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Does it take an expert to lead experts?: professionals versus managers in universities

By Amanda Goodall

Abstract

This is an empirical study of leaders and how they affect organizational performance. Its context is the research university as a knowledge intensive organization. It appears to be the first of its kind. \ud The thesis explores whether the characteristics of a leader in position today can tell us about the future success of their institution. It asks the question: Should research universities be led by top scholars? One reason why universities are an interesting case is that, unusually for knowledge-intensive organizations, their leaders' technical expertise can arguably be measured reasonably objectively. \ud Using cross-sectional analysis, the first approach adopted in this thesis is to identify whether accomplished scholars are currently leading the world's top universities and business schools. It demonstrates -- using a variety of data sets, and in a variety of settings, including a check on the role of outliers -- that better universities and business schools are led by presidents and deans with systematically higher numbers of life-time scholarly citations. \ud Next the dissertation attempts to go beyond simple cross-sectional patterns to address the question of causality. It does so in a longitudinal study that follows the performance of a panel of 55 universities over a nine-year period from 1992 to 2001. Using regression analysis, this thesis uncovers some evidence that is consistent with the existence of a causal relationship between the research ability of a leader and the future achievement of their institution. The results suggest that a university tends to improve in the UK Research Assessment Exercise if its leader has been a successful scholar. \ud Qualitative evidence in the form of interviews with university leaders then motivates a theory of strategic leadership that might explain the statistical patterns. It is argued in the thesis that scholars may make effective leaders for reasons that are both internal and external to the individual. A scholar-leader, it is suggested, influences performance because of an inherent knowledge of the core business of a research university, and also through the extension of powers acquired by being viewed as credible by followers. Finally, the thesis concludes by asking whether university governing bodies appoint the right people. \ud The central argument being made in this thesis is that where expert knowledge is the key factor that characterises an organization it is expert knowledge that should also be key in the selection of its leader

Topics: HD28, LB2300
OAI identifier: oai:wrap.warwick.ac.uk:2849

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