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Education
Leadership in Higher Education: A Call to Action
Education

Leadership in Higher Education: A Call to Action

by Yvonne Reif and Melanie Preuss
Leadership in Higher Education: A Call to Action

Story Highlights

  • Education institutions are failing to implement effective leadership principles
  • Upskilling leadership can drive change and foster a culture of engagement
  • Understand leadership by focusing on engagement amid shifting workplaces

The higher education landscape in Europe needs to change dramatically to meet the evolving demands of the labor market. The World Economic Forum indicates that required skills are evolving increasingly quickly and degrees are often already outdated by the time they are obtained.

Consequently, higher education institutions are no longer only fulfilling their historically "Humboldtian" vision of forschung und lehre (research and teaching). The institutional purpose now includes a "third mission" that involves a more active exchange with its wider ecosystem, such as industry and society.

National governments have recognized this growing interconnectivity between industry and education, leading them to establish initiatives aimed at furthering the collaboration between the two.

The German government recently launched an initiative called Innovative Hochschule (Innovative University) that aims to boost economic performance and regional innovative output. This collaboration between universities and regional industry representatives creates a symbiotic relationship that allows a more agile response to the skills required by the labor market.

A New Mindset Is Key for Education Leaders

The core principles of interchange, research and teaching will define the modern university in the future. To master this change within higher education successfully, education leaders need to embrace a new mindset.

Fixed structures have to be dissolved, departments need to be empowered to interact with more agility and staff should be encouraged to engage in more active collaboration. Furthermore, embracing a new mindset requires a fundamental understanding of human needs and a systematic approach to identifying and developing leadership skills to sustain this change.

At Gallup, we have studied human nature and behavior for more than 80 years and have acquired a deep understanding of what drives and motivates people. We found that engaged employees are emotionally and psychologically committed to their work, are more productive (17% higher productivity) and more likely to withstand temptations to leave their workplace (59% less turnover in low-turnover organizations) than employees who aren't engaged.

The core principles of interchange, research and teaching will define the modern university in the future. To master this change within higher education successfully, education leaders need to embrace a new mindset.

Top-performing institutions understand that engaged staff who provide high-quality experiences for students are an essential driver that affects student experience and success. However, our work shows that currently, only 34% of faculty and staff within higher education are engaged at work -- an alarming result, especially given that this percentage is lower than for most industries in which Gallup measures engagement. Evidently, higher education institutions are failing to implement effective leadership principles in their day-to-day activities.

Strong Leadership Is More Important Than Ever

Engaging leadership matters, as engagement cascades down from the top: In fact, up to 70% of the variance in team engagement is determined solely by the manager. Especially in times of crisis, strong leadership becomes more important than ever.

Changes in work environments (working remotely, learning on-demand, online assessments, etc.) challenge academic leaders to provide additional guidance and have the potential to transform the university landscape permanently.

Recent Gallup studies in Europe have discovered that only 27% of European employees on average have confidence in their leadership to successfully handle emerging challenges and one-third consider their manager's communication to be sufficient.

A graphic featuring flags of France, United Kingdom and Germany that shows that in France, trust in leadership is 26%; while in the United Kingdom, it's 28%; and in Germany, it's 27%. In France, 33% of employees think their manager communicates sufficiently; in the United Kingdom, 28% say the same; and in Germany, 39% say this.

These numbers clearly show that there is a real need for guidance and support. Gallup has researched leadership from a follower's perspective as well. This research reveals the four basic needs of followers: trust, compassion, stability and hope. Leaders must focus on employees' emotional needs to get through times of uncertainty.

To build a foundation of leadership successfully, higher education institutes have to develop a common understanding that clarifies the managerial role and its responsibilities. It needs to be underlined that the concept of managing is never limited to only people managers.

Leaders must focus on employees' emotional needs to get through times of uncertainty.

We would like to see managers and project leaders alike engage in continuous conversations with their followers. Only this meaningful exchange will create a highly engaged campus culture. The recent COVID-19 crisis, in particular, accelerates the call for change and a stronger human interaction. This level of dedication and reframing will foster high levels of engagement that will lead universities successfully through turbulent times.

Partner with Gallup to develop a thriving campus culture

Yvonne Reif is the Education Practice Lead EMEA at Gallup.

Dr. Melanie Preuss is an Education and Workplace Consultant at Gallup.


Gallup https://www.gallup.com/education/313085/leadership-higher-education-call-action.aspx
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