The Brexit Blogs: To see ourselves as others see us

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The map/model is not the reality

Doug Parkin, programme director considers self-awareness as the foundation of leadership development.

Sometimes leadership and management development can feel like a checklist of overlapping skills. We look at things like communication skills, managing conflict, planning, negotiation, performance management, strategy development, political awareness, team dynamics, equality and diversity, change, and so on.  All useful headings, and under each there are valuable things to know, insights to gain and skills to acquire, practise and reflect upon.

But the simple truth is, in leadership who you are drives everything. Not in a confining way, a way that says, ‘you are this and this alone’, but actually a very sophisticated way that acknowledges firstly that to “Know thyself” (a variously attributed maxim from ancient Greece) is a life-long quest, and secondly that we are very adaptive creatures capable of re-inventing ourselves to varying degrees to meet the needs of different situations.

The real skill of leadership development is, therefore, to encourage, promote and support intense self-reflection. This applies particularly to what might be termed personal leadership development, which revolves around the critical question “what sort of leader do you want to be?” Self-knowledge and self-perception is, of course, a big part of self-awareness – nobody knows our personal history better than ourselves, for example – but without some external reference points the perspective this gives us can become quite narrow.  A mirror or two may be needed, in other words, to see sides of ourselves that are otherwise obscured or sometimes conveniently disregarded. And in one way or another those mirrors take the form of feedback.

 O wad some Pow’r the giftie gie us
To see oursels as others see us!

Never most noted for his contribution to management consultancy, Robert Burns (1786) nevertheless captured in this line of poetry the essence of 360-degree feedback. I can feel literary scholars wincing as I write, so let’s move on…

Daniel Goleman (1996), in his well-known model of emotional intelligence, defines self-awareness as “Knowing one’s emotions, strengths, weaknesses, drives, values and goals – and their impact on others”.  And emotionally intelligent leaders are people who seek feedback all the time – a variety of external checks and reference points – because they appreciate the mirror this holds up for them and the productive self-reflection that it triggers.

The challenge of effective leadership development is, in many ways, to telescope this process, and thereby create a rich variety of feedback perspectives in a relatively short time scale, and a safe, forgiving space in which to reflect upon them and consider what behaviours to adapt and personal leadership changes to commit to. More extended leadership programmes, incorporating interventions such as coaching and action learning, create review points for these commitments to be refreshed and reinforced. The following figure captures the opportunities for feedback and self-reflection that can occur on well-designed leadership development programmes:

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In an illuminating chapter called ‘When do we get to do feedback?’ Professor Paul Gentle (2014) notes “How rare it is to give and receive extensive and specific feedback on our behaviours”.  Simulation activities and similar structured exercises on programmes create an opportunity for ‘feedback in the moment’. This is feedback that is immediate and which participants can respond to in real time, and it is also an opportunity for colleagues to consider and practise sharing feedback and the appreciative environment that invariably helps to make feedback land effectively. These are transferable leadership approaches that can be used for feedback in teams or projects.

360-degree feedback (or multi-source feedback) tools, particularly those premised on a model of transformational leadership such as the Real World HE TLQ used exclusively by the Leadership Foundation, are a powerful way of making feedback from a participant’s institutional work context part of their tailored development. This feedback is sensitive and confidential to the individual and so one-to-one support from an accredited coach is essential to integrate the learning and align it with other development themes within the programme overall.

Personality-based diagnostics or psychometrics of various kinds attempt to provide an objective view of personality type on an individual basis. This is an opportunity to consider what lies beneath our behaviours, choices, preferences and motivations on an individual level. It is an important part of self-awareness to consider the psychological drivers that reasonably consistently manifest themselves in who we are and how we prefer to live, work and operate in the world. Inevitably, though, the use of any such tool involves using categories and dimensions – spectrums on which we are more or less inclined to see ourselves. Whether it is four, sixteen, or a hundred-plus categories that the tool renders, it is still a simplification because every individual is gloriously unique, but there can nevertheless be great value in exploring the truth within such a diagnostic profile.  And ‘exploring the truth’ is an important mindset to have, because ultimately we are the best judges of our type, even though diagnostic tools can challenge us and help to provoke fresh self-insight (as well as providing us with a short-hand vocabulary for discussing and considering personality – our own and others’). So, whether one uses the four temperaments from ancient times (Hippocrates and Galen), or their more recent cousins found in the work of Carl Jung (Personality Types, 1921), Myers and Briggs (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator ([MBTI], 1943), Merrill and Reid (Personal Styles, 1981),  Costa and McCrae (The Big Five, 1985) Margerison and McCann (Team Management System, 1995), or Bolton and Bolton (People Styles at Work, 1996), a learning environment needs to be created that enables the participant to mediate the data from their profile with their own self-awareness and, critically, other forms of experience and feedback. No one mirror can show every view.

