Personal Leadership & Innovation

The rate of upscaling, economic changes and technological innovations is increasing ever faster. Higher vocational education professionals have to be able to quickly and flexibly adapt to these new changes. But how do you do this? What competences does a professional need to demonstrate personal leadership and innovation?

The Personal Leadership & Innovation professorship of applied sciences helps to bring clarity to complex problems and to find solutions in the area of human resource management. To this end, the professorship develops detailed and innovative study programmes and (corporate) training courses. In addition, it carries out top quality research. Concrete examples are a simulator for studying and training communication styles, the development of study counselling and monitoring leadership during the European Capital of Culture 2018 event.

Responding to developments

Until recently, a graduate at higher vocational level would nearly always end up in an organisation with fixed structures and procedures. All you had to do was meet the requirements, and then everything would be fine. But the world around us is changing – just look at the growth of social media – and that is also affecting future professionals. They are expected to understand the developments taking place and to know how to best deal with them. And it’s great if they can also pass on these qualities to others.

SiGa-Lab Smart Sustainable Industries

The SiGa-Lab is the Simulation & Game-Based Training & Assessment Lab of NHL Stenden University of Applied Sciences. The SiGa-Lab provides training and assessment, carries out applied research and offers facilities in the areas of simulator learning and serious gaming.

The SiGa-Lab provides a wide range of simulations and serious games, which study programmes, businesses and (educational) institutes can use for developing and assessing the (inter)personal skills of students and staff.

We also carry out applied research in the areas of simulator learning and serious gaming. We do this in collaboration with Groningen University and Delft University of Technology. Our research focuses on the effectiveness of simulations and serious games as educational instruments and also on the validity of simulations and serious games as assessment tool.

  • Modern lab facilities
    We have our own workshop and research area at the NHL Stenden, which we can set up flexibly depending on the simulations or games that we play or research. Our SiGa-Lab is equipped with  the most modern multimedia facilities, including prowise boards, game computers, beamers, (touch)screens, tablets, lighting and audio installation as well as a video behaviour observation system.
  • Our range of games
    The SiGA-Lab offers a varied range of games. Below is an overview.
  • Capture 
    The animated role play game Capture is a useful training/workshop tool for account managers to improve sales techniques. The workshop takes 2 hours and a maximum of 20 people can take part.
  • Integrety 
    The animated role play game Integrety [g1] deals with ethical conduct and integrity. The workshop takes 2 hours.
  • O-Fidelity 
    In the online simulation game O-Fidelity, participants have to deal with project management and organisational change. The course takes 2 to 3 weeks.
  • Play Your Strengths 
    In the Lego Serious Play Game, Play Your Strengths, participants employ self-determination and gain an insight into their own talents. The workshop takes 2 hours.
  • Esch-Cape 
    Collaboration and team development are central during the battle in this unusual escape room game Esch-Cape. In a series of rounds, participants battle against one another to leave the escape room as quickly as possible. This game can be used as an in-company event.
  • Team Up
    In the Multiplayer adventure game Team Up, the focus is on collaboration and team development. This training/workshop takes 2 hours and is suitable for a maximum of 8 people per workshop.
  • ARRA
    ARRA is a Multiplayer adventure game and is ideal for strengthening collaboration and team development. The participants compete against one another in groups of 8.
  • Artemis
    Artemis is a leadership and collaboration simulation game in which the participants work on competences such as leadership and collaboration. A maximum of 6 participants per workshop.
  • Quinn Leadership Styles Simulator
    Are there born leaders or can anyone give leadership? The Quinn Leadership Styles Simulator provides participants with an insight into their style of leadership.
  • Disc Communication Styles Simulator
    How do you communicate with your colleagues? This question is central during this video role play simulation.
  • Keep Talking
    In the communication and collaboration game Keep Talking, communication and reasoning are central.
  • ETU Communication Simulator
    How do you make a decision and how do you communicate that to your colleagues? In this video role play simulation game ETU Communication Simulator, participants gain a better understanding of the way in which they communicate.

Collaboration with businesses and institutions 

At NHL Stenden University of Applied Sciences we work closely with businesses and institutes that put our simulations and serious games to practical use. Under particular terms and conditions, businesses and institutes may use the facilities at our SiGa-Lab. For more information, please contact the manager:

More information

If you are interested in finding out about what we can offer, please visit our website Sims & Games for businesses and institues. Alternatively, feel free to contact us to discuss how we can support you in personal development and assessment, by mailing us at: or phoning 058-2511528.

We also have a wide range of possibilities for students. Look for our training courses and workshops with open registration at Sims & Games for students. You can also contact us to discuss research and internship possibilities at the SiGa-Lab.

Focusing on your strengths?

In the last few years, the idea of “focusing on your strengths” has been increasingly spreading throughout educational practice due to the influence of positive psychology. But does it really work? Do students actually do their best more if they take part in educational activities in those areas where their strengths lie rather than their weaknesses? And if so, how do we explain this?

