Leadership in academic settings

Leadership roles

Based on the findings from the qualitative studies included in this project, we identified a total of 16 leadership roles for formal leaders and 14 leadership roles for team members. Below, you can find detailed tables presenting the leadership roles, their definitions and their underlying behaviours in the sequence of their number of citations, with the highest cited leadership role at the top.

Leadership roles for formal leaders

Leadership role

Underpinning behaviours

Well-being leader: The formal leader is attentive to the well-being of team members both at and outside of work. The formal leader is also mindful of a healthy work-life balance for team members. 

Caring for well-being outside work: Paying attention to each employee's personal well-being both spontaneously and by regularly initiating informal conversations, asking how things are going in their private life and taking the time to listen.

Caring for well-being at work: Taking initiatives to increase employees' job satisfaction, for example, by understanding and supporting their work situation.

Being mindful of employees' work-life balance: Ensuring that employees have a healthy work-life balance.

Task leader: The formal leader dares to make decisions and communicates them quickly to the team. Furthermore, the formal leader selects the right people for the team and coordinates regular team meetings. The formal leader creates clarity around tasks and responsibilities, chooses priorities, and follows up closely.

Coordinating team meetings: Regularly planning, preparing, and leading team meetings to monitor the team’s functioning and to make joint decisions.

Making decisions quickly and informing the team: Daring to make decisions, making concrete decisions quickly, and also communicating these decisions quickly to the team.

Creating clarity about each other's work: Ensuring that each other's responsibilities and current work are known and clarifying the dependencies between all team members.

Providing structure: Establishing a clear framework in which rules, agreements, and expectations are clear, and following this up.

Monitoring work: Keeping an overview of all ongoing tasks and projects and following this up closely.

Creating clarity around expectations: Making sure everyone knows each other's responsibilities and tasks.

Prioritising: Choosing not to want to do everything and focusing on things that are priorities.

Conflict-resolution leader: The formal leader intervenes in conflicts within the team and acts in a solution-oriented way. The formal leader also dares to have difficult conversations and intervenes when work is not being done correctly or agreements are not being kept. Above all, this person radiates calm in crisis situations.

Daring to intervene and reprimand in case of conflict: giving employees negative feedback and reprimanding them when they do not do their work correctly or fail to honour their commitments.

Remaining calm in difficult situations and during difficult conversations: Communicating sensitive issues (such as critical feedback) in a constructive, polite, and respectful manner. Furthermore, patiently listening to matters with which one personally disagrees and keeping one's own emotions under control.

Problem-solving: Searching for solutions to work-related problems and suggesting them to the team. Also warning of possible problems in the future, correcting what goes wrong, and giving tips to prevent recurrence in the future.

Solution-focused conflict management: When problems or conflicts arise, keeping calm and maintaining a positive attitude by encouraging the team to focus on the content rather than on the negative emotions (e.g., by offering solutions rather than looking for blame).

Mediating relational conflicts within the team: Being attentive to the group dynamic by mediating conflicts within the team and helping to find a solution.

Crisis management: In potential crisis situations adopting a proactive attitude, coming up with quick and clear solutions, and paying attention to the well-being of team members. Offering stability so that even in crisis situations the team can stay on course.

Daring to have difficult conversations: Daring to have uncomfortable conversations and discussing sensitive issues (e.g., negative feedback or conflicts) quickly rather than putting them off.

Social leader: The formal leader organises social team activities during and/or outside work (or supports team members to do so). Furthermore, the formal leader shows interest in the employees and their work and opens up to the team but keeps an appropriate distance.

Spending time with team members: Spending time with team members to get to know them better and showing interest and commitment in their work.

Organising or encouraging social activities during work: Supporting, encouraging, or self-organising informal activities during working hours with the team.

Organising or encouraging social activities outside work: Supporting, encouraging or self-organising informal activities outside working hours so that the team can get to know each other better.

Creating a good atmosphere: Ensuring a good atmosphere in the workplace by providing gifts (e.g., for special occasions, such as a team member’s birthday) and leaving room for jokes and humour.

Keeping an appropriate distance from the team: Maintaining an appropriate distance by not being too close to the team and keeping work and private life sufficiently separate.

Opening up to employees: Sharing things from one's private life (both positive and negative) with the team.

