Leading by Narratives
A crucial perspective to academic leadership is that of sharing inspiring stories. Stories of successes and failures help an academic community to navigate itself by explicated and explicating tacit knowledge, in a bottom-up fashion. Unlike the hierarchical top-down management approach that focuses on strategic decision making within controllable environments, shared (or distributed) leadership copes with and even makes use of the uncertainties, common in fragile academic settings. When the shared leadership uses the stories of the whole (academic) community—faculty, staff and students—as its main source of information, we use the term leadership by narratives. Technologies for digital storytelling can significantly support leadership by narratives. Individuals upload their stories that an intelligent engine can relate to each other or sequence into more comprehensive understanding of the status of and trends within the organization. Modern big data techniques allow the community to reflect and therefore self-assess their processes, progress and results, based on the shared stories. In addition to the number-based facts, the leadership can make use of emotional expressions, to identify weak signals as early indicators of unexpected changes or threats identified at the grassroots level. Leading by narratives is a leadership approach for academic organizations that complements or even conflicts with the prevailing approach of a university as an efficient factory producing skilled labour force. Leadership by narratives aims at transforming the universities back to what they are supposed to be: communities known for their striving to the truth by sharing observations and experiences in the atmosphere of mutual trust. This is also a precondition for what the society expects from academic people and organizations: innovations, or fresh ideas that work in practice.
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