Dr Smita Tripathi

Dr Smita Tripathi

Lecturer in Human Resource Studies/Leadership

Plymouth Business School (Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Business)



Dr Smita Tripathi is a lecturer in Leadership and Human Resource Studies. Her teaching on undergraduate and postgraduate programmes focuses on approaches to managing and developing people, as well as critical issues in leadership, governance, human resource management, organisational change and performance. Her most recent research in collaboration with Faculty of Health aimed to investigate ‘the perceived role of AHP leaders and future leaders around more sustainable healthcare practices’ She has previously collaborated on research projects exploring partnership working and the leadership and governance of Higher Education delivery in Further Education Colleges. She has conducted research on leadership, local strategic partnerships, enterprise and innovation and has been associated with the governance of numerous charities in the South West including Plymouth and District Racial Equality Council, Plymouth Multilingual Families Group, local Parent, Teachers and Friends Associations and the South Asian Society of Devon and Cornwall. 

Smita invites PhD proposals on leadership and new modes of working, flexibility and wellbeing issues, change and performance, sustainability, crisis management and stakeholder engagement and collaborative leadership in Health and Social Care. She is equally committed to teaching and research and strongly believes in the synergies between the two and how that can contribute to the transformative impact of education on learners and make a contribution in society through research that makes a difference. This drives her priorities of research informed teaching and enhancing the student experience.

In the past her roles have included:

Civil Servant (Department of Customs and Central Excise, India) 1994-2002

Research Fellow (2004-05), University of Plymouth

Project Manager (ESF funded AcHE Project (2004-2008), HEFCE funded SLP Project (2008))

Associate Lecturer (Plymouth University, 2003-15)


Smita's PhD is titled Fluid Fractals: Leadership at the Apex of Local Authority in England. Dominant/mainstream theories of leadership offer limited help to understanding the relational, processual and collaborative constructions of leadership within pluralist state delivery systems and is critiqued leading to the development of the fluid fractal kaliedoscopic © model of leadership, which has four critical foci, namely,
• Context situated in the organisational, inter-organisational and networks around internal working, culture and politics policy, place, partnerships;
• Shared values embedded in nature of leadership with roles and relationships that intertwine and drive the understanding of collaboration, value, trust, legitimacy and identity and forge shared understandings and action;
• Process and practice with an emphasis on service delivery, the ‘doing’ of leadership including setting standards, decision-making, strategizing (vision and implementation), team working, reform and change; and,
• Narratives of leadership incorporating the language games, the rhetoric, the metaphors and symbols which influence the spirit of implementation of service and define and determine leadership discourses.
The fractal model of leadership resulted from an interpretivist-constructivist paradigm and a case study strategy of a local authority which included making sense of 34 transcripts of the semi-structured interviews with officers, members and stakeholders, observations over a year and documentary analysis. Though the fluid fractal model establishes an archetype, it is essential to explore the insights provided by these lenses and the dynamism that they accord through myriad patterns.The analogy with a kaleidoscopic fractal enables a rich understanding of leadership rooted in a specific context of service delivery yet with endless possibilities of leadership built from the permutations and combinations of the four themes.

She has an MBA (distinction) from the University of Plymouth (2002-2003), MPhil (Merit) from Jawahar Lal Nehru University, Delhi, India in Sociology (1992-1994).

She describes herself as a lapsed practitioner in academia and is passionate both about academic teaching and learning as well as its wider relevance to the workplace. This drives her agenda of research informed teaching and enhancing the student expereince.

Professional membership

Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, UK.

Roles on external bodies

Trustee and Secretary of the South Asian Society.

Member of the PTFA at DHSB. 

Editor of the e-newsletter for the South Asian Society. 



Teaching interests

Smita is Lecturer in Human Resource Studies/ Leadership and specialises in teaching Leadership (varied theories, aspects and pedagogies), Human Resource Management including flexible working, diversity and inclusion, blended learning, wellbeing and coaching, Organisational Change and Performance Management, Public Sector Management, Leadership, Governance and sustainability including SDGs, collaboration, partnerships and leadership in Health and Social Care. 