Empowering leader: The formal leader creates a team structure where team members are given autonomy and responsibilities and dares to delegate their own tasks to team members.

Delegating own tasks to team members: Delegating own work to the team and explicitly assigning certain tasks to team members, taking into account their status, motivation, or expertise.

Giving team members autonomy and responsibility: Giving employees the freedom and confidence to organise their own work.

Creating optimal team structure: Selecting team members to ensure sufficient diversity and compatibility within the team, and adjusting job functions according to efficiency.

Implementing a structure of shared leadership: Confiding aspects of leadership to team members and possibly also appointing leaders within the team. Also ensuring transparent communication of this to the team.

Psychological safety leader: The formal leader creates a safe climate within the team where every team member feels good and everyone is treated equally and where the formal leader is also sufficiently accessible to the team.

Ensuring a safe team environment where everyone feels good: Creating a safe atmosphere within the team where everyone feels good, where no one is excluded and where feelings can be openly discussed. This is done by not judging and by indicating that vulnerability can be shown.

Treating everyone equally: Treating every employee equally and making everyone feel equally important, for example, by listening to everyone in the team regardless of their status or by ensuring a proportionate workload.

Being accessible: Being sufficiently (physically/digitally) present and communicating one's own availability transparently to the team.

Participative leader: The formal leader actively seeks input from the team and also encourages the team to take initiative and work independently.

Asking for input from the team: Wherever possible, giving every team member a say in decisions and encouraging them to express their opinions rather than just making a decision themselves.

Encouraging initiative: Encouraging the team to take initiative and show active participation. Encouraging the team to work independently and think of ways in which their work can be more efficient.

External leader: The formal leader builds bridges between the own team and other teams/organisations and informs the team about relevant decisions from above. The formal leader represents the team inside and outside the organisation, and also encourages team members to communicate the work to the outside world. The formal leader communicates openly and transparently about the own decisions and ensures that team members understand the reasons underlying a decision.

Informing the team: Ensuring that the team is informed on time about for example, the context of certain procedures and decisions. In doing so, also filtering the most relevant information and passing it on to the right people.

Building bridges with other teams: Building bridges with other teams within the organisation, for example, by initiating joint projects or highlighting similarities with other teams.

Ensuring transparent communication: Being transparent about one's own decisions and ensuring that team members understand the underlying arguments or reasons.

Ensuring a flow of information from higher up: Ensuring that relevant information from higher up is properly communicated to the team.

Representing the team inside and outside the organisation: Representing the team to others, both inside and outside the organisation, defending the interests of one's own team.

Stimulating communication with the outside world: Encouraging the team to communicate their work to the outside world.

Team-oriented leader: The formal leader puts team interests above their own by taking on less pleasant tasks and being open to input from the team. The formal leader stands up for the team in difficult situations, involves them in decisions, and looks at things from the team members' perspective.

Putting the team first: Not acting out of self-interest but out of team interest. Being open to democratic discussions and input that differs from your own opinion, seeking support for decisions within the group, and also taking on less pleasant tasks yourself.

Looking from the perspective of the team or team members: Looking at problems from the perspective of the team or particular team members and taking into account their busy schedules.

Standing up for one's own team: Protecting the team from negative messages, standing up for the team in difficult situations (e.g., by taking the blame), and letting the team know that he/she is fully behind them.

Adaptive leader: The formal leader adapts one's own leadership to both the person and the situation. Furthermore, the leader is open to change and also dares to take risks.

Flexible leadership: Adapting one's own leadership behaviour flexibly to both the person and the situation, keeping a good balance between all aspects of leadership.

Daring to initiate change: Daring to take risks and having an open attitude to change.

Directive leader: The formal leader develops a vision, discusses the underlying values of the organisation, and clarifies how the work of the team members contributes to this. The formal leader then also acts consistently in line with this vision and values.

Developing and pursuing a vision: Developing a vision, sharing it with the team, and clarifying how their work contributes to it. Also, follow up on whether the team acts in line with this vision.

Pursuing values: Emphasising the societal relevance of the work the team does and discussing the organisation's values with team members. Consistently acting in line with these values, as well as one's own.

Team development leader: the formal leader pays attention to the development of team members by providing growth opportunities and strengthening their talents.

Caring for employee development: Responding to employees' career wishes and providing growth opportunities to strengthen and further develop their talents, as well as training new employees.

