Thursday, 3 September 2009

Do thrusting V-C's wreck their universities?

There's been a trend in vice-chancellor appointments over the past couple of decades to go for supposed go-ahead, business-oriented, ambitious yuppy types, often akin to David Brent but on much, much, higher salaries. Now some research discussed in the Times Higher Education (27th August 2009, pp. 6-7) magazine suggests that they may be damaging their universities. I make no further comment!

Flamboyant, arrogant vice-chancellors who are initially perceived as 'heroic' or 'visionary' may end up damaging their universities in the long term.
A Study by Malcolm Higgs… found that, in business, the domineering behaviour of narcissistic managers often damage long-term performance.
Professor Higgs told THE that his findings were also likely to apply to universities.
'What's interesting is that damage doesn't occur immediately… When you have a narcissistic leader, the culture of the organisation slowly changes, so problems come up mid-term'.
…as well as possessing charisma and a strong sense of vision, narcissistic types are grandiose, intolerant of criticism, unwilling to compromise, arrogant, self-absorbed and have a sense of entitlement and a need to be admired.
His paper… warns that these traits may have a negative effect on the 'internal climate' of an organisation, and may prevent others challenging the party line.
Professor Higgs said that working cultures become really toxic when senior managers begin to collude with the narcissist's behaviour.
'People start thinking that they need to protect the boss from hearing anything nasty– that's when the culture starts to shift. Staff adapt their behaviour towards keeping the boss happy. From the top to the bottom, people are covering things up rather than admitting things are going wrong'.
He told THE that other research had found that chief executives who are successful in the long term often tend to be 'quiet people with a great deal of humility'. Despite this, in difficult times… organisations are more likely to turn to leaders who are perceived as 'strong' to 'shake up' the business, he said.

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