8 points of leadership reflection in academia

Leading and managing in academia have never been easy and with the changing rules and increasing global competition, it is safe to say that it is not going to get any easier.

Below are eight points that can be useful in reflecting on your leadership. Finding answers to these questions will give you a much more clear view of your role and will enable you to check for any areas that might need your attention.

1) Does your role provide any value?

2) Who is your focus? Are there clear, easy to find, easy to understand career development steps for your team?

3) Do you give clear instructions on what needs to be done? How are you asking your team to do the tasks? How involved are you in completing the tasks with your team?

4) What have you changed at work that made processes simpler and easier for your team?

5) How are you engaging your team? Have you gone beyond meetings, committees and staff away days?

6) What are the sticks and carrots for under and over performers? How are these assessed?

7) Do you have a roadmap that shows where the institution is heading, why and how to get there?

8) So your team has heard you, what next?


Keep calm and put the hammer down!

  • To a leader with a hammer, everybody looks like a nail; put the hammer down!
  • Define “best” before expecting it from people.
  • Lead with honesty because there is no way of knowing where you are heading.
  • Welcome difficult people and problems because it is only by overcoming difficulties that a business develops.
  • There is nothing like homegrown talent; seek, nurture and encourage talented people.
  • You will begin to excel all expectations once you stop competing and start contributing.
  • If you feel the need to indulge yourself in risk taking, do it alone.
  • If you cannot help and develop people, at least try not to obstruct them.

A little spark…

A little spark can start a fire and burn an entire forest to the ground.
Never underestimate what you can do with your potential, which is greater than any problem.

10 Things you need to know to lead effectively

1) Successful leaders don’t have everything, they just make the best of what they have

2) Be your own leader

3) The people you work with are as important as the destination you want to take them

4) Never let the destination you want to reach make you forget where you are

5) Excellence isn’t about how big your budget is, it is about how much time you have

6) Your success as a leader depends on your ability to build relationships

7) Sometimes all you need to do is to be frank

8) To improve, focus on how you failed

9) When things aren’t adding value to your business and/or staff, start subtracting

10) One kind word is all it takes to change somebody’s day at work

Engaging Employees in Higher Education

Managing in higher education has never been easy. Budget cuts, league table rankings, student demands, local and global competition make it even harder to manage your staff effectively. As a leader or a middle-manager in education you are under immense pressure from all directions to get the job done.  Times like this can be very challenging and often even the basics of employee engagement are easily forgotten.

Continue reading…

A picture is worth a thousand words

Images are powerful.
Consciously or not, we often use images and metaphors to describe our environment and events we experience.
He is tough as nails.
She is such a clever fox.
Metaphors are used everyday in the workplace and we sometimes do to think much of them; but perhaps we should.
Most leaders use the ship metaphor when they talk about their organisation. “The ship is facing the right direction”. “The ship is finally sailing”. “The ship was sinking before I came here”.
You can tell so much about a person by just listening to the metaphors they use to explain things. When leaders use the ship metaphor they see themselves as the captain. Captain’s are the highest ranking officials on a ship. They make/finalise all decisions; they decide on the route and direct the ship; they determine the speed; they ensure all protocols are strictly followed; they give the orders; there is a clear chain of command; everyone else ranks lower than the captain.
Metaphors help us to understand organisations by providing us a quick snapshot of what it is like to be there, to work there. More importantly they give us many clues to see and understand how our colleagues see the organisation and themselves working there.
How would you describe your organisation? Which metaphor would you use?


Right here, right now: real-life student marketing

What happened at the Oscars was every marketer’s dream. Ellen’s selfie had 32.8 million views.


Because it had the simplest but the most powerful message: “We are all here, having a great time right now.”

For decades universities tried to fabricate this message in their prospectuses and on their websites but the message fails to reach new heights.

Almost every prospectus I pick up, I see the same perfectly beautiful and handsome group of models from every race, and religion, smiling at each other and pretending to have fun in a sunny campus.

Real-life marketing has no script; no perfect weather; no constant smiles; no students from every imaginable race and religion sitting around the campus smiling at each other; no Photoshop; no gimmick; no fakery; and that is why it is so powerful.

Four things you can do next week to earn some leadership points

1) You cannot lead from behind closed doors. Go out of your office, sit down for a coffee with a colleague that you know very little about or never had a chance to speak to before.

2) Talk and discuss a problem with a colleague who thinks differently than you do and can challenge your views.

3) Change one thing that stops/slows getting things done in the office; or at least take solid steps towards a solution.

4) At the end of the day, review what has happened. What has been the most difficult thing? What was your reaction? How did you overcome that difficulty? What did you learn from that experience? What will you do differently next time?


If you keep a short note or a log of the above four points, you will soon notice how and why your colleagues behave, the emerging patterns, priorities, obstacles and the direction you are heading. These reminders will also come very handy in meetings and reviews when your actions or performance is questioned.  You can easily pullout your notes and with confidence put forward all the steps you have been taking towards developing your leadership qualities at work and give effective and convincing examples.

The University of Google?

Running a university may be outside the main scope and abilities of many large businesses, but it won’t be long before businesses co-sponsor, and later perhaps merge with universities or their Business Schools.

Currently, non-Russell group universities are worried about student numbers and pushing the employability agenda.


Because the economy is bad, student fees need to be justified, competition is fierce, graduate jobs are hard to come by and the university’s name on a paper is not enough for employers to give most of their graduates a chance.

So, they package and promote themselves differently with the employability agenda. Their strategy now, is to equip students with the “skills that employers want”.

If students want to work for M & S, John Lewis or Google, shouldn’t they be going to the John Lewis School of Business or The University of Google? Continue reading…