Professor Jonathan Jansen says one important lesson he has learnt from his leadership experience at all levels in higher education – is that you have much less power than you would think. He has been a head of department, dean, and vice-chancellor.

This was not his original idea, he says. It was discovered by organisational theorists such as Jim Walsh (a professor at Michigan Ross business school in the US) but was “quite interesting to experience directly”, he says.

Jansen, a National Research Foundation A-rated scholar who is a Distinguished Professor of Education at Stellenbosch University and President of the Academy of Science of South Africa, was speaking on the first day of the Higher Education Leadership and Management (HELM) summit. Held virtually from 15 to 17 November, the summit was attended by delegates from around the world.