There can be concern with some of these diagnostic profiles, such as MBTI, that the dimensions that operate within them create something of an ‘either-or’ approach to classifying people: e.g. introvert or extravert (although ambiversion has been put forward more recently to suggest a balance of the two).  Jung himself said, however, that “There is no such thing as a pure introvert or extravert. Such a person would be in the lunatic asylum” (1957), and this is why the notion of ‘preference’ (or tendency) is so important to the understanding and use of type. Preferences can be weak or strong, they can be hidden or apparent, they can be more or less balanced, but very few of us are trapped or confined by our preferences. As mentioned before, we are sophisticated beings and can learn to operate or excel within, outside or across our type-preferences, but it is nevertheless powerful and useful, particularly for leaders, to have a strong self-awareness of what those underlying preferences are or may be and to calibrate this with feedback from others on how they see and experience us.

Used alone or in isolation personality-based diagnostics can sometimes be of more limited value, and can for some feel like either labelling or a simplistic categorisation.  For this reason, the quality of facilitation or coaching around their use is extremely important, and as regards leadership development it is important to use them in combination with other forms of feedback and self-appraisal (see figure above), as we do at the Leadership Foundation on programmes such as Preparing for Senior Strategic Leadership and Future Professional Directors. As illustrated in the lead image above, the map is not reality, it is to some degree a selective representation, and the nature of a management, communication or personality model is that it should create a tool for penetrating the complexity of the intrapersonal and the interpersonal in a useful way. The person who can most effectively ‘explore the truth’ around the model is the individual concerned – they determine ultimately their ‘best fit’ – and for this reason self-appraisal needs to be as strong, if not stronger than the evaluation by others, and this should be a balanced part of the process of developing and enhancing self-awareness for leaders. But the insights that flow from this can transform leadership like nothing else.  After all, you can’t be true to others until you are true to yourself.

Doug Parkin is a programme director for the Leadership Foundation and is responsible for a range of open programmes – including Future Professional Directors, Preparing for Senior Strategic Leadership and Leading Transformation in Learning and Teaching (in collaboration with the Higher Education Academy). He also undertakes bespoke consultancy assignments for universities and works on some of our main international projects. Key interests include educational and research leadership, the leadership of professional services, strategy development, organisational change and leadership for sustainability.

Picture credits
Photograph of Lego Big Ben courtesy of London Mums Magazine
Photograph of Big Ben courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The Brexit blogs: what do followers need and expect?

In the latest in our Brexit blogs series, programme director Doug Parkin considers the ART of leadership – authenticity, responsibility and trust.

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Let’s turn the whole leadership thing on its head and ask, instead, the question “what do followers need and expect?”  What do they need to follow willingly and with energy and commitment, and what do they expect from leaders in terms of behaviour, communication and relationship?  And before we become too fixated on polarised notions of leaders and followers, it is important to acknowledge that great followers are as important as great leaders. Most of us occupy both roles in our lives at different moments and in different ways, and there is often a grey line between the two as leadership is shared and followers become empowered.

Starting from perhaps quite a low base, following the recent EU referendum and Brexit decision, trust in public/political leadership has taken quite a battering and a real appetite seems to be emerging for more authentic, genuine and sympathetically attuned or connected leaders.  These are themes consistently engaged with on Leadership Foundation programmes.