She specializes in teaching Leadership at undergraduate and postgraduate levels, to diverse cohorts of full-time, part-time, home and international learners and as part of executive and professional education. 

She is currently module leader for the post-graduate modules: HRL7005 Leading Managing and Developing People (which is also taught as part of TNE at Venlo as well as in Hong Kong), HRL6009 Leadership Practice (also taught at Hong Kong, Malaysia and teaching on the new Strategy and Leadership Module (STO6003) with colleagues - taught internationally at Hong Kong and Geneva. 

She is Programme Leader of the Master of Business Administration (3070) which is a distinctive ‘Top-up’ programme designed specifically for students already holding 120 level 7 credits in business or management, allowing them to fast-track their studies to gain a full MBA award. The Programme allows great flexibility and may be studied through distance learning from any location in the UK or worldwide, with no necessity to travel to Plymouth. Support is provided through specially developed online resources and regular online supervisory meetings. It offers September, January and April start dates. Students can acquire subject specialism named pathways by submitting dissertations in a range of subject areas.

As lecturer in Human Resource Studies and Leadership,Smita's teaching is concentrated in the broad arena of leadership, ethical and contemporary issues in leadership and management, both at undergraduate and post graduate levels including the MA (HRM), MBA/MBM and the MSc in International Business.

From 2012 to 2020, she taught and was module leader on the largest third year elective (Level 6) undergradute module titled HRL300 Organisational Leadership and on HRL306 - Leadership in Practice. 

Executive Education Experience: Lead role in the strategic development of executive leadership courses at the Business School including the development, validation and delivery on the post graduate programme in i) Organisational Leadership in partnership with National Health Service (NHS) South West (SW) Leadership Academy specifically developed for cohort consisting of practicing Senior Managers and Medical professionals within the NHS SW; ii) Leadership Practice modules for the Level 7/Masters Enterprise Leadership Programme in partnership with Plymouth City Council.

In the academic year September 2011-September 2012, Smita was Module leader and lecturer on the 3rd Year BSc in Public Services specifically the GPS 3002 titled Human Resource Management Strategy and Planning in the Public Sector and GPS 3004 Managing Change and Performance in the Public Services.

 Since joining the University in 2003, Smita has contributed extensively to the teaching of undergraduate and post graduate modules in the broad area of Strategy and International Business, Communication and Managing Cultural Diversity, Study Skills and Public Sector Management focusing on Leadership, Strategic Human Resource Management, Performance and Change Management


Smita has designed and developed open education resources (OERs) to support learning in the workplace for a HEFCE-funded project based at the University of Plymouth named Learning from WOeRK. These are teaching and learning resources that are freely available online for everyone to use, whether a tutor, or student as part of flexible continuing professional development (CPD) degree framework. The topic covered was Introduction to leading and managing at the workplace worth 10 credits at level 4 and consists of e-presentations (e.g. PowerPoint presentations), digital audio and video tutorials, optimised for viewing on computers and mobile devices.


In 2009-10, she was module leader of Human Resource Management Strategy and Planning in the Public Sector (GPS 3002) and Managing Change and Performance in Public Organisations (GPS 3004). Besides teaching, she have supervised dissertations and research projects, undertaken programme management including planning and designing the module and lectures and facilitating Subject Assessment Panels.


In 2008-09, Smita taught on the MSc/Postgraduate Diploma Public Management Stage 1 on the following modules: GPS 5001 (Strategic Human Resource Management), GPS 5002 (Resource Management in the Public Sector), GPS 5003 (Managing Change and Performance in Public Organisations) with Professor Kerry E. Howell, Dr Adrian Barton and Dr Mark Hyde. The students were practitioners working in local government and doing part-time studies.



Research interests

In terms of research, Smita is keen to research in the broad area of leadership, organisational behaviour and human resource management. Her leadership research embraces critical, relational contextual and shared perspectives, building upon doctoral research on ‘shared’ leadership at the apex of local government where political and managerial agendas converge and collide. More recently she has focussed on leadership and new modes of working, flexibility and wellbeing issues, change and performance, sustainability, crisis management and collaborative leadership in Health and Social Care.

