This blog was written by Dr Pauline Miller Judd, Director of the National Centre for Entrepreneurship in Education (NCEE) Entrepreneurial Heads Programme and Associate Professor at Edinburgh Napier University. It is the ninth in our series on leadership in partnership with NCEE.
The need for universities to be entrepreneurial in their approach has been increasingly highlighted over recent years. Within institutions there is an expectation that leaders will always be ready with innovative ideas, that they can pick up countless projects and deliver quick changes. But there is an unspoken challenge for university leaders around how to maintain personal wellbeing whilst also dealing with constant change and challenging situations.
It is imperative that leaders strike a good work/ life balance for themselves and their teams. To be entrepreneurial, the one thing needed is time – time to stop and think, develop and assess new ideas, and relax and play. How often have you come away from a meeting and in a quiet moment afterwards thought, ‘Why didn’t we … ?’ Or, if you ask someone when they had their best idea, they might say when I was out walking or gardening or even in the shower. The best ideas emerge when people let their minds rest or when they are at play.
Our energy and capacity to be entrepreneurial is like a battery which needs to be recharged regularly. However, leaders on the NCEE programmes often highlight that taking time out to recharge is not something they give themselves permission to do and, in certain environments, It is thought of as a weakness. But the reality is that knowing when your energy levels are depleted and when you need to recharge is a positive leadership strength.
To deliver innovative ideas, you need to not be afraid to think of yourself and your team as a precious resource and ensure that you are nurtured. How you manage workloads and ways of working can be an important impact on increasing entrepreneurial thinking and enhancing the sustainability of your organisation going forward.
Wellbeing is affected by so many different aspects including too much screen time, digital presenteeism, lack of purpose, too many meetings, not enough exercise, technology overload, and too many unhealthy snacks. But we can always implement new approaches to enhance our personal capacity and wellbeing. Some of my personal tips for finding balance for yourself and your teams are:
- remember to maintain some structure and routine in your day, but don’t be too rigid;
- if your diary is full with back-to-back meetings, get into a routine of blocking out time to think or for your personal choice of energy boosting activities;
- take regular breaks away from technology and schedule it into your diary to remind you to take them;
- fresh air is important so take a walk while on the phone (and make some of your meetings walking ones);
- make sure there is a bottle of water on your desk as even a minimal drop in hydration affects your capacity for innovative thinking;
- take a lunch break away from your desk and use the time to engage with colleagues;
- focus on being present and engaged in meetings instead of being distracted by email notifications; and
- try and vary the format of your meetings with your teams to encourage entrepreneurial thinking.
Committing to starting a new habit today can lead to greater innovation in the future. What will your first step be?
The series so far:
- Professor Mary Stuart CBE, ‘Permeable Leadership: The route to innovation in university practice’, HEPI blog, 22 September 2022.
- Kevin Kerrigan, ‘Entrepreneurship as a driver of civic value in universities’, HEPI blog, 29 September 2022.
- Ian Dunn, ‘Between tradition and regulation: is there space for entrepreneurial behaviour in higher education?’, HEPI blog, 6 October 2022.
- Lesley Dobree, ‘Leadership and Learning are Indispensable to Each Other’, HEPI blog, 13 October 2022.
- James Ransom, ‘The evolving roles and constant challenges for a higher education leader’, HEPI blog, 20 October 2022.
- Adam Shore, ‘Learning from failure in higher education institutions’, HEPI blog, 27 October 2022.
- Ceri Nursaw, ‘Leadership in higher education: It should be all about the people’, HEPI blog, 10 November 2022.
- HEPI’s new report, Research Leadership Matters: Agility, Alignment, Ambition (HEPI Report 154) by Professor Matthew Flinders.