I got the chance recently to tell a former leader what I thought about my former workplace when it came to attitudes toward research and the politics it practiced. We were together at a garden party hosted by another former colleague who seems to have managed the workplace politics better than I did. It's not that I didn't try; it's just that at some point I refused (inside myself) to compromise my beliefs and how I view dealing with employees and the jobs they do. I am totally uninterested in micromanaging employees or in forcing them to accept change just for the sake of change. I am interested in engaging them in useful and productive work and in listening to what they have to say and to teach me. The latter is important, and more leaders should try to listen better and to learn from their employees, rather than preaching to them that they are 'resistant to change', ineffective at their jobs, or treating them as though they are little more than a budget post on an accounting sheet.
The interesting thing was that my former leader agreed with mostly everything I said, which was not the case when I was still working, and said further that attempts have been made to get current leadership to see new points of view when it comes to research policies, to no avail. Current research leadership thinks it knows best, and has thought that way for the past fifteen years. And they talk about resistance to change. My opinion--start at the top and work downward. Get rid of the heavy weight of too many leaders at the top (six levels of leadership) and focus on using the salary money saved to employ truly professional individuals who actually do useful and productive work. I reiterate, as I've done so many times in this blog before--leadership is not a career in and of itself. Being a leader in one specific area does not necessarily qualify you for all leadership positions. Current management in many places seems to think it does, and it is one of the biggest mistakes ever made during the past twenty years. How one could believe that being a top-level company executive entitles you to run a hospital department with no prior medical experience is beyond me. But tell that to the politicians who leave office and are appointed leaders of boards and companies. What experience do they have that qualifies them for these positions? The worst thing that ever happened to academic research science was giving these bureaucrats the power that they now have to wield over ordinary scientists, many of whom have simply given up and left for the greener pastures of industry. The same is true for many of the pathologists I know, who simply cannot abide the understaffing (a perpetual shortage of necessary professionals) and inefficiency of many public hospital workplaces.
Things need to change, and if that change entails admitting that current leadership trends are simply 'the emperor's new clothes', then so be it. Admit it. Just do it. Get rid of the dead weight at the top. Hire the people needed to do the necessary jobs, who actually do the work. Stop micromanaging. In short, listen to your employees and respect their expertise. You hired them for a reason.