Motivational leader: The formal leader shows gratitude and appreciation for the work of team members. The formal leader motivates the team by pointing out their successes, but also supports them during setbacks.

Motivating employees: Reminding the team of their achievements, giving positive feedback, and cheering them up in the face of setbacks. At the same time, also encouraging the team to be better than the competition.

Showing gratitude: Showing that the team's efforts are appreciated. Expressing gratitude to them and showing confidence that they will do their job well.

Self-critical leader: The formal leader dares to be vulnerable by sharing their own mistakes or uncertainties with the team. Furthermore, the leader is open to criticism and encourages team members to give criticism.

Being vulnerable: Admitting one's own mistakes and sharing uncertainties or doubts with the team. Daring the team to ask for help and question themselves.

Allowing criticism: Having an open attitude towards criticism, responding to it, and encouraging employees to give feedback.

Self-developing leader: The formal leader reflects on their own role as leader and is willing to develop this leadership further.

Reflecting on the own leadership role: Reflecting on one's own leadership style and being prepared to develop further in this respect.

Exemplary leader: The formal leader always sets a good example.

Setting a good example: Always leading by example.

Leadership roles for peer leaders

Leadership role

Underpinning behaviours

Proactive leader: The proactive leader does not wait but is forward-looking and anticipates developments, takes on additional responsibilities, and always fulfils them.

Acting proactively and taking initiative: Acting quickly and proactively taking on additional tasks and initiatives (e.g., proposing concrete ideas on how the work can be improved or made more pleasant). In addition, also thinking about what is to come and anticipating possible problems.

Doing more than what is required: Doing more than what is necessary and also encouraging others to do so.

Taking responsibility and fulfilling commitments: Taking on responsibilities and always fulfilling them, even in difficult or busy times.

Psychological safety leader: The psychological safety leader ensures respectful and honest interactions between colleagues, creating a safe environment. This person radiates calmness, ensures transparent communication and also dares to show vulnerability towards colleagues.

Making oneself vulnerable: Daring to make oneself vulnerable by asking colleagues for help, admitting mistakes, and sharing one's own insecurities or doubts with colleagues.

Staying calm: Remaining calm at all times, putting problems into perspective, and helping colleagues to keep a positive attitude. Also, trying yourself to avoid your own irritation towards certain colleagues and to remain calm and polite.

Ensuring transparent communication: Daring to address unpleasant topics and being honest with colleagues instead of gossiping. Being transparent about the own interests and responsibilities.

Ensuring respectful and honest interactions: Treating all colleagues with respect and patience. In addition, trying to take individual needs into account and to not discriminate between colleagues of different hierarchical status.

Creating a safe environment: Being patient with colleagues, showing understanding, and being forgiving of mistakes.

Welfare leader: The welfare leader looks after the welfare of colleagues, makes sure everyone is heard, and motivates them (e.g., by acknowledging their work).

Being attentive to the well-being of colleagues: Being concerned about the well-being and needs of colleagues and acting as a point of contact. Noticing when things are not going well, offering a listening ear, and offering help.

Giving colleagues a voice: Having an ear for free speech and ensuring that everyone is heard, regardless of their status. In addition, being easily accessible yourself.

Motivating colleagues: Motivating colleagues for their work, for example, by giving compliments, recognising the successes of others, and helping to uplift colleagues in the face of setbacks.

Appreciating: Acknowledging the work of colleagues, as well as creating structures or practices to explicitly show this recognition or gratitude (e.g., by sending an email to the team when a team member has received a publication or award).

Cooperation leader: The cooperation leader helps colleagues with their work and encourages knowledge sharing within the team. Furthermore, this person monitors good cooperation within the team and takes the lead during team meetings.

Helping colleagues with work: Offering colleagues quick and constructive help and proactively taking over tasks from them. Advising colleagues on work-related problems and helping them in finding solutions.

Encouraging knowledge sharing: Regularly organising moments when knowledge, tips and experiences can be exchanged, and ensuring that good examples are shared.

Monitoring team functioning and cooperation: Monitoring the good functioning of the team. If there is poor cooperation, discussing it with the team and suggesting possible solutions.

Coordinating team meetings: Taking the responsibility for organising and preparing meetings. Also leading these meetings, keeping an eye on time, and taking notes.