Authenticity – a little thing called integrity

There is a courage that sits at the heart of authentic leadership that is about showing who you really are through “being” who you really are: the big difference, for example, between saying you have integrity and showing you have integrity. Authentic leaders do not lead from behind a mask.  James Kouzes and Barry Posner had, at the core of their enquiry into leadership, the question “what do you most look for and admire in a leader, someone whose direction you would willingly follow?” The leadership quality that was ranked consistently top over more than 20 years by a very large set of contributors across six continents was “honest”.  Their work shows this to be “the single most important ingredient in the leader-constituent relationship” and that “regardless of what leaders say about their own integrity, people wait to be shown; they observe the behaviour”.  The top four personal traits and characteristics for willing and committed follower participation, identified with remarkable consistency, are:

  • Honest
  • Forward-looking
  • Competent
  • Inspiring

Responsibility – misleaders

Leaders also have a responsibility to be honest in their communications and engagement, particularly around change and when portraying a vision of the future.  Manipulating people either through the content and manner of communication, or through the style and timing of engagement, will cause the leader/follower relationship to crumble or, worse still, turn toxic.  There is certainly a sense-making role for leaders, particularly when operating in complex and uncertain environments, and that may involve putting across the truth of a situation “as I see it”.  But that is very different from misleading people, or preying on their fears and insecurities to sell a particular position or develop a sense of urgency.  Leaders should be “dealers in hope” (Napoleon Bonaparte), not peddlers in fear, and, whatever the situation, they need to live by the principle that “the truth will set you free” (John 8:32).

In their 2011 book of the same name, John Rayment and Jonathan Smith identify four main types of MisLeadership: missing, misguided, misinformed and Machiavellian. Alongside these, particularly the cunning and duplicity of the Machiavellian leader, we could perhaps add a fifth form of misleadership, the knowingly misleading leader.  To knowingly mislead in a trusted leadership role is quite simply a betrayal of responsibility – a betrayal of followers.

Trust – the glue that binds followers and leaders together

Integrity is fundamentally about the person of the leader and the degree to which they are able to inspire trust and carry respect.  The importance of trust for successful and engaging team/organisational leadership cannot be emphasised enough: “trust is the emotional glue that binds followers and leaders together.  A survey conducted by the Institute of Leadership and Management and the journal Management Today in 2009 used the following six dimensions to establish an index of leadership trust: ability, understanding, fairness, openness, integrity and consistency.  The findings of their survey of over 5,000 UK employees pointed to one clear conclusion, “integrity is the foundation of trust and it grows in importance with seniority”[1]Patrick Lencioni, author of The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, takes this still further by making trust the core foundation of high functioning or high performing teams.  And linking back to authenticity, Lencioni teaches us again the importance of honesty and vulnerability in leadership:

“Teamwork begins by building trust. And the only way to do that is to overcome our need for invulnerability.”

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) Megatrends survey in 2013 revealed that just 37% of employees trusted their senior managers.  (One could speculate, perhaps, where this figure might be with regard to national political leadership at the current time…).  This built upon a series of case studies published the previous year calledwhere has all the trust gone?  Following this, in 2014 the CIPD produced a research report called Cultivating Trustworthy Leaders, which identified four pillars of trust:

  • Ability – demonstrable competence at doing their job or fulfilling their role.
  • Benevolence (genuine concern) – a concern for others beyond their own needs and showing levels of care and compassion.
  • Integrity – adherence to a set of principles acceptable to others encompassing fairness and honesty, while avoiding hypocrisy.
  • Predictability – a regularity of behaviour over time.

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Authenticity begins in the heart and works outward through the values we embody and the behaviours we display.  The integrity that flows from this creates a core responsibility for leaders not to mislead others for their own purposes.  And, to complete the ART of leadership, trust is the essential ingredient in the leader/follower relationship that enables teams and organisations to flourish.

Doug Parkin is a programme director for the Leadership Foundation and is responsible for a range of open programmes – including Future Professional Directors, Preparing for Senior Strategic Leadership and Leading Transformation in Learning and Teaching (in collaboration with the Higher Education Academy). He also undertakes bespoke consultancy assignments for universities and works on some of our main international projects. Key interests include educational and research leadership, the leadership of professional services, strategy development, organisational change and leadership for sustainability.

[1] Campbell, S. (2009). The Truth about Trust, Index of Leadership Trust Special Report. Edge Magazine, The Institute of Leadership & Management, UK, September 2009: 20-25

The Brexit blogs: working through change

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Cindy Vallance explores how the Kubler-Ross curve can be used in the work place.

