Leading with authenticity, courage and kindness is the focus for Deakin Business School’s (DBS) newly-appointed Dean.
Over the past 20 years, university leadership roles have become increasingly complex and demanding thanks to the growing number and needs of a diverse range of stakeholders.
But throw in the unexpected onslaught of COVID-19 – which continues to smash the higher education sector – and university leaders are now facing an unparalleled era of disruption and challenge.
Professor Amanda Pyman says that while she’s possibly chosen one of the most testing times to step into the role of DBS Dean, it’s a responsibility she considers as both an opportunity and a privilege.
‘There’s no question that universities are facing incredibly tough circumstances with significant headwinds, but this give us the opportunity to be more focused around what we can and can’t do. It makes you step back and really look at the purpose and vision of what we’re trying to achieve. Of course there’s challenges, but there’s also a lot of exciting opportunities and cause for optimism,’ she says.
Prof. Pyman comes to the role of dean after six years as head of DBS’s Department of Management where she focused on building an empowered and collegiate culture and implementing innovations to boost course offerings, research outcomes, and staff profile.
‘Two schools had merged so we needed to build a strong culture which included hiring talented new staff and bringing in some really capable people across all levels. The department is now one of DBS’s highest performers and I’m really proud of its turnaround and achievements,’ she reflects.
Prof. Pyman’s academic and career journey began with a commerce degree which led to a PhD in industrial/employment relations and labour law.
From there she worked as a research fellow at Monash University before moving to the UK for a six-year post at the University of Kent, broadening her research in SMEs before taking on the role of deputy director in Kent Business School’s MBA program.
Returning to Australia, she was Director of MBA Programs at Monash for three years before moving to Deakin in 2013.
Now working under the Faculty of Business and Law’s Executive Dean Professor Mike Ewing, Prof. Pyman’s primary role is to serve and work with the heads and academic staff across DBS’s six departments.
‘After working as a DBS department head for six years, I feel I’m able to bring a level of experience to this role which has a very strong operational focus. It’s about bringing consistency into our practice, working with our DBS Advisory Board, and then with the departments on our main areas of education and employability, research and innovation, and engagement and partnership,’ she explains.
When it comes to 21st century leadership, Prof. Pyman says that for her, it’s based on authenticity and a sense of moral courage.
‘Authenticity is first and foremost, particularly at a time like this. And not just because of what's happening in higher education sector but across a long list of complex global challenges that includes the environment, indigenous issues, and poverty discrimination.’
But what’s equally important she suggests, is kindness.
‘I have to be kind and generous with my time in being able to work creatively and productively with people - you know that's at the heart of the leadership and it’s what we need now. I think if you can do that it forges experience and meaning for both parties and for me, that’s critical.’
Vision for DBS
A key part of Prof. Pyman’s vision for DBS is for it to become an internationally-renowned business school.
‘We have an international presence and we’re very strong domestically but raising our international profile is the natural extension of our evolution in terms of where we’ve come from and where we're seeking to go,’ she says.
With this aim, DBS has recently introduced four areas of excellence that build on the school’s strengths and signify the role business can play in solving challenging, real-world problems: business and society, business and technology, capital markets, and SMEs and entrepreneurship.
‘I would like to think that we can cement our reputation as the “business school of choice” for our staff, students and partners across these areas while also being impactful in our core areas of education and employability, research and innovation, and engagement and partnerships. I want