UC | Michel van Eerd wins TU/e’s first “People-Centered Leadership Award”!


At TU/e the word 'excellence’ is all over the place. Research should be excellent, so should education. While these are both important ambitions, let’s not forget to also strive for excellence in leadership, argues columnist Michel van Eerd.

The headline of this column – Michel van Eerd wins TU/e’s first “People-Centered Leadership Award”! – might raise some eyebrows. It could even come across cocky, considering I’m announcing myself winning this -still- imaginary award. But wouldn’t this be a great achievement? For me personally? Sure! But for TU/e? Even more! Of course this is still just a concoction of mine. I’ve hardly even started my first real position in a leading role (team leader of general educational lab facilities in the department of Electrical Engineering). Because I’m fairly new to this position, my skillset for leadership hasn’t fully matured yet. Luckily for me, TU/e doesn’t have any leadership excellence awards yet either.

On April 18th, 2006, my TU/e career started. Over the course of the past 18 years since then, I’ve experienced a vast range of superiors, each single one of them with their own typical strengths and weaknesses in leadership. These experiences combined have naturally led to a personal view on ‘proper leadership’. My personal-experience-based view certainly includes values like: caring, taking time for personal attention, listening, creating trust, delegating responsibility while concurrently fostering accountability, avoiding micro-management, creating a safe, open and non-judgmental discussion atmosphere, promoting & supporting personal development, recognizing, arranging conditions for team-spirit to develop and flourish and still getting important things done, all whilst trying to ‘optimize’ on TU/e level. OMG, how am I ever going to achieve my own ambitions?

As elected member of the Personnel faction of the University Council, I also hold the theme leadership in high regard. The council’s awareness of cases where leadership quality is/was lacking was duly confirmed in the report by TU/e Ombuds, Anna Soedira, last August. Reading her report was quite shocking to me at times, especially when serious concerns were exposed. There are so many good intentions, but the daily practice leaves ample room for improvement. Comparing the exposed mishaps against the Code for Good Governance in Dutch Universities, TU/e Strategy 2030, and TU/e Value Statement, Soedira’s report was also surprisingly inspiring. It invites and enables to learn from mistakes, motivating us to do a better job! Please allow yourself a moment to have a look at her recommendations.

The importance of leadership skills for the TU/e is evident, but the attention it deserves is apparently still lacking. The situation regarding education for example is a very different one; there already are teaching excellence awards, and for teaching staff there is even a University Teaching Qualification (UTQ) requirement.

The Personnel faction of the University Council (PUC) supports my quest to improve leadership at TU/e, and is encouraging initiatives to promote leadership development, recognition, reward, and accountability in general. Not just limited to people-centered leadership, but in a much broader sense; after all, exemplary leadership can come in many different forms.

In the meantime, I will stick to the wisdom of Mahatma Gandhi: ‘If you want to change the world, start with yourself!’ While doing so, I’ll even attempt to revive a former slogan: “TU/e: where people matter!”  I can still win TU/e’s first “People-Centered Leadership Award”. Hopefully other leaders will follow my calling, so I will have to step up my game another notch to stay ahead of my competition, or quickly suggest some other leadership award categories.

Michel van Eerd is team leader of general educational lab facilities in the department of Electrical Engineering. He was elected for a second term in the University Council last December. Views expressed in this column are his own.

Share this article