Middle management in academia: Social skills and academic professional awareness wanted
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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What kind of leader does an academic really want? Is it a colleague-based leader from the same profession, with comparable scientific skills, or a leader with typical management skills? If a university seeks middle managers of the first mentioned type, how does that comply with management literature, and the employee’s preferences? In this study from a Norwegian modern university, employees were asked to rank their preferences for skills of their immediate leader. These results were compared to management literature and to the university’s middle management recruitment policy. The results demonstrate that while the university’s recruitment policy emphasized formal competency, experience with research, and ability to implement new technologies, the employees preferred leaders with social skills and academic professional awareness, who are solutions-oriented, open-minded, and able to motivate and build good teams. In leadership theories, key elements are social competence, which is more in line with the university employees’ preferences.