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Next steps in project to develop a Global Leadership Survey and Framework

21 Jan 2022 | Doug Parkin The team reflects on the work so far, a scoping study involving 11 roundtables and a literature review, ahead of the interactive dissemination events to further inform and shape the survey and framework.

Ahead of four interactive dissemination and engagement events in February where participants have the opportunity to hear about and respond to the work so far to develop a global leadership survey and framework, Doug Parkin, Advance HE Principal Adviser for Leadership and Management and project lead, discusses the project and the richness of the findings with Richard Bolden, Professor of Leadership and Management and Director of Bristol leadership and Change Centre at the University West of England, UWE Bristol, and Richard Watermeyer, Professor of Higher Education at the University of Bristol and co-director of the Center for Higher Education Transformations. 

In this video, the team contextualise the immediate challenges for leaders in Higher Education (HE) and explore, “what makes now an important time to be reviewing higher education leadership”. They highlight the immediate impact of the pandemic and “forced adaptations within universities”; longer-term/pre-pandemic changes emerging in the world of work especially and how universities respond to the new needs of graduate talent in an era of digital change or digital transformation; and the challenges of what effective leadership looks like as universities wrestle with the question of what they are for and in the context of what sometimes feels like ‘perpetual crisis’. 

The team also discuss their research methods, particularly the 11 roundtables which brought together diverse groups representing different levels of leadership, different leadership communities and HE from around the world. The roundtables created a safe space for participants to discuss and reflect on their experiences of what it is like to lead and follow and work in their organisations at the present time. The roundtable discussions were shaped by three thematic areas that came out of the literature review: the context in which people are working and leading; what that means for values and purpose in HE leadership; and lastly insights and recommendations around the skills, competencies and behaviours that would enable or enhance effective HE leadership now and moving into the future.  

A thematic analysis of the data generated by the scoping study is now underway. The initial findings from this will form the basis of the dissemination and engagement events in February. As well as listening to these findings, participants will have the opportunity to react and respond through large group processes such as chats and live polls. Further insights coming out of the events will be folded into the final stages of the data review and analysis. In this way we hope to design a survey instrument that will firstly be engaging, relevant and accessible for colleagues participating, and secondly rich and valuable for those looking to engage with the survey outcomes.  

Reflecting on the literature review, led by team member Professor Bruce Macfarlane, University of Hong Kong, the team noted that as well as being a global search in terms of scope, it went beyond the parameters of HE to understand leadership in a wider range of relevant contexts, exploring changing values and contested values, as well as the skills leaders have and that they aspire to develop in a rapidly changing world where the role and contribution of universities and related organisations is fast evolving. 

Summarising, Richard Watermeyer reflected on the willingness and the appetite of the roundtable participants to have rich and challenging discussion, revealing in itself how “the timing of this inquiry has been so important… and really confirmed the extent to which people wanted to be engaged within this conversation [which] couldn't be more pertinent in the present context… where the Covid pandemic has provided what others have called an opportunity for a ‘great reset’: it's changed the way in which we view our working practices, the way we think about our forms of management, our forms of governance and our priorities across the multiple portfolios that are exercised within universities”. 

“We've taken very much a holistic whole community approach to understanding how people are viewing leadership and this has stimulated a high quality of thinking and discussion around how we can make leadership better, how we can make it more ‘fit for purpose’, and all of that, of course, is entirely contingent upon what we mean around the purpose of higher education.” 


Watch the conversation here. 

Dissemination and engagement events

At the next stage in the scoping study underpinning development of the Advance HE Global Leadership Survey and Framework, we are hosting a series of dissemination and engagement events in February. These events will bring together the widest possible community of colleagues to hear first-hand some of the initial findings from the research and, importantly, respond to them.

All colleagues from higher education institutions worldwide and related organisations are welcome to attend and participate (subject to numbers and capacity), in these online dissemination and engagement events.

In order to accommodate as many colleagues as possible, the same event will take place at the following dates and times:

Tuesday 8 February 2022, 07:00 - 08:30 (GMT) - book here 

Wednesday 9 February 2022,13:00 -14:30 (GMT) - book here 

Friday 11 February 2022, 15:30 – 17:00 (GMT) - book here 

Tuesday 8 March 2022, 09.00 – 10:30 (GMT) - book here 


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