Leadership in Higher Education – a new publication

An old friend and onetime colleague of mine who publishes a popular blog has written about a recent Leadership Foundation publication on “What do we know about leadership in higher education.”

Dr Greatrix writes that “We seem to be clutching at straws in trying to establish whether there is any evidence for leadership benefiting universities in terms of their core activities:

Evidence of the impact of leadership on the extent and quality of research, learning and enterprise is rather slim.

Moreover, university staff inevitably have contrasting views on what effectiveness means, what its characteristics are and indeed whether individuals can even be described in this way:

What works in one context will not necessarily work ?in another, and equally may be judged as effective? and ineffective in the same context. As in the wider literature, the research generates lists of characteristics ?of effective leaders that are somewhat idealised and apolitical. Oppositional narratives underpin estimates of effectiveness; a rational narrative stresses data-driven, command and control, while an alternative prizes an open- ended and fluid creation of space in which autonomy can flourish. Effectiveness is currently related to individuals, but might be more usefully applied to units.”

This might all be a little depressing, particularly for universities who have invested significant amounts of time and money in leadership development for their senior staff. Personally  I find the short mantra of Rob Goffee and Gareth Jones (authors of “Why Should Anyone be Led by You”) a useful way of viewing leadership – Be Yourself, More, With Skill.