Socrates in the Boardroom: Why Research Universities Should Be Led by Top Scholars

By Amanda H. Goodall | Go to book overview

CHAPTER EIGHT
IN CONCLUSION

RESEARCH UNIVERSITIES SHOULD BE LED by brilliant scholars, not merely talented managers. That, at its simplest, is this book's underlying message. In proposing it, I have drawn upon qualitative evidence from interviews with heads of some of the world's best-known universities, and upon quantitative evidence of various kinds. My focus has been on research universities, but the message of the book may be a wider one. In a range of settings in which knowledge is central to an organization, it will often be desirable to let experts, not expert managers, be at the helm. This is partly because over decades those experts have acquired a deep, inherent, instinctive understanding of the core business.

One possible reader of this book is a social-science researcher in the field of management. As has been pointed out elsewhere in the literature,1 leadership research is unfashionable in business schools. Yet the topic is, I believe, important, and it attracts a great deal of interest. There are many books on leadership.2 Anecdotes are common, the implication sometimes being that every leadership experience is different. Few empirical patterns are provided in these books. The evidence in this study, and other recent work,3 appears to suggest that objective methods can be applied to research on leaders. There are measurable patterns that can advance our understanding about a group of people who make the most important decisions in their organizations and beyond. My hope is that management scholars, and economists, will find ideas of methodological and substantive interest within the book. Given that the focus of this study is on universities, educationalists may be interested in this work.

A second potential receiver of this information is a politician or educational policy maker. In Western society, we have lived through a recent era of so-called managerialism. This has built upon the view that the best leaders have generic skills and are primarily efficient at organizing and managing. Inside the higher education sector, it is common to hear people say that

1 See Khurana (2007).

2 Extensive summaries of theories of leadership can be found in Yukl (2002) and Nort-
house (2004). Khurana (2007) looks at the history of leadership research within the broader
context of management education, and how it has been taught in U.S. business schools
since its inception.

3 See for example Khurana (2002); Bertrand and Schoar (2003); Jones and Olken
(2005); and Bennedsen, Pérez-González, and Wolfenzon (2007).

-136-

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