What I’m Reading: ‘Shared Leadership in Higher Education’

As a political scientist and academic administrator, I’ve long been interested in shared governance. But a new report on the value of shared leadership in higher education, prepared for the American Council on Education by Adrianna J. Kezar and Elizabeth M. Holcombe, has challenged my thinking. I see now how models of shared governance can focus more on distributing power than on collaborating meaningfully.

The authors differentiate shared leadership — the empowerment of multiple people and cross-functional teams — from the delegating of responsibilities to the faculty (versus administrative bodies) under shared governance.

As appealing as shared leadership is because of its emphasis on flexible, inclusive networks, the concept is less convincing when we make the leap from theory to implementation. How do we share leadership effectively when in reality people have different degrees of power? And how do we hold each other accountable, so that sharing leadership doesn’t devolve into inaction or chaos?

The report is a stark reminder to not let jargon, semantics, or the latest model get in the way. The issue is not about leadership versus governance, which as a political scientist I know isn’t a tenable choice.

It’s the shared part of both leadership and governance that matters. What are the purposes and principles we share, and how can we best collaborate around concrete issues? Figuring that out will always be difficult, but it also seems more authentically liberating and potentially a more effective way of fostering change.


For whom is the Nasscom’s India Leadership Forum 2016?

The fee for attending the event starts from Rs31,000 and goes up to Rs41,000 for its members. For non-members, it ranges from Rs31,000 to Rs49,000. Photo: Aniruddha Chowdhury/MintThe fee for attending the event starts from Rs31,000 and goes up to Rs41,000 for its members. For non-members, it ranges from Rs31,000 to Rs49,000. Photo: Aniruddha Chowdhury/Mint

It is the age of start-ups. If you are living in a metro city, more often than not, you will have some one in your circle doing a start-up. Or some one you know will know of people with their own start-ups. Or someone you know will know someone…You get the point.

The Indian government knows this. Thus, it is working to turn this start-up ecosystem into a growth engine for the Indian economy. Indian industry is not behind. Big information technology (IT) companies as well as industry bodies like Nasscom have taken it upon themselves to nurture this ecosystem and mentor the abundant young talent in the country.

Nasscom has been organizing the country’s largest annual leadership forum for more than two decades. Over the last couple of years, the summit’s focus has been shifting towards technology start-ups which are slowly, but steadily changing the industry’s landscape.

According to the industry body, the next wave of growth for the tech industry will come from these startups. Currently, the industry body is in the middle of hosting the 24th edition the annual summit—NILF (Nasscom’s India Leadership Forum) 2016 in Mumbai.

But still not many start-ups are willing to take part in this event. Or to be precise, they aren’t able to take part.

“We are not attending the NILF, of course not. The fee for one person is 41 grand (Rs.41,000). That’s crazy. I don’t have that kind of money to spare,” says the co-founder of a Mumbai-based tech-start up, who doesn’t want to be named.

“I have a company to run, so every penny is important. Paying a lakh for us co-founders (there are two of them) to listen to what industry leaders are saying is a bit too much.”

“But we have meetings lined up with people who are attending the event, at the same hotel (Grand Hyatt, Mumbai), but outside the venue,” she says with a wink.

She is not the only one. There are many more founders and co-founders of start-ups who are looking for funds to sustain their companies, and cannot spare that much. After all, India is the third largest technology start-up base.

The country has more than 4,200 start-ups, and adds about 1,200 start-ups every year, according to data collated by Nasscom.

Nasscom’s event is sold out this year. As always.

The price of attending the event starts from Rs.31,000 and goes up to Rs.41,000 for its members. For non-members, it ranges from Rs.31,000 to Rs.49,000.

Like every year, Nasscom’s NILF has a stellar list of partners, sponsors and speakers. Leading technology companies like International Business Machines Corp. (IBM), Tata Consultancy Services Ltd (TCS) and Infosys Ltd are among its top sponsors.

Its featured speakers this year include Safra A Catz, global co-chief executive of Oracle Corp.; N. Chandrasekaran, chief executive and managing director, TCS; Srinivas Kandula, India CEO of Capgemini; Amitabh Kant, secretary, department of industrial policy and promotion; and Rajan Anandan, vice president, managing director, South-East Asia, Google India, among others. The majority of it attendees are executives from multinational technology firms, big and mid-sized Indian IT firms and a few start-ups, which have been able to do well for themselves.

But if Nasscom is working towards creating an ecosystem for start-ups so they can grow, what’s the point of hosting an event that cannot accommodate the very people it’s meant for—young entrepreneurs, too early in the game to be able to pay the fees demanded for attendance.