My last blog encouraged leaders to take an active role in supporting staff to share their feelings in relation to Brexit, particularly given the complex and emotionally charged nature of this particular change. The UK, and the higher education sector as a whole, continue to receive a daily stream of Brexit-related announcements and uncertainty has not decreased, nor is it likely to in the near future.

University leaders are well-used to change. However, the scale of Brexit has had an unprecedented impact that continues to reverberate. Once you and your staff have named and shared your initial feelings, which may be grief or shock, and opened up the door for further discussion – then what? How do leaders use the change model and deal with feelings once they are unwrapped?[1]

Firstly, working through change is not linear and people may move backwards as well as forward through the phases.

During this phase of shock or denial, people need to take time to adjust to a new reality. They will want further information to understand what is happening and will need to know how to get help. Regular communication is the critical element here – web-based written communications, links and FAQs (ideally that have been tailored for the context of each institution) [2] can be helpful but it is also important to retain the human element. Some questions can be answered in writing, but there will also be those individuals who want to have direct face-to-face conversations, particularly if they feel they are being very personally affected. Even if universities do not have the answers yet, people will want to know that someone is listening.

When working through any kind of change, feelings of anger, concern and depression often follow shock and denial. This phase is often experienced as resistance and this is often the most challenging element of change since, if it is not managed well, the organisation can quickly lose the goodwill of its people and may begin to descend into a sense of chaos. There is little value in denying people’s feelings. It can be difficult to predict where the pressure points will be and the unexpected will undoubtedly occur. However, this is where leaders can use the diversity of their experience to determine what questions people may have. Understanding the thematic sector and organisational issues as well as the specificity of individual concerns will enable leaders to begin to plan and prepare clear responses.

Eventually, some certainty on the full extent of Brexit changes will begin to emerge and it will be possible for people to explore and reach a level of acceptance of the new reality. It is at this point that people will start to consider ways to make this new reality a success. This is a phase of testing possibilities, experimenting with and discovering new options with regard to what the change will mean. Learning can take place at this stage but working through the options presented by the changes requires time and support by organisational leaders. Building in time for adjustment should be incorporated into any plans.

The final stage of integration and commitment occurs when people begin to embrace new ways and find positive opportunities that will enable universities and the sector as a whole to continue to succeed – a sector to be proud of – one that changes individual lives and makes a global difference to society. It may be difficult for some to see this as a possible future but it is this stage that is most worth working towards.

Cindy, is the Leadership Foundation’s Assistant Director, Membership. She liaises with higher education institutions in London and across the South and East of England developing relationships with our members, coordinating events and leadership development initiatives that support and complement individual institutions’ strategies and the higher education agenda.

[1] Healing the wounds, Martin Milton, Regent’s University London, THE Letter, 7 July 2016.
[2] Brexit FAQs for universities and students, UUK, and Brexit: What will it mean for universities, students and academics? Dame Julia Goodfellow, UUK President, Telegraph, 1 July 2016.

 

The Brexit blogs: owning the grieving process

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Cindy Vallance on the mood and leadership responsibilities after the referendum

Early on the morning that we learned the UK had voted to leave the European Union, I found myself reeling with the news. The first person I spoke to that day was the man who handed me a free newspaper to read on the train. He asked me, “What was the result?” When I told him, struggling to hold back my tears, his response was, “this changes everything.”

On my train journey, I was surrounded by a group of young teens on their way to school. Brexit was their only topic of conversation. Around me, commuters were glued to their mobile devices, plugged into news channels and early morning broadcasts, looking for answers in a world that had seemingly turned upside down.

I was on my way to a leadership programme session with a group of senior staff at one of the Leadership Foundation’s member universities. Travelling to the event, I asked myself, how can I possibly focus on the planned agenda and what will the group want? Will they even come to the session or will I find myself alone in the room?

I was unsure whether to be happy or disappointed when, one by one, the group members entered and sat down. There was a part of me that simply wanted to be left alone with my own thoughts, to grieve. Yes – to grieve. A strong word, a word we do not use lightly. However, when I asked the group how they wanted to spend our time together, one of the first comments a participant shared was “I feel as though I am grieving over something I have lost.”

Somehow, this acknowledgement helped set the stage in a positive way for the discussion that followed. Naming that feeling, naming grief and putting it boldly on the table, meant that we could all be honest and share our responses to the news in a very real way, opening the door for us to also work through other emotions.

