Title: A complex perspective towards leadership in academic departments: investigating organisational changes in a Norwegian research-intensive academic department

Authors: Fabio Bento

Addresses: Faculty of Social Sciences and Technology Management, NTNU – Norwegian University of Science and Technology, 7491 Trondheim, Norway

Abstract: Higher education institutions in Norway have gone through policy level reforms associated to new ideas regarding how universities should be led. The debate about such reforms has been characterised by two contrary positions: one defending traditional collegial leadership while another emphasising a more modernising view claiming that old organisational aspects of universities are obsolete. The objective of this study is to contribute to this debate by employing complexity theory to understand current changes. Complexity theory is a relatively new perspective in the study of organisations that focuses on interrelations, self-organisation, emergence and non-linearity. The present study discusses the role of leadership in academic departments in the context of organisational changes in Norwegian higher education. The main research objective here is to understand how leadership and teaching are perceived in the context of a research-intensive academic department. Semi-structured interviews carried out in a dialogical manner aiming at grasping faculty perceptions of leadership were the main data gathering method. Findings suggest that changes in higher education cannot be understood as simple reactions to external demands but also in relation to complex interactions from which power relations and leadership emerge.

Keywords: Norway; systems thinking; higher education; academic departments; learning; universities; organisational change; research-intensiveness; policy level reforms; collegial leadership; modernising views; modernisation; complexity theory; interrelations; self-organisation; non-linearity; teaching; R&D; research and development; faculty perceptions; external demands; complex interactions; power relations; management.

DOI: 10.1504/IJCLM.2011.040732

International Journal of Complexity in Leadership and Management, 2011 Vol.1 No.2, pp.116 - 132

Published online: 20 Jun 2011 *

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