Academic Leadership and University Performance: Do Russian Universities Improve after They Head by Top Researchers?

20 Pages Posted: 21 Apr 2021

See all articles by Daria Gerashchenko

Daria Gerashchenko

European University at St. Petersburg (EUSP)

Date Written: December 22, 2020


Studies that have examined organizations’ productivity and their leaders have found a rather weak relationship between a leader’s personal characteristics and organizational output. Similar empirical studies have also been conducted in relation to universities and rather contradictory results have been found. In this study, I take a theoretical approach to quantify the effects of top leadership on university research performance. I assume that top leaders may influence university research productivity, but this influence should be visible. I theorize two types of university leader: the “strategic manager” who seeks to reallocate resources to make it of use for the whole university and the “politician” who reallocates resources to benefit certain research areas, especially the one they specialize in. It is hypothesized that 1) if a leader is a strategic manager, an increase in overall university research productivity would be observed; and 2) if a leader is a politician, there will be an increase in university performance in the research field in which the leader specializes. Using an extensive sample of Russian universities, it is demonstrated that while there is no observable relationship between overall university research productivity and the university leader’s academic excellence, there is a positive influence by university leader’s academic productivity on the research performance of his/her specific research field. This study finds evidence that leaders qua “politicians” can have a profound effect on their respective research areas’ productivity.

Keywords: university productivity, russia, academic leadership, higher education

Suggested Citation

Gerashchenko, Daria, Academic Leadership and University Performance: Do Russian Universities Improve after They Head by Top Researchers? (December 22, 2020). Available at SSRN: or

Daria Gerashchenko (Contact Author)

European University at St. Petersburg (EUSP) ( email )

3 Gagarinskaya Street
St. Petersburg, 191187

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