The University of Newcastle, Australia

Investing in UON's leaders

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

During the last six weeks we have survived a presidential-style election characterised by a relentless focus on the strengths and personal flaws of our political leaders, rather than on the strengths and flaws of their respective policy platforms.

Everyone from make up artists to News Limited journalists have shared their views on what makes a 'good' leader and a certain amount of 'leadership fatigue' definitely set in as we wearily worked our way through the numbers on that large Senate ballot paper. But outside of the political hustings there is genuine merit to considering the value of good leadership at all levels in any contemporary organisation.

This week, UON's leadership team – the Executive Committee, Heads of Schools, Directors and other key leaders – came together to discuss this very issue among a raft of other important matters at the Leadership Workshop. As a group, we considered what we have achieved through the implementation of the priorities outlined in our 2013 Corporate Plans – some of which I touched on in my last post and as reported through Convenor updates in these pages in past weeks. This week's Leadership Workshop also examined the priorities identified across the institution for implementation in our 2014 Corporate Plans. Interestingly one of the priorities discussed was the development of our first 'UON Leadership Framework' as part of the Future Workforce Plan led by Professor John Germov and Tina Crawford.

The Leadership Framework comprises a set of principles that clearly sets out expected behaviours and characteristics for University leaders – not a simple task as our colleagues try to avoid some of the omnipresent 'management speak' or using a template adopted by other industry sectors with little relevance to our own.

The new Leadership Framework has been tailor-made for UON and provides support for all of our leaders – from those leading a team of a few staff, to those who are heading up large Divisions, Schools and research centres. The Framework will provide UON's leaders with a range of support across personal and career planning, and leadership development. It will ensure we have improved succession planning in place, and it will also clearly articulate UON's expectations of our future leaders when we recruit. The Framework is in the final stages of development and you will hear more from John, Tina and the HR team in the lead-up to its release in November.

Each UON Leadership Workshop involves robust discussion and debate around how we are progressing as an organisation – and it was the case again this week. After a long day, the group of 50 plus leaders was asked before finishing up to nominate their one or two 'absolute must dos' for 2014. The consensus from the UON leadership team was that firstly it is critical to keep a focus on building our international reputation and profile in areas of education and research in which we are demonstrably strong. Secondly, we need to ensure that our business and planning processes, and budget model are aligned and support the financial sustainability of our institution in challenging times.

As we finalise our priorities in our 2014 Corporate Plans across the University, it is clear that investment in 'up and coming' and established academic and professional leaders represents an important investment in our future – vagaries of political processes and leadership sound bites notwithstanding …

Best wishes


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