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Striving for excellence: the role of top management team diversity in universities

Fabian Hattke (Department of Organization and Management, University of Hamburg, Hamburg, Germany)
Steffen Blaschke (Department of International Business Communication, Copenhagen Business School, Frederiksberg, Denmark)

Team Performance Management

ISSN: 1352-7592

Article publication date: 8 June 2015

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Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to evaluate the influence of top management team diversity on academic excellence in universities. Academic excellence is conceptualized as successfully gaining funds for inter-organizational research collaborations, interdisciplinary graduate schools and high-ranked scientific reputation.

Design/methodology/approach

The study applies upper echelon theory to universities. Three hypotheses are developed: (overall) top management team heterogeneity is positively associated with successful funding of excellence clusters, (overall) top management team heterogeneity is positively associated with successful funding of graduate schools and (overall) top management team heterogeneity is positively associated with academic reputation. The empirical study is based on a cross-sectional dataset with a time lag, covering characteristics of 75 German public universities from 2008 to 2013. Multiple-regression analysis is applied to test the hypotheses.

Findings

Our results indicate that disciplinary and educational diversity of upper echelons has a positive effect on the outcomes. Other top management team characteristics (age, gender, etc.) show no significant effects. Besides top management team composition, we find that a high number of faculties and a broad inclusion of internal status groups (students, tenured faculty, academic and administrative staff) and external stakeholders in decision making processes may enhance academic excellence of universities.

Research limitations/implications

First, the study contributes to the body of literature concerned with higher education. It is situated at the crossroads of management studies and higher education research, unlocking strategic management theorizing for the public context. Furthermore, the study contributes to the body of literature on strategic leadership in pluralistic organizations. It highlights the importance of heterogeneous governance structures and modular organization designs for achieving academic excellence.

Practical implications

The paper may inform practitioners in administrative or leading positions and policy-makers concerned with higher education. The more diverse a top management team is in terms of multiple disciplinary backgrounds, the more likely they succeed in driving the university toward academic excellence.

Originality/value

The study is among the first to evaluate the influence of top management teams in universities with a quantitative research design.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The study is supported by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (grant no. 01PW11018). The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest and that there was no interference from the ministry regarding this study. The authors express their appreciation to two anonymous reviewers for their thoughtful comments. They would also like to thank the editors, Tassilo Schuster and Benjamin Bader, for valuable feedback and putting together this special issue.

Citation

Hattke, F. and Blaschke, S. (2015), "Striving for excellence: the role of top management team diversity in universities", Team Performance Management, Vol. 21 No. 3/4, pp. 121-138. https://doi.org/10.1108/TPM-03-2014-0019

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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