Presenters Biography

Professor Jillian Hamilton

Professor Jillian Hamilton is Associate Director: Academic Development, at QUT. A Principal Fellow of the UK Higher Education Academy (PFHEA), she is Course Coordinator of QUT’s Graduate Certificate in Academic Practice, which spans dimensions of learning and teaching practice, curriculum design, blended and online learning, research, and leadership. She leads the Sessional Success Suite of academic development programs, including a distributed leadership program with Advisors deployed across sixteen schools to provide support, local and focal development and a sense of belonging for sessional peers. This work was recognised by an Australian Award for University Teaching (AAUT): Program Award; and Jillian has received an AAUT: Teaching Excellence Award; AAUT Citation for Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning; the Award for Institutional Excellence at the National Leadership Summit: Benchmarking Leadership for Sessional Teaching and several QUT Vice Chancellor’s Awards. With 8 PhD completions, she is a regular PhD examiner. She has led OLT Strategic projects on HDR supervision and recently won the Higher Education Research Network’s Best Publication Award.  



As the higher education sector faces unprecedented academic renewal and an increasingly competitive environment, some universities have recognized the need for institutional succession planning and have introduced leadership programs for senior and mid-level program leaders. However, it remains likely that academics become ‘incidental leaders’, without first establishing a thorough understanding of the role of a leader, their leadership values, or a set of enabling strategies. Early career academics in particular may be left to acquire leadership ‘know-how’ on the job, since professional development designed for them (where it exists) tends to focus on the dual imperatives of research and learning and teaching quality. Rarely does it focus on leadership capabilities, even though we know that this cohort leads from the outset–supervising sessional teams, designing programs, participating in advisory committees etc. 

This paper first describes a preparatory module on academic leadership for early career academics in a large Australasian university (QUT). It then goes on to provide a socio-cultural perspective on early career academics’ perceptions of leadership by presenting a systematic content analysis of artefacts produced by participants (N= 110). This includes an analysis of what leadership entails, including the differentiated work of leaders, managers, mentors and administrators. And it includes the traits of leadership (emergent, authentic values) derived from the leadership philosophies produced by participants. Through these analyses, the paper elucidates the principles and strategies that early career academics plan to enact as they navigate the complexities of their new roles leading in higher education.