Senior university administrators continue to do research despite full-time managerial duties to retain their professional reputation, new research has found.
Marion Spendlove, research fellow at Aston University, carried out in-depth confidential interviews with ten pro vice-chancellors at old and new universities on the traits of good leadership in higher education.
She said: "They were anxious to keep going with their academic activities, despite the difficulties of full-time managerial duties, to maintain academic credibility and because they enjoy their subjects."
Just one - the only one with a business background - felt that leading and managing a university was no different from leading any other type of organisation. The others felt that being seen and respected as an academic was crucial to their effectiveness.
By continuing research and teaching, they retain an involvement in the academic community and keep in touch with the core activities of a university, Dr Spendlove said.
People skills, including the ability to consult with others, listen, negotiate, delegate, persuade and engage with people, are just as important as an academic reputation, she said. There is also a need for clear communication skills, analytical and strategic thinking and the ability to mentor and motivate others and build teams.
"Most universities had no systematic approach for identifying leadership competencies or potential," she said. "Some had had no training at all.
It's to do with age. Training is more common now."