My week - 11 March - Leading change and movement through Leadership Chairs

Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Organisational Effectiveness, Professor Dawn Freshwater, writes a guest column.

Professor Dawn Freshwater

It’s now some 18 months since the University made the decision to make a strategic investment in up to 50 new Leadership Chair appointments. Those new appointments were to contribute to the international research agenda and an outstanding student experience, and also to infuse the University with motivational, values-led leadership, balancing legacy with transformation in order to achieve and facilitate academic excellence.  

As the recruitment cycle for the Leadership Chairs draws to a close, we have already appointed 25 inspirational leaders, many of whom are now in post and have hit the ground running. They are already developing teams of talented colleagues, building research teams and attracting high-quality students as part of their local, national and global impact. More Leadership Chairs will be joining the University over the next few months. A significant proportion of these new appointments – in fact, almost half – have come from international institutions.

We all have a view on what makes a good leader and, not surprisingly, the debate really heats up once we ask questions such as 'What makes a global leader?' and 'How is global leadership measured in regard to impact?’. This was the focus of a recent British Council Asia Dialogue event in Japan, part of the Internationalising Higher Education series, at which a number of international Vice-Chancellors and Deputy Vice-Chancellors attempted to define the impact and outcomes of global leadership emanating from universities.  There were some fascinating debates; more information about the discussions can be found at   One thing that was key all the conversations was the issue of values and the importance of values-led leadership.

The business of universities, like any other organisation, has to adapt to the external changing environment. In addition, higher education and research are expected to determine, create, innovate, inform and, indeed, underpin and lead changes in the knowledge economy. Academic researchers talk of paradigms and how movement is managed, but movements also take place on a daily basis and can go seemingly unnoticed; not all movement happens with a big bang! We expect our new Leadership Chairs to lead dynamic change and movement that inspires and is built on reflective leadership styles and skills that can be transferred to any global situation and applied to any global challenge. And, just as importantly, we expect to feel the movement that is created through their appointments, on the ground here at Leeds.


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