Many will be familiar with this sequence of words: grief, anger, depression, bargaining and acceptance. It is from the grief cycle model developed in the 1960s by psychologist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross[1] to describe the process that terminally ill patients progress through when informed of their illness. Since that time many adaptations have been made to the original model and applied to the process that people go through when experiencing organisational change. Here’s just one example of a commonly used ‘Change Curve’[2]:

Change Curve

A positive outcome from that session on the day of the Brexit news was the common conviction expressed by those in the room that one of their leadership responsibilities is quite simply to be there for their staff and students as they work through their own emotions. Naming our feelings and allowing others to do so is a step we must take to work through what is, and will continue to be, a deeply emotional issue.

Cindy, is the Leadership Foundation’s Assistant Director, Membership. She liaises with higher education institutions in London and across the South and East of England developing relationships with our members, coordinating events and leadership development initiatives that support and complement individual institutions’ strategies and the higher education agenda.

[1] Kubler-Ross, E. (1969). On Death and Dying. Macmillan

[2] The Change Curve,  is in our  Knowledge Bank resource,  a Leadership Foundation membership benefit.

Other sources of information

Kubler-Ross’s original book was On Death and Dying – here is the link to the more accessible version of the work: On Grief and Grieving.

A view from higher education using the same model: Seven stages of grief on the way to acceptance

 

 

My Aurora journey – Dr Karen Masters

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Dr Karen Masters, reader in astronomy and astrophysics at the Institute of Cosmology and Gravitation, University of Portsmouth, reflects on the role perceptions play in shaping her identity as a woman and an Aurora alumna working in a STEM subject.

I joined the Aurora programme in 2014, my first year as a permanent academic at the University of Portsmouth. I had worked at Portsmouth as a fixed term researcher (a “postdoc”) since 2008, and following a string of fellowships, and a stressful and extended search for a permanent job (now typical of young academics in my field), I was offered an academic staff position in Portsmouth.

At the University of Portsmouth, the ten places offered annually for Aurora are oversubscribed and are, therefore, allocated on the basis of an application. In my application, I said that I believed the skills I’d learn would help me to “negotiate this change of status with my colleagues,” “develop my confidence” and help me learn how to be a more effective mentor for the next generation of young astrophysicists. I also expected to find networking opportunities, and through this experience improve my networking skills.

I attended Aurora at venues in London roughly once a month from November 2014 to March 2015. Aurora sessions are themed around specific topics, from “Identity, Impact and Voice,” to “Power and Politics,” “Core Leadership Skills” and “Adaptive Leadership.”  I was initially concerned about the time commitment – and a full day in London once a month did take its toll. But looking back, taking that time is such an important part of the process. It gave me a space to self-reflect, to consider what about the way I present myself and interact with others works, and what doesn’t. Simply being in a conference venue with 200+ other young ambitious (and female) academics was a life changing experience. The statement made by “taking over the men’s toilets” for the day (or at least some of them) was quite powerful – similarly that the only men in the room were support staff (clearing away coffee cups, or providing the stationary). At each session I tried to sit at a table of people I had not met before. Each table was also assigned a “role model” – a more senior woman working in higher education who helped guide us through the activities.

About halfway through my Aurora experience I decided to submit an application for promotion to Reader. In my application made just a few months prior I had mentioned an ambition to do this in the “next few years.”  Something about the Aurora experience made me realise there was no reason to wait.

I realised there was no real risk involved – a rejection would simply be feedback to try again the next year (and even the next), so why not go for it. My Heads of Department supported me, my application went in, and was awarded. As of 1st Sept 2015 I became a Reader, one step closer to Professor!

The other change I’ve noticed following attending Aurora is in how I watch people in meetings. I’m more aware of body language, and unspoken words. I’m not going to claim to be fluent in this language yet, but I’m noticing it, and at times I am able to deliberately change how I’m sitting  – power posing, or perhaps uncrossing my arms, leaning in, or out as appropriate. I find the perceptions people have of others fascinating, and I’m learning to play more with the different roles and perceptions people have of me.

