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Conference 'Leadership in Progress: Science Meets Practice' – A Recap

On October 15, 2020, international academics, practitioners, and students gathered online at the conference 'Leadership in Progress: Science Meets Practice' organized by the Leiden Leadership Centre. Together with renowned speakers from academia, politics and the civil service a multidisciplinary exchange was established which stimulates research and development of public leadership.

The increasing complexity of issues and challenges we are facing in the public domain raises a call for a better understanding and development of the role of public and political leadership. As policies, structures, systems and regulations alone are not the answer, we require knowledge and learning about public and political leadership that is much more in depth and meets the demands that actors and institutes are confronted with in real life. Closer collaboration between different disciplines and professions both in academia and practice together is crucial to advance our understanding and the development of public and political leadership. The Leiden Leadership Centre is strongly committed to this goal and, thanks to a contribution from the Leiden University Fund (LUF), in collaboration with the international academic PUPOL Network, we organized the conference 'Science Meets Practice'.

Continue reading to learn about the challenges and insights discussed during the conference.

“COVID-19 does not only pose new challenges to leadership in healthcare. It also underlines the importance of those leadership challenges that were already there.” Dr. Eduard Schmidt & Jacqueline Kuyvenhoven, ‘Leadership in Times of Crisis’

Leadership in practice

Prof. Arjen Boin spoke with Minister Sander Dekker about his leadership in the Dutch administration. Dekker emphasized the importance of involving colleagues and external parties in decision-making and reflecting on the values and principles that may underlie a certain decision. Discussing complex cases together ensures a better result and high-quality relations. Apologizing when necessary is therefore not a weakness, but rather a strength. In all of this, it is crucial to discern that leadership cannot simply be learned as one skill; but it is built up through multiple diverse skills. This is what leadership development should be aimed at.

“Public leadership is about being MAD: Making a Difference” René de Jong & Lara van Osch, ‘Are you MAD enough?’

Charisma and new public leadership

(Public) leaders are expected to be charismatic. But: what exactly is charisma, and how can we make charisma measurable? In his lecture, Prof. John Antonakis gave answers to these questions. According to Antonakis, charisma can make an important contribution to the public interest. For instance, charismatic leaders can stimulate desired collective behavior of citizens. When applied to the current circumstances, charisma can help encourage citizens to comply with COVID-19 measures and, thus, promoting public health.

Panel discussion: Science and practice

How can we advance public leadership – in collaboration with both science and practice?” This was the central question for the panel discussion of “Leadership in Progress: Science Meets Practice”. In this conversation, academics Sandra Groeneveld (Leiden University) and Arnold Bakker (Erasmus University Rotterdam) and professionals Sandra Kompier (National Police) and Marjolein Voslamber (Dutch Senior Civil Service) shared their views on this topic.

Public leadership is placed under a magnifying glass. In an increasingly complex world, much is expected from leadership. Therefore, in practice there is a great demand for new scientific insights that can be used to enhance leadership development.

However, collaboration between practice and science is not always easy. For example, responsibilities and roles are not always clear, information sharing is not always possible due to internal regulations, and cooperation requires a great deal of coordination.

Nevertheless, the panel members are in full agreement about the added value of collaboration. For academics, practice offers valuable data and input for new research questions. In return, scientific insights can feed practice with new perspectives on leadership. In this way, public organizations can expand their organizational network and acquire up-to-date knowledge. Proper collaboration between science and practice is therefore crucial to improve leadership in organizations.

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