Inspiring Leadership

A Decade of Leadership from the Leadership Foundation.

A new HEPI report is out. Inspiring Leadership – Personal Reflections on Leadership in Higher Education is written by Ewart Wooldridge who recently stood down as Chief Executive of the Leadership Foundation after 10 years at the helm. As he says in the introduction things have changed a bit over this time:

Over those ten years, the pressures on university leaders have grown hugely. Higher Education has shifted from being collaborative to competitive and market driven, from a sector to a looser system, from national to transnational, and from certain to uncertain. Today, the key requirements of university leadership seem to be agility, distinctiveness and the capacity to spot the right kind of alliance to build resilience in the face of competition and uncertainty. But also the ability to manage the paradox of operating in a market whilst still upholding the traditional values of the sector.

It’s a nice piece and a succinct reflection on the demands of university leadership. Wooldridge argues that we need leaders who:Ewart-Wooldridge-web

  • understand how to make ‘tight/loose’ work in balancing the academic and business domains
  • can discover the ‘game changing’ generative domain and make it happen, and
  • can build the kind of ‘guiding coalitions’ that really embed the changes behaviourally.

My only real disappointment is that, unlike many other LFHE publications, I struggled to find points to disagree with in the report. So I won’t look to find ways to pick an argument but rather reproduce the author’s final comments:

Higher Education has been a wonderful world to have worked in with some of the most inspiring examples of leadership, but there are still plenty of challenges, of which I would highlight just three:

    • There is still a residuum of the ‘heroic’ leadership culture that the LFHE research on top leadership uncovered. The more engaging and inclusive style which we have seen develop seems critical for the new era of HE
    • We need to challenge the sector on the diversity of its leadership and governance bodies so that they reflect much more the gender and ethnicity of the communities they serve
    • We need to do more development work inside Celia Whitchurch’s collaborative “third space” between academic and professional cultures which is rich in possibilities.

I look forward to more of this in the future.

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