So what are the longer-term leadership implications of this changed environment? How will leaders need to operate going forward? The following is a synopsis of responses we received when we discussed this topic with senior academic leaders:
Communication is key.
Universities are complex and information flow is not always easy. In a less certain environment, leaders, whether they be Vice-Chancellors or heads of department, must be able to clearly articulate a purpose and foster an environment which encourages feedback and accountability. Leaders will be scrutinised more than ever and their capacity to communicate with authenticity and integrity will be essential.
Flexibility and responsiveness need to be business as usual.
The flexibility that has been demonstrated by those in the sector in the past 6 months must remain. Increasingly this flexibility will be needed to take advantage of opportunities rather than solely navigating problems. Leaders at all levels will need to remain agile, able to adapt to situations as they arise. Institutions will need to work on developing leaders with these competencies.
Digital is not just on-line learning.
Front-line academics have been required to rapidly adapt to a fully online teaching environment. Much of this change will remain an important part of universities into the future. But more than this, educational leaders must understand the role of a university in a new digital society. How does the technology facilitate the objectives of the institution and lead to an evolved learning and research environment and community?