Social leader: The social leader maintains informal contact with colleagues by organising social team activities outside work, having regular conversations, and taking initiative on special events (such as a colleague's birthday).

Organising social events outside of work: Organising social activities outside of working hours in order to get to know each other better.

Having informal contact with colleagues: Maintaining good contacts with colleagues through regular informal contacts (e.g., conversations or messages).

Paying attention to special events of colleagues: Paying attention to important events in a colleague's private life (e.g., birthday, birth of a child) and taking the initiative for a gift or a visit.

Connecting leader: The connecting leader strengthens the cohesion between the various team members, mediates conflicts to reduce tensions, and thus ensures a good atmosphere within the team. Furthermore, this person also opens up to colleagues.

Caring for connection and integration: Organising informal get-togethers with the entire team (e.g., coffee break, lunch, team meeting) to create cohesion within the team and to better integrate newcomers into the team.

Reducing tensions within the team: Helping to resolve conflicts within the team by naming them and searching for a solution.

Creating a cheerful atmosphere: Creating a fun, cheerful atmosphere at work through jokes, informal conversations, or decorating the office at festive events.

Opening up to colleagues: Sometimes sharing private matters or emotions with colleagues.

Liaison leader: The liaison leader represents the team to the formal leader. This person shares information from higher up with the team and also dares to give critical but constructive feedback to the formal leader.

Representing upwards: Being the bridge between the team and the formal leader, for example, informing the formal leader about the team’s functioning, presenting problems, and asking for the formal leader’s opinion.

Informing colleagues: Informing colleagues about decisions and conclusions of meetings.

Giving critical feedback to the formal leader: Daring to give the formal leader critical but constructive feedback on his/her leadership or content-related decisions.

Sharing information from above: Getting information from a higher level within the organisation and transferring this information to the team.

Identity-strengthening leader: The identity-strengthening leader puts the team's interests above the own, clarifies the common vision and always keeps this in mind. Furthermore, this person makes decisions in function of this vision and involves the team in this in order to create a support base within the team.

Putting the team first: Acting in the interests of the team rather than out of self-interest. Showing that the team is more important than the individual by looking beyond one's own function/opinion and thinking from the perspective of the team interest.

Being decisive: Being decisive and confident in taking decisions. This involves extensive discussions and seeking support within the team before making a decision.

Keeping a shared vision in mind: Clarifying the shared vision and emphasising what everyone has in common.

Task leader: The task leader monitors the work planning and the team goals, and ensures that the tasks are also completed. This person also ensures a fair distribution of tasks within the team.

Following up on work: Follow up on projects and ensuring tasks are done effectively. Also reminding the team of tasks and agreements and reminding them of past experiences.

Setting goals and following them up: Clarifying when and how the established goals are to be achieved. In addition, keeping in mind which goals the team has achieved so far and discussing goals that have not (yet) been achieved.

Ensuring a fair distribution of tasks: Ensuring a fair distribution of tasks, taking into account the situation and wishes of individual colleagues.

Logistics leader: The logistics leader takes care of the practical organisation of the team. This person ensures that the necessary materials are available and monitors the rules of hygiene and safety on the work floor.

Monitoring logistics: Managing the practical organization of the team, ensuring that the necessary materials are available, and monitoring the finances.

Monitoring guidelines: Monitoring the rules regarding order, hygiene, and safety, and reprimanding colleagues if necessary.

Development leader: The development leader trains (new) team members and is the point of contact regarding their needs and development wishes.

Paying attention to the development of colleagues: training (new) team members, showing interest in the further development and career wishes of colleagues and being available as a point of contact.

External leader: The external leader represents the team externally (e.g., the press) and actively builds a network with other teams with the aim of cooperation or information exchange.

Representing externally: Representing one's own team and their work to the outside world and taking the lead in communication with external parties (e.g., the media).

Encouraging external collaboration: Building a network with other teams with the aim of cooperation or information exchange. Also organising social activities with these other teams.

Innovative leader: The innovative leader shows innovative work behaviour and dares to take alternative paths for improved work processes.

Displaying innovative work behaviour: Daring to think out-of-the box and taking alternative paths in order to innovate and improve work processes.

Critical leader: The critical leader dares to enter into discussion with colleagues and, if necessary, gives critical feedback.

Critically guiding colleagues: Daring to discuss things with colleagues and, if necessary, giving critical feedback.