In the dissertation Focus on your strengths? The role of perceived relative strengths versus weaknesses in learning effort, researcher  Djoerd Hiemstra examined the motivational effect of 'focusing on your strengths' in education and development. The conclusion is that focusing on your strengths only leads to greater efforts in a learning climate that is geared towards self-determination, and not in a traditional learning climate where the focus is on doing well in tests.

Self-regulatory learning environment

In a self-regulatory learning environment, therefore where students feel free to choose their own learning goals, students tend to display greater efforts if they focus on their strengths rather than on their weaknesses. Examples of such a self-regulatory learning environment are the electives that many study programmes offer, or the study components whereby students work on a personal development plan that they have put together themselves.

The explanation for the positive relationship between strengths and the efforts made is that students feel more competent when carrying out learning activities in areas where their strengths lie. As a result, they are more motivated and willing to work harder. Such a positive relationship between a person’s strengths and efforts is in line with influential motivation theories such as the self-determination theory (Ryan & Deci, 2000 and the self-efficacy theory (Bandura, 1997), and suggest that people are more motivated if they believe they can do something well.

Traditional learning environment

The research carried out in this dissertation shows, however, that this positive relationship between strengths and effort only occurs in a self-regulatory learning environment. In a traditional learning environment, where students focus on doing well in their tests, there is actually a negative relationship. In such environments, students are more inclined to focus on their weaknesses rather than on their strengths. For example, when students prepare for their tests they spend more time and energy on subjects in which they are not so good, than on subjects in which they think they will perform well.    

Such a negative relationship between strengths and effort is in line with the control theory (Carver & Scheier, 1999) that suggests that people are motivated through perceiving a discrepancy between the current situation and an aim or norm.  

Practicable motivation strategy 

The research in this dissertation therefore shows that the conviction of being able to do something well in education can lead to both less and more efforts, depending on the learning environment. Motivation theories therefore have to be able to predict both positive and negative relationships between the perceived competence and efforts, and take account of the effect of the learning context.

For educational practice, these results mean that ‘focusing on your strengths’ is not very practicable as a motivation strategy in traditional learning environments in which the norms that are set by the teacher or study programme are dominant. ‘Focusing on your strengths’ is probably more suitable as a self-motivation strategy for those who have the freedom to exert more control over their own study and development, than as a motivation strategy that teachers and study programmes can use to motivate students to meet their requirements.  

Competences that contribute to the degree of personal leadership

Analytical skills, social orientation and the ability to assess oneself all help in the personal leadership skills of first-year students. This is one of the provisional results from the research conducted into competences that contribute to the degree of personal leadership. This study was carried out by the Personal Leadership and Innovative Strength professorship.

The job market in the Netherlands is becoming ever more flexible. We no longer have a job for life, but we do have to continue learning throughout our lives. Professionals change jobs more than they used to, and partnerships are becoming increasingly dynamic and more self-directed. It is conceivable that every member or several members of a partnership can provide leadership, perhaps in varying combinations. These developments require a certain degree of personal leadership from future professionals. The Personal Leadership and Innovative Strength professorship therefore carries out research into those competences that contribute to the degree of personal leadership.

Leadership and competences

An important aim of the quantitative research is to gain an understanding of the degree to which first-year students possess leadership qualities and which competences can contribute to this. A second aim is to find out the degree to which students further develop their leadership qualities during their study.

The final results of the research are expected in the spring of 2017. The most important insight that the research has shown until now is that the ability to assess oneself and act independently, as well as one’s analytical skills and social orientation, contribute to the degree to which first-year students possess personal leadership skills.

With whom do we collaborate?

Together with businesses, governmental authorities and institutions, the Personal Leadership and Innovation professorship investigates personal qualities such as independent and personal innovation. We do this through practice-based research.

The main aim of the professorship is to find out through research which competences professionals need in order to demonstrate personal leadership and innovative strength. We do this through the following activities:

  • preparing and carrying out practice-based research;
  • publishing the research results in scientific journals and trade journals;
  • converting the results of the research into study programmes and materials;
  • sharing the insights gained through (guest) lectures and study meetings.


As a professorship we work with various partners, including:

  • Technology Institute, Willem Barentsz Institute
  • Human Resources Management (HRM) study programme, NHL StendenUniversity of Applied Sciences
  • Communication & Multimedia Design study programme, NHL StendenUniversity of Applied Sciences
  • X-Honours programme, NHL University of Applied Sciences
  • School leader study programmes, ECNO/NHL Stenden Professionals
  • Leeuwarden, European Capital of Culture 2018


The Personal Leadership and Innovation professorship has a wealth of knowledge and experience regarding HRM at its disposal, and uses this to gain an understanding of complex HR issues and help resolve these.

Together with other parties, such as universities and consultancy firms, the professorship is able to set up and carry out top quality research. The professorship is also able to help in developing detailed high-quality and innovative study programmes and (corporate) training courses.


NHL Stenden University of Applied Sciences
Academy of Commerce & International Business