She invites PhD proposals on leadership in different contexts and sectors, performance and change management, coaching, well-being, and other Human Resource related areas, collaborative leadership, community enagagement and partnesrhip working with the view to improving service delivery and better access in Health and Social care.

Smita is an enthusiastic 'sustainability advocate' involved in promoting 'collaborative leadership for sustainability' (2022 collaborating with Clare Pettinger of the Faculty of Health). Her research project with Clare aims to explore the perceptions of strategic leaders and trainee AHPs (future leaders) on ‘collaboration for Sustainability’: asking them to critically consider what ‘being a greener leader’ and sustainability mean in practice.

Her Phd was in public sector management and explored the shared leadership between elected and appointed officers at Local Government.

Her research supervision has embraced a range of methodologies focussing on the qualitative including case study, narrative and thematic content analysis using interviews and mixed methods.

She has conducted research on local strategic partnerships and innovation and enterprise. She has published on public sector management, leadership, ethics and trust, and governance. Her other research interests lie in sustainability, social enterprise, community enagagement and partnership working, stakeholders, collaborative leadership, change and performance, enterprise and creativity.

Smita's doctorate is an exploration of critical constructs around leadership through four lenses which draw together in fluid fractals. These much more organic and evolving patterns of leadership includes : i) the context in which leadership is situated and performs, ii) the shared and relational nature of leadership in interactions and continuous happenings, and the web of roles and relationships between powerful actors, which are perpetually evolving and contextualising, iii) the doing of leadership with its focus on interactive processes and practices, and iv) the narratives of leadership including the language games, the rhetoric, the metaphors and symbols which can challenge as well as reinforce the existing patterns of leadership as they emerge and mould and are moulded in diverse patterns.

Paper under review: Cureently three

Work in Progress:March 2023 Exploring the challenges of building an environment of effective collaboration between water and sanitation stakeholders in pursuit of SDGs: the case of Gulu, Uganda 

Most recent publication: Kabwe, C and Tripathi, S (2020) My Talent or Yours: Applying LPT to Talent Management in Practice in Competition and Change. Vol 24, Issue 2, 178–199

She has supervised 3 PhDs to completion, one of them as the DoS. She has 2 PhD students currently and another 2 joining in 2022. 

Other research

·      Academic Research: This has resulted in several published articles: 2 book chapters, Conference proceedings and journals articles for peer reviewed journals. The research has focussed on the area of leadership, public sector leadership and management challenges in the face of rapid changes. 

·      Applied Research: Since 2004, Smita has successfully obtained various grants to conduct applied research in the public sector and managed the projects ensuring completion on time, as per budgets and achieved the project goals. This included the: Local Strategic Partnership Research, evaluating community partnership within twelve regional Local Strategic Partnerships (LSPs) in the South West; the Strategic Leadership Project, partly funded by HEFCE focussing on base-lining and building leadership, governance and management capacity for HE in 11 FECs in the South West; and the Accessible Higher Education project which lead to the creation of the 11 FDs in Public Services whose students progress to the BSc in Public Services.

Grants & contracts

Smita secured £75,000 from HEFCE working with 11 FECs to enhance their leadership, governance and management with the view to delivering quality higher education.

Smita with her team successfully secured funding from European Social Fund (Objective 3 funding) administered by Government Office South West for the capacity building project working with 18 FECs to design and deliver quality Higher Education.




Kabwe, C and Tripathi, S (2020) My Talent or Yours: Applying LPT to Talent Management in Practice in Competition and Change. Vol 24, Issue 2, 178–199


 Tripathi, S. and Dixon, J., (2008) Leadership in a Paradoxical Public-Sector Environment: The Challenges of Ambiguity, The International Journal of Leadership in Public Services 4:3, 4-14.

•     Dixon, J., Sanderson, A. and Tripathi, S., (2007) “Governance and the Public Interest: The Challenges for Public Sector Leaders”, in Public Governance and Leadership (eds. Koch, R. and Dixon, J.), Weisbaden, Germany: Gabler-Verlag.

•     Dixon, J., Sanderson, A. and Tripathi, S. (2007) Leading Effectively in a Paradoxical Public Management Environment in International Symposium on Public Governance and Leadership, University of Plymouth, 24-25 May 2007.

