Research Output
An analysis of sustainable leadership challenges and prospects in Scottish Higher Education
  Interest in sustainable leadership has intensified following the global financial downturn which resulted in organisations across all sectors facing new and complex pressures and demands. Within the Higher Education sector, growing trends of marketization and managerialsim have impacted how academics and professionals attempt to balance competing priorities and demands, with leadership a prime focus in such attempts. In such turbulent times, leadership that endures and sustains may contribute to the achievement of objectives at sectoral, institutional and individual level.

The aim of this study is to examine leaders’ perceptions surrounding the challenges of and prospects for sustainable leadership within Scottish Higher Education (HE). Adopting a subjectivist epistemology and interpretivist ontology, collecting qualitative data and utilising interpretive phenomenological analysis to analyse the 35 in-depth interviews. Interviewees included leaders from all levels in Higher Education Institutions (HEIs), along with key informants from policymaking organisations within Scottish HE.

The study identifies the key facets of sustainable leadership as embedding sustainable leadership throughout institutions, inclusivity, involvement of stakeholders, individual reflexivity and balancing objectives. These facets are represented in a conceptual framework that demonstrates the interconnected relationships required to achieve sustainable leadership in HEIs.

Through exploring these facets in Scottish HE, the contribution to knowledge of this research is the conceptual framework. Developed from the empirical research it illustrates the essential role of culture in fostering and developing a sustainable leadership approach. Interviewees discussed a range of challenges they experienced as leaders in HEI's and how these could be ameliorated by a culture which enabled sustainable leadership facets. Three key enabling elements are suggested by interviewees as being central to developing a sustainable leadership approach, namely leadership development, communication and peer networks. These findings can guide the application and future development of sustainable leadership in Scottish HE.

  • Type:


  • Date:

    01 July 2020

  • Publication Status:


  • DOI:


  • Funders:

    Edinburgh Napier Funded


Gerard, L. J. An analysis of sustainable leadership challenges and prospects in Scottish Higher Education. (Thesis). Edinburgh Napier University. Retrieved from



higher education; leaders; sustainable leadership; Scotland

Monthly Views:

Available Documents