Research leaders have a lot in common with artists, according to Professor Tara Dean, Director of Research at the University of Portsmouth.
Research leaders need to nurture others and see researchers as “a field of flowers, a bouquet of talent”, she told an audience of Vice-Chancellors and other leaders in higher education.
Professor Dean was invited to give her ‘view from the top’ at the Leadership Foundation’s 10th anniversary event, Stimulating Talks.
She used some of her favourite paintings to illustrate her argument that research leadership was an art in itself.
“Research leaders and artists both have to pay attention to detail and question initial interpretations,” she said. “And having the ability to observe and reflect is vital in both great leadership and great art.”
The event was held at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama in London.
She said good leaders need strategic vision, to be adept at planning, to be brave, able to express complex concepts simply, take risks and network with their peers. But those who would lead research in universities also needed something more.
“Leadership in research requires lots of passion and belief in the power of research. Researchers often have an intense relationship with their work and you have to understand that.
“Additionally, as a research leader you need to have your own standing in research – peer recognition for what you personally have achieved.
“Research is an intensely creative process and has unpredictable outcomes. The biggest challenge for a research leader is to manage without stifling creativity.”
Other speakers at the event included Vice-Chancellors Professor Bob Cryan (Huddersfield); Professor Malcolm Gillies (London Metropolitan); Wes Streeting, deputy leader of the Labour Group, London Borough of Redbridge; John Gill, editor of Times Higher Education; and Chibundo Onuzo, author and a student at King’s College, London.
Professor Dean was among the first in the UK in 2012 to be awarded a Fellowship of the Leadership Foundation for Higher Education in recognition of exemplary leadership.