Leadership in the COVID-19 crisis A study to investigate how leaders of the HAN University of Applied Sciences adapt their leadership behaviour to the COVID-19 crisis and how their followers perceive this.
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Higher education leaders currently need to respond to the coronavirus outbreak and reinvent how to run their institution from a distance. Despite the increased interest in crisis management and change in leadership, the amount of research on those topics is still limited. This study gained insight into how leaders in higher education adapt their leadership behaviour to the COVID-19 crisis and how the lecturers perceive this. The organisation where this study was conducted is the HAN University of Applied Sciences. The central question of this study is: “How do leaders of the HAN University of Applied Sciences adapt their leadership behaviour to the COVID-19 crisis, and how do their followers perceive this?” The central question of this study is answered by conducting qualitative research among leaders and lecturers. Two data collection techniques were chosen to conduct this study: interviews and documents. First, the results showed that some leaders make more use of a top-down decision-making approach during the COVID-19 crisis, while the lecturers still feel the need to participate in key decision-making. Second, some leaders adapt their leadership behaviour by steering on what the situation brings, while the lecturers seem to prefer a leader with a clear vision of the proposed changes. Third, during the COVID-19 crisis, some leaders developed a more reactive approach to communication. Still, the lecturers seem to prefer a leader who proactively asks if there are any questions or concerns. Finally, it appears that the relationships between leaders and members have become more distanced. In contrast, it seems that the lecturers need a close relationship with the leaders, especially during the COVID-19 crisis. To better meet the needs of the lecturers’, the leaders are advised to pay more attention to small talk during the meetings, write a vision statement about the organisational goals and expectations of the leaders, and start each week with an online kick-off.
Faculteit der Managementwetenschappen