I’m an astrophysicist, and immediately on reading that you’ve made some assumptions about the kind of person you think I am. Since you know I’m female I wonder what you’re assuming about my appearance…. You might like to joke about how I’m not used to every day things, that I’ve “got my head in the stars”. You might be led to assume I’m very smart – even a “genius” at maths. That one word “astrophysicist” is a job title, but also shorthand for a whole lot of assumptions.

I’m a mother. Another word which carries a lot of assumptions. I spend a lot of time at the weekends out with my young children, and while most of the time I’m simply enjoy their company, I can’t fail to notice the difference in how people interact with me when I’m with them and when I’m not. The most memorable occasion was a visit to a special exhibit on robots at the Science Museum in London. As an astrophysicists I’d be assumed to be interested, even knowledgeable. As a mother I was ignored.

I’m a feminist. Another loaded word. You might read from it that I “hate men,” but what I want you to understand by that is I firmly believe in equality between genders. I do not believe that men are innately better suited to leadership than women, or that women are naturally better carers. I think each individual has their own qualities, and that for our society to reach the best of it’s potential, all people should be supported to succeed. But I also believe that right now our society is loaded in favour of men. The qualities we recognise as leadership qualities are encouraged in little boys, and discouraged in little girls. That’s not equality. That’s why we need programmes like Aurora.

I am proud to be an Aurora alumna. I wear my purple pin with pride, and I encourage any women working in higher education (academics or support staff) to apply for the programme. You will get a lot out of the experience, even if it’s not exactly what you thought it would be when you go in.

Dr Karen Masters is a reader in astronomy and astrophysics at the Institute of Cosmology and Gravitation, University of Portsmouth.  Dr Masters was the 2014 Women of the Future in Science, and also one of the BBC 100 Women of 2014. She tweets as @KarenLMasters. Dr Masters took part in year two of Aurora.

This article was originally published on the Apex Woman website.

What can governance in higher education learn from other sectors?

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David Williams, our governance web editor reviews Jeff Gramm’s Dear Chairman: boardroom battles and tries of shareholder activism (Harper Collins, 2015).

It is frequently argued that the best way to reflect on practice in a given sector is to look at what happens in other sectors. This is true with ‘Dear Chairman’, which looks at the rise of shareholder activism in the United States (US). Many of the conclusions contained in the book apply to governance in higher education (HE) and beyond.

The author, Jeff Gramm, a head fund manager and adjunct professor at Columbia Business School, looks at eight case studies, stretching from the 1920s to more recent time, to show the impact of shareholder activism on governance. The book also includes a selection of the ‘Dear Chairman’ letters written to the chairs of the boards of the companies featured.

The earliest case study looks at an oil pipeline company, Northern Pipeline. It shows what happens if disinterested shareholders are combined with a board of directors dominated by supporters of management: accountability is lost. The situation was made possible by the limited information the company was required at the date of the case to provide to shareholders. Lacking information shareholders were in the dark. The actions of an activist outsider brought change. The role of the ‘outsider’ as the catalyst for change is found in many of the examples cited in ‘Dear Chairman’.

The case of American Express illustrates how a major investor in the company, Buffet, supported the group’s chief executive. American Express’ warehousing subsidiary had guaranteed stocks of soybean oil. When as a result of a fraud on the value of stocks guaranteed to third parties the company faced significant losses, a group of shareholders argued the company should contest the claims. By contrast, Buffet urged management to compensate in full to maintain the reputation of the company. Buffet recognised that as a service company the value of the American Express rested on its name. Its long-term reputation was more important than any short-term gain.

The action of the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) supported by rest of the board bought out and removed a major shareholder and dissident director of the multi-national car manufacturer, General Motors (GM). The case shows how far the company was prepared to go to remove a well-informed critic of the company’s strategy. It also powerfully illustrates that having a board of high-calibre directors does not mean the board is effective. In GM’s case, such directors did result in an effective board.

The CEO and the largest shareholder, the daughter to the company’s founder, fought each other in the case of R P Scherer, a company manufacturing soft gelatin capsules. The two protagonists were also married to each other.

Scherer illustrates the perils of allowing directors to be picked by the CEO. The directors’ loyalty was to the CEO, rather than to the company. Conflicts of interest made the situation worse. Many of the individual directors worked for companies who were suppliers or advisors to Scherer. These directors had an economic interest in preserving the position of the CEO. Further, the CEO had picked at least one director ‘because he’s weak and he’ll do what I tell him to do’.

