Friday, September 25, 2009

Leaders in Universities

Yesterday I met with the Professoriate of the University. What a fantastic bunch of people. It is good to know that we have such academic “grunt” driving CQUniversity. Like all staff that I have met at the University they all have a real passion to drive the University forward. They truly believe in the CQUniversity – and what it can become. All of our professors are academic leaders and are central to our future success.

My meeting with the Professors got me thinking about leadership and management in universities. I think there are two very closely related groups of academic leaders within a university. They are the scholastic leaders and the managerial leaders.

The scholastic leaders are the academic leaders who are exemplified by our professors. They have become leaders through there mastery of their discipline and through research. I think we also have scholastic leaders who have got there through mastery of teaching and learning practice.

The managerial leaders are those who got there through mastery of managerial processes. This group of managers are exemplified by our Directors and Heads of School. The Heads of School also need to have gained academic credibility through scholarship so it could be argued that they are a “blended” leader!

I think that in universities the relationship between managers and leaders is not fully understood. At times I think we sometimes make scholastic leaders managers – just because they are a good scholastic leader. We often take good teachers and researchers and twist their arms to be managers – Heads of School. What we should be doing is finding the people who have a love of management and have academic credibility – the “blended leaders”.

We need to start to track down the “blended” leaders and make them professional academic managers. These should be our Heads of School. They should be given autonomy to become empire builders and be allowed to grow their schools to teach more students and undertake more research. They should be developed so that they can safeguard the welfare of the school staff and develop them into the leaders they want to be. I think they should be seen as senior managers within the university and placed on management contracts.

But what about at the executive management level? Should the PVCs, DVCs and Executive Directors be scholastic managers, managerial leaders or blended leaders? I believe that there is room for each of these types of leaders at the top. In fact you need a mix of all types of leaders to have a successful and balanced university. I think that everyone in a university should able to see a route for them to the top of the university. I will leave it to you to decide what type of leader the VC should be!

By the way a member of staff sent me a really interesting link to a site about motivation in organisations.

Daniel Pink reflects of motivation in organisations. I am very taken by his ideas – if you have time do have a look.


Anonymous said...

Scott, you observation of scholastic v managerial leaders has many parallels in business. Typically we take the best cost accountant and make them the worst costing manager, or engineering or sales manager. This is usually driven by the organisation structure, salaries and perceived status. In reality there are two organisational hierarchies, technical and managerial and mixing them often produces failure. If you observation at CQUni is accurate then only by changing the "reward systems" will you get the right people in the right positions. This is not just about salary, and often not even about salary.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your insights and vision on university leadership, Vice-chancellor.

I agree with much of what I think you have intended to say. Indeed, we could note that it is now almost cliche to say that strong and inspiring leadership is needed for ensuring organisational success. Except that you have labelled some of these leaders 'managers'. Manage what? Growth? Increased productivity? Efficiency? Savings? Because that's what managers actually do. I do believe that a university should also be about academic democratic processes which drive its decision-making structures. I am somewhat curious as to why this is not promoted in what you had to say as much as managerialism seems to be. After all, does not the traditional university (i.e., the body of scholars) elects its leaders (such as heads of schools or disciplines)? We have instead arrived at a point where the university contracts 'professional' managers to 'lead' academics and 'manage' what they do ... hmm ...

Vice Chancellor - CQUniversity said...

Some really interesting points.

I do believe there is a place for democracy in the academic decision making of a university – and we see that in action all the time at Academic Board. But elected managers (who are leaders) – I am not so sure. We would not elect a Professor of Science would we? I think we should and do go out and find the best person for the job and appoint them based on skills, experience, track record, qualifications, etc etc. What is the argument for electing managers?

I think there is an argument for having more staff involvement in the appointment of their managers – but that is a different matter.



Someone once said to me of the effect-

Being a Manager does not make you a leader.

People are drawn to leaders regardless of where they are...

An effective Manager is one who is also a leader.