A Vice-Chancellor in Action

  • Lars Engwall Department of Business Studies, Uppsala University, Sweden
Keywords: academic leadership;, universities, executive behaviour, diary method


The paper focuses on the working conditions of top university leaders. In this way, it stands on earlier research on executive behaviour from Sune Carlson in the 1950s to the present time. It is also a continuation of an earlier study where thirty Swedish Vice-Chancellors responded in structured interviews. Empirically the paper presents a close-up analysis of a diary covering six months in 1990 of Stig Strömholm, Vice-Chancellor of Uppsala University, between 1989 and 1997. The results are in line with Sune Carlson’s work as well as the previous survey study. In the latter, Vice-Chancellors expressed preferences for dealing with long-term strategic issues. However, when asked about their daily work, it turned out that short-term issues dominated their days. In the same way, various kinds of social contacts dominated Strömholm’s working days. The most common words in the diary were thus Visit, Meeting, Reception, Lunch, Conference and Gathering. In two thirds of the cases, the counterpart was external, while about half of the meetings took place within the university. In conclusion, the paper points to the role of university leaders as boundary spanning liaison actors as well as internal trouble-shooters.

6.1 Academic Leadership