Blog and opinion
Is leadership the problem?
On Friday 27 October we held a leadership conference for all managers at THUAS. Leadership. Some people see this as a trendy term, but I think it is a topic that is more relevant than ever. You may think you are a good manager, or are convinced you are right and are prepared to take difficult decisions in the interest of the university of applied sciences, but ultimately it is the organisation that decides whether or not you are a good leader. That’s when the gloves come off.
I was recently interviewed by the Dutch newspaper Het Algemeen Dagblad and it was put to me that there are currently few board members at THUAS who are under as much fire as I am. Thanks to the new government, I may have to share this honour with other board members at THUAS, but the message is clear: things are not easy for Mr Geluk! However, as I also said in the article “I firmly believe in the new direction.” Both statements are true.
That’s because it is not an easy direction for THUAS to take either. Some choices are painful and however much you are convinced that a measure is needed, the organisation needs to see it too. It has to see that the measure is needed. It also has to see that the measure is in the interest of THUAS, whether it concerns educational content, student satisfaction, finances or HR policy. There is still progress to be made here and this is also a goal that I have set for myself. That is the reason for the conference and for my contribution.
It is also why I am happy with the discussion about this direction and the critical remarks that were made during the conference. Actually, these criticisms were not just aimed at the direction or the goals that have been set. They were also targeted at the way in which we achieve results which is not sufficiently clear in the organisation. As I said: “We understand where you want to go to, but we do not see steps being taken to arrive there.”
I also gained the following insight from the conference: Only when you make your own efforts visible can you expect others to make a contribution too. I do have this expectation. That is because innovation and focus on educational quality is a collective responsibility. However, the take-away message is: Make the steps more visible. This blog is a first attempt at doing this.
The academic year has got off to a turbulent start. An anonymous and resentful letter sent to the Board, but also my reappointment which was not supported by the staff and student councils, were not easy for me personally. People are probably wondering why I have brought this up again in the blog. I am doing this because I want to show that the opinion of people in the organisation is taken seriously. After all, if you want to be a leader (and I do), you have be have the courage to focus on the views and recommendations of others, even if that is difficult for you.
Criticism often comes from involvement and the desire to improve things. This is something I want to be open to. I also want to enter into the dialogue, both in terms of the criticism and the content. I want to engage in dialogue about how we can improve the quality of the education, how we can design educational innovation, how we can balance the finances and how we can create a place where everyone can safely say what they think about things.
The last point is something that I have emphasised and I am calling for – we should have the ability and courage to talk to each other about issues. For instance, in the way this occurred at the leadership conference. Writing an anonymous letter does not help anyone as it means we are unable to talk to each other. Fortunately, various colleagues have recently put their names to letters or emails. Of course, we have the confidential advisors and ombudsmen. However, if colleagues want to approach me directly to talk about any concerns, my door is always open. Over the last few weeks, I have had various discussions with colleagues and staff. These discussions are confidential, but above all open and honest. I will continue to do this. I will be scheduling a new round of discussions soon. Please go ahead and register for these.
Meanwhile, it is full steam ahead once again in the organisation. The first examination weeks are nearly behind us, last week there was a splendid THNKFST and we have a series of events in the pipeline, including the inaugural conference, Cybersecurity in SMEs, on 7 November.
These events should actively make us visible, both inside and outside of THUAS. We all have so much to be proud of and we should do more to publicise this. I will be pleased to lead the way!