Our understanding of leadership

As part of the leadership development at JGU, an in-house leadership concept with the two dimensions ‘management and leadership’ based on the approaches of Bennis (2009) and Owen (2001/2008) was developed and implemented. The background was that a higher education institution with all its specifics, especially in terms of leadership, needs a leadership concept that goes beyond a mere understanding of management. 

The goal was, and remains, to give managers the possibility to reflect on the dimensions of their actions and to localize themselves within their daily practice. In addition to ‘management’, which describes the operative dimension in day-to-day-business, the dimension of ‘leadership’ represents strategic and value-oriented approaches. 

Management qualities tend to aim at operative governance, including day-to-day-business, planning, setting of objectives, monitoring, and selection and deployment of staff. Leadership qualities, on the other hand, focus in a systemic approach on self-organization and self-management of staff and colleagues. Leadership encompasses the development of visions, living out values, strengthening the staff’s self-responsibility and showing new opportunities. 

Successful leadership needs both dimensions. Feedback from leadership development trainings shows that the ‘leadership’-model proves to be highly ‘transferable’; managers perceive themselves as being more involved in their day-to-day-business and therefore live the management dimension, while they aim at implementing the dimension of leadership through their actions at the same time.  The leadership idea aims at expanding the manager’s scope of action. 

The model ‘management and leadership’ fits in the structures of a group university, which is characterized by a lack of hierarchical organization structure and therefore is dependent on the willingness of their managers and executives to take on responsibility, show personal initiative and understand themselves as leaders. According to the concept of leadership, the exercise of influence on staff and colleagues is based on consensus and therefore corresponds to the structure of a self-governing university. The understanding of leadership is also compatible with the structure of modern expert organizations: These organizations have certain levels of hierarchy that provide orientation, but cooperative leadership measures may lead to far better results in terms of cooperation. 

Moreover, leadership is not an end in itself but promotes the organization’s objectives: professional leadership strengthens the staff’s identification with the organization and has a powerful impact in terms of commitment, satisfaction with managers, work environment and motivation, which finally improves the staff’s overall performance. 

Bibliography:  

Bennis, Warren (2009): On becoming a leader, New York.
Owen, Harrison (2008): The Spirit of Leadership, Heidelberg.
Peus, Braun, Weisweiler, Frey (2010): Kompetent führen, führend forschen, In: Zeitschrift Organisationsentwicklung Nr. 1/2010, S. 38-45, München