The Academic Leadership Triangle:

The Academic Integral Leadership Model we propose is the result of our ongoing interdisciplinary research. For any scholar with an ambition to rise to the challenge of leading others, or who already acts as a leader, it is crucial to appreciate the importance of this model and its seven principles.

The model Academic Integral Leadership Model is founded on the Leadership Triangle:

  • 1. The stage, or the context in which academic leadership is exercised: the university.

  • 2. The objective, or the values that academic leadership serves: the good of academia, i.e., truth and fellowship.

  • 3. The academic leader: academics with managerial and directorial responsibilities.

Within each of the vertices of the Leadership Triangle and between them polarities occur. They usually lead to conflict and burnout, but adequately managed, they can become sources of creative energy.

When the stage of academic leadership – the university – is considered, it is about finding a creative balance between fellowship, i.e. building and developing an academic community, and strategy, i.e. building a long-term perspective of action.

At the level of the purpose – the good of academia – it is about balancing ethos, i.e. the mission of the university, and trust-building.

Finally, at the level the leader, it is about finding a combination of (self-)awareness, creativity and agency.

The seven principles of Integral Academic Leadership include:

  • 1. (Self-)awareness.
  • 2. Creativity.
  • 3. Agency.
  • 4. Ethos.
  • 5. Trust.
  • 6. Fellowship.
  • 7. Strategy.

In order to act according to these principles, the leader needs to creatively manage polarities within and between all the vertices of the Leadership Triangle.

Specific manifestations of these polarities include, for example:

  • at the level of the university’s purpose: the tension between the progressive and conservative visions of academia
  • at the level of the academic community: tensions between teaching staff and administration, between lecturers and students, between women and men
  • at the level of the leader: tensions between academic work and family, between teamwork and individual career, between values and financial concerns; between research and teaching

The two key competences, which enable and empower academic leaders to navigate polarities, are:

  • Polarity Management (Barry Johnson)

  • non-anxious presence (Edwin Friedman), i.e. a specific attitude towards polarities and their manifestations, regardless of their number and intensity