously served as a senior editor at Organization Studies and as a member of the editorial board at the Journal of International Business Studies.

Before joining IMD in 2007, Weeks was Assistant Professor of Organizational Behavior at INSEAD for 11 years. He has a background in technology and training as an organizational ethnographer, holding a PhD in management from the MIT Sloan School of Management, an MPhil in management from the University of Oxford, and a BA in computer science from the University of California, Berkeley.

Selected publications
Book
Unpopular culture: The ritual of complaint in a British bank
When we start a new job, we learn how things are done in the company, and we learn how they are complained about too. This book considers why people complain about their work culture and what impac...
Published 1 January 2004
Article
Designing the hybrid office
The natural experiment forced on the world by the coronavirus demonstrates that the academics and tech visionaries who have been talking since the 1980s about the possibilities of remote work were ...
Published 1 March 2021
Article
Who moved my cubes?: Creating workspaces that actually foster collaboration
Managers once discouraged, even forbade, casual interactions among employees. To many bosses, chitchat at the watercooler was just a noisy distraction from work. Today we know that chance encounter...
Published 1 August 2011
Article
Photocopiers and water-coolers: The affordances of informal interaction
There has been increasing recognition of the importance of informal interactions in organizations, but research examining the effects of the physical environment on informal interaction has produce...
Published 1 January 2007
Article
Find the gold in toxic feedback
The article discusses how managers can deal with feedback from peers or subordinates that is personally offensive, inaccurate, irrelevant, or unbalanced. Many managers, it is said, either become de...
Published 1 April 2007
Insight for Executives
Article
Designing the hybrid office
The natural experiment forced on the world by the coronavirus demonstrates that the academics and tech visionaries who have been talking since the 1980s about the possibilities of remote work were ...
Published 1 March 2021
Dynamically designed around human connection, the hybrid office is the workplace your team needs
Article
Dynamically designed around human connection, the hybrid office is the workplace your team needs
Pandemic restrictions have revealed the vital processes facilitated by the office space itself. Hybrid workspaces will offer the best of both worlds in the post-pandemic landscape.
Published 25 February 2021
The LEGO Group leadership playground: Energizing everybody every day (B)
Case Study
The LEGO Group leadership playground: Energizing everybody every day (B)
In 2018, the LEGO Group defined a new way of leading to enable the company to move more quickly, to make the right decisions, to deliver its mission and the commercial momentum that sustained it, a...
Published 1 February 2021
The LEGO Group leadership playground: Energizing everybody every day (A)
Case Study
The LEGO Group leadership playground: Energizing everybody every day (A)
In 2018, the LEGO Group defined a new way of leading to enable the company to move more quickly, to make the right decisions, to deliver its mission and the commercial momentum that sustained it, a...
Published 1 February 2021
In the field with Eli Lilly
Article
In the field with Eli Lilly
Eli Lilly and Company is a global pharmaceutical company headquartered in Indianapolis, USA, with products marketed in 120 countries. Eli Lilly Austria, Switzerland, Germany is the company’s third ...
Published 6 February 2020
Eli Lilly and company: A transformation journey “on equal footing” (C)
Case Study
Eli Lilly and company: A transformation journey “on equal footing” (C)
By 2017 it was clear that the transformation of Eli Lilly and Company, Austria, Switzerland, Germany had been a success. Business results were outstanding, and people in the organization were energ...
Published 23 June 2019
Eli Lilly and company: A transformation journey “on equal footing” (A)
Case Study
Eli Lilly and company: A transformation journey “on equal footing” (A)
When Simone Thomsen took over as General Manager of Eli Lilly and Company, Austria, Switzerland, Germany, the last thing her new team wanted from her was yet another vision. The organization had fa...
Published 23 June 2019
Eli Lilly and company: A transformation journey “on equal footing” (B)
Case Study
Eli Lilly and company: A transformation journey “on equal footing” (B)
At the end of her first year as General Manager of Eli Lilly and Company, Austria, Switzerland, Germany, Simone Thomsen took a risk and let the organization’s Leadership Challenge Team (LCT) design...
Published 23 June 2019
Report
Neste and IMD: Partnering for renewal
When Matti Lievonen became the CEO of Neste in 2009, the Finnish oil refining company was facing strong headwinds – a sharp fall in oil prices, market overcapacity, falling margins and new carbon e...
Published 28 February 2018
Rebooting IBM again
Case Study
Rebooting IBM again
IBM, under CEO Ginni Rometty, is trying to transform itself into a cloud and cognitive computing services company. This huge shift requires a culture change that, Rometty argues, the company is wel...
Published 30 October 2017
Article
Das Kreative Büro
Teams sind dann besonders innovativ, wenn die Mitarbeiter spontan mit anderen Kollegen Gedanken austauschen und Ideen diskutieren können. Doch die Gestaltung der Arbeitsplätze und das Verhalten der...
Published 1 October 2011
Article
Who moved my cubes?: Creating workspaces that actually foster collaboration
Managers once discouraged, even forbade, casual interactions among employees. To many bosses, chitchat at the watercooler was just a noisy distraction from work. Today we know that chance encounter...
Published 1 August 2011
Article
Blurring face-to-face and virtual encounters
Here's a puzzle: Technology connects us more completely than ever before (we can call, text, email, and Skype practically anyone anywhere, and we do) and yet the face-to-face conference business is...
Published 18 July 2011
Report
Communicating corporate purpose
Leading European companies publicly express their sense of purpose. Expressions of purpose balancing the interest of different stakeholders and customer-focused expressions of purpose were dominate...
Published 1 January 2010
Article
Find the gold in toxic feedback
The article discusses how managers can deal with feedback from peers or subordinates that is personally offensive, inaccurate, irrelevant, or unbalanced. Many managers, it is said, either become de...
Published 1 April 2007
Neste & IMD: Partnering for renewal
Report
Neste & IMD: Partnering for renewal
When Matti Lievonen became the CEO of Neste in 2009, the Finnish oil refining company was facing strong headwinds – a sharp fall in oil prices, market overcapacity, falling margins and new carbon e...
Published 1 January 2000