Leadership is an important lever for achieving a high-performance, pleasant and safe working environment at a university. In this respect, leadership is not only reserved for rectors, deans, departmental heads or research group leaders; members within the team can also assume leadership and thereby have an important impact on the team's effectiveness and colleagues’ well-being.
The university setting presents unique challenges and opportunities for leadership that are not sufficiently addressed by existing organisational research theories and models. Therefore, this research sought to understand the nature of effective academic leadership across various university levels, including board teams, research teams, and administrative and technical staff teams. More specifically, we wanted to identify key forms of positive leadership behaviour within the university context, not only for formal leaders, but also for leaders within a team (also referred to as peer leaders).
In a first phase, we aimed to compile a comprehensive list of positive leadership behaviours and leadership roles posed by formal leaders and by team members within the specific context of a university.
In a second phase, we aimed to determine the importance of each of these different leadership roles by relating them to different outcomes.
Relevance of leadership roles and behaviours
Relations between leadership roles and outcomes
Unique contributions of formal leaders and peer leaders
The role of confounding factors
We can conclude that having both good formal leaders and good peer leaders contributes significantly to each of the outcomes. Moreover, the combination of having both a good formal leader and good peer leaders is better than having only a good formal leader or only good peer leaders. It is therefore important to invest in the leadership of both formal leaders and leaders within the team, and this holds for the different groups and echelons within the university.
To support the above investment in leadership development in the context of teams, we can use a lot of material and insights from this study:
Using the following links, you can read more about the qualitative study, the leadership roles together with their underpinning leadership behaviours, and the quantitative study, where you can also find these analyses in more detail.
Thank you in advance for helping to build leadership within our universities!