Sep 14

Give Copyright to Your Follower’s Work!

Erik G. Hansen
Erik G. Hansen is a full-time researcher at TUM Business School, Institute for Information, Organization and Management (Prof. Dr. Ralf Reichwald) in Munich, Germany

After too a long night at the computer, together with my former master’s student, finalizing a journal article for submission to the editorial board, my eyes began to shut at a time around 3:10 am. Few time after waking up the next morning, I find myself sitting in an ICE train towards my home town. In some kind of tired state, I begin to imagine the printed version of the journal article just submitted at dawn. I reconsidered the title page which I had reworked at the very end of the night session with the authors names which made me feel very satisfied.

Suddenly, the voice of the train operator takes my attention – as he outlines the travel route and indicates a stop in the city of Darmstadt, the city I graduated several years ago before starting my academic career. Several unrelated thoughts came back to mind until I finally processed more in-depth the topic of how knowledge creation works in academia. Most of the time, professors and doctoral students take ideas and solid pieces of research outcomes from their students, rework it, and publish it under their very own names. At best, students find their ideas and research results several months later in a magazine or journal. I know about cases, where students were accused by their fellows to have plagiarized publications of research staff where, in fact, one of the research staff members simply published a seminal paper of his student under his own and his professor’s name. I experienced related things on my own: the results of my master’s thesis were used for several publications at the institute of my former professor, without any reference to the originator of the work.

These experiences have been at the root for developing my own “code of ethics” in academic work, in other words, one of the care aspects in my leadership style.

As part of the academic system, which is increasingly tensioned by pressure for publication outcome, this aspect is especially important. My time is very limited for engaging in primary research tasks whilst at the same time the expectations in the academic system are very high. In order to meet expectations, I cannot limit my publications to own work, but rather need to use all possible resources at hand. For research personnel, one of the main resource are students. Against my personal experiences in my own time as student, I have been trying to resist the common routines in which student work gets “rebranded” under the names of university staff.

If student work is a basis of my academic writing, I put them as co-authors on my paper. The interesting fact is that under this regime, students become very engaged in publishing work far beyond their mandatory tasks. Often, students feel very rewarded when their name becomes attached to “the professor’s” name or even to the members of the research staff. Whilst I regard this behavior as core of a caring ethics, when systematically used, it is also instrumental to build a shared vision and, at the same time, serves as reward and incentive.

This experience differs in no aspect from life in corporate world.

Managers are under huge pressure to deliver, have limited resources, depend on the outcomes of their team members and they have to sell results to their bosses. The predominant practice in current organizations is to claim results – though, most of the time only positive ones – a personal result of the leader.

Caring leadership, however, should fully acknowledge the contribution of followers and team members in the overall result. This is important for two reasons: only then followers have trust and commit to the leader in the long term. At the same time, acknowledging contribution more explicitly, fully takes the individual’s attention and leverages his or her full resources. Giving this greater level of responsibility to the follower, it also serves as a better opportunity for follower development and ultimately leaves the leader follower dyad in a better position for future outcomes.

Overall, I deeply believe that excellent leaders give copyright to their followers more naturally than others and, through this behavior, become closer to the ideal of caring leadership.

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This entry was posted on Monday, September 14th, 2009 at 10:14 and is filed under Leadership. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your own site.

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