•     Dixon, J., Sanderson, A. and Tripathi, S. (2006) "Ethics, Trust and the Public Interest: The Contending Modes of Societal Governance", in Governance of the State, (eds. Kakabadse, N.K. and Kakabadse, A., London: Palgrave.

•     Dixon, J. Sanderson, A. and Tripathi, S. (2006) "Community Empowerment: Developing Post-Bureaucratic Management Skills," in Proceedings of 2006 EFMD Conference on Management Development (CD Rom) Brussels: European Foundation for Management Development

•     Dixon, J., Sanderson, A. and Tripathi, S (2005). "Managing in a Paradoxical Public Sector Environment: The Leadership Challenge of Ambiguity", in Proceedings of 2005 EFMD Conference on Public Sector Management Development and Radical Change (CD Rom), Brussels: European Foundation for Management Development.

•     Dixon, J., Tripathi, S., Sanderson, A., Gray, C., Rosewall, I. and Sherriff, I. (2005) "Accessible Higher Education: Meeting the Challenges of HE in FE" in Foundation Degree Forward Journal, No.6: 34–38.

•    Dixon, J. Sanderson, A. and Tripathi, S (2004). "Improving Public Sector Leadership: Philosophical Dispositions and Situational Leadership", in Proceedings of 2004 EFMD Conference on Public Sector Management Development (CD Rom), Brussels: European Foundation for Management Development.

Conference Papers

•      Conference Paper Presentation at the 10th International Studying Leadership Conference (ISLC) held on 12th and 13th December, 2011 at the Bristol Business School at the University of the West of England, UK.

•     Conference Presentation at the 25 Year Anniversary BAM Conference scheduled for the 13th – 15th September 2011 titled Strategic Leadership at the Apex of Local Authority: The lens of leadership narratives.

•     Conference Presentation at the Public Administration Conference 2011 scheduled for 5th & 6th September titled Strategic Leadership at the Apex of Local Authority: Some Findings at the Business School, University of Birmingham.

•     Presentation at the Social Policy Association 2011 Conference between 4th-6th July 2011 titled Strategic Leadership at the Apex of Local Authority, Some preliminary findings.

•     University of Plymouth PostGraduate Symposium on 27th May 2011 titled Strategic Leadership at the Apex of Local Government: An Exploratory Case Study.

•     Methods @Plymouth2011 Conference on 19th of May, 2011 titled Strategic Leadership of Local Authority: Case Study Methodology.

•     Indian Institute of Management, Fourth Annual Conference on Public Policy and Management, 9-12th August 2009 titled Leadership and Governance in the New Public Management: The Paradoxes and Challenges.

•     University of Plymouth PostGraduate Symposium on 19th May 2010 and on 15th May 2009. These conferences have marked the first stage in the writing of an academic paper and I have found the feedback extremely useful.

•     2006, 2005 and 2004 EFMD Conference on Public Sector Management Development Brussels: European Foundation for Management Development (See publications for relevant details).



Reports & invited lectures

Report to HEFCE on Strategic Leadership Project (2008)

Accessible Higher Education Project Report (December 2006): Final Project Report. This £300,000 capacity building project was jointly funded by European Social Fund, University of Plymouth and Bournemouth University.

Conferences organised

Jointly organised the following Conferences:
In May 2007, the Conference on Public Governance and Leadership, partly funded by German Research Foundation, Berlin, Germany and Policy Studies Organization, Washington DC, USA with an international panel of speakers; and, 
In July 2006, the Conference on Achieving Global Equity, which was an agenda-setting workshop of international experts from the academic, business and development communities.

Other academic activities

My research interests include leadership, public sector management, reform and managerialism, performance and change management, enterprise and innovation, and sustainability and social enterprise.

Smita has wide experience of designing, developing, validating/ re-validating undergraduate and post graduate courses and modules. As part of the ESF funded project, she worked with FECs in the South West supporting their design and delivery of Foundation Degrees in the broad area of public services. She has been involved in conducting market research for designing sustainable programmes. As part of a team, she has successfully validated undergraduate and post graduate programmes including the Top-up BSc in Public Services, BSc in Public Service Management and the MSc in Public Management