The individual cases allow wider conclusions about corporate governance to be drawn. These include the risks of ‘independent’ directors having deep connections with the CEO. The husband and wife example in case of Scherer, suggest that independence is a state of mind. Gramm suggests that once on a board independent directors inevitably develop closer relationships with management. He argues that humans are social beings, and connections develop over time; he quotes Buffett as saying ‘the nature of boards is that they are part business organisations and part social organisations. People behave part with their business brain and part with their social brain.’

The importance of having a thorough understanding of the company’s business is an important trait of a good director. Noting that in the case of private equity, where it’s their money, directors will act if things go wrong; by contrast boards often wait too long to get rid of poor people.

When governance goes wrong shareholders share some of the blame. Gramm’s conclusion is for the system of corporate governance to be effective it requires the ‘right’ professional managers, directors and shareholders. i.e. the three elements need to be present. Given Gramm’s analysis, who fulfills an equivalent role to that of the shareholders in the case of ‘public’ higher education institutions (HEIs)? Or in the words of Gillies ‘who guards the guards’.

Dear Chairman is not a book that most governors or clerks/secretaries of HEIs should rush out and buy, but it does illustrate the value of looking from a different angle to gain a better perspective on good governance in higher education.

Editor’s notes

  1. Take a look at our newly revamped governance page to discover what services we offer to support governors in higher education. Visit www.lfhe.ac.uk/governance
  2. Read about our latest Hefce sponsored project focussing on supporting governing bodies to be able to monitor standards in their institution. http://bit.ly/1VVJWOG

Cape Town’s Limitless Possibilities

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Professor Paul Gentle, key associate and programme director of the Leadership Foundation discusses his interaction with Going Global 2016, taking place in Cape Town this week

Being part of the British Council’s Going Global 2016 conference through watching streamed video and contributing the occasional tweet is an exciting experience. I may not enjoy the wonderful views and atmosphere of Cape Town, but I sense the vibrancy created by the confluence of thought leaders in higher education from across the world.

The conference’s theme of building nations and connecting cultures is at the heart of what universities are for, and evidently resonates with the academics, policymakers and institutional heads who are taking part and shaping what I see on my screen. On the first day, key messages are already emerging, of the importance of capacity-building at organisational and system level.

What might this actually mean in practice? The session titles on the conference programme are redolent of the big themes which universities everywhere are tackling: how to build international research partnerships, working to energise and develop cities, leading on social justice, and creating the conditions for enhanced innovation and employability.

In the latest Times Higher Education, the British Council’s Jo Beall (Director of Education and Society) highlights the importance of reciprocity; the sense that Western universities seeking to build relationships with African counterparts need to be prepared to make a contribution as well as expecting to reap opportunities.

All of this underlines how important it is to build deep and meaningful networks, communities of practice which can continue to share practice and challenge those in them to develop ideas across cultures and national borders. Not just for three days during a conference, but through long-term sustainable engagement.

My own particular challenge of the moment, along with my fellow programme directors of the Leadership Foundation’s Global Leadership Programme, is to build our first cohort of what will be a highly influential group of peers when we launch in October this year. The programme will succeed when it attracts people who lead on internationalisation in their universities from Africa, Asia, Australasia, Europe and the Americas.

The task for me during Going Global 2016 is to listen, and to be open to learning.

Professor Paul Gentle
Key Associate and Programme Director
Global Leadership Programme


The Global Leadership Programme is a brand new and unique interchange programme for those who lead on internationalisation within their institution. The programme will explore proven models of internationalisation, give you exclusive access to the higher education Global Balanced Scorecard and allow you to discuss issues of internalisation with leaders from both inside and outside of the sector.

Programme Dates:
Application Deadline: Friday 30 September 2016

Orientation: Monday 24 October 2016
Location: Online

Module One: Monday 14 – Friday 18 November 2016
Location: Nottingham, United Kingdom

Group activity and individual coaching: Tuesday 12 January 2017
Location: Online

Module Two: Tuesday 14 – Thursday 16 March 2017
Location: Singapore

Closing group activity: Thursday 11 May 2017
Location: Online

For more information on the programme visit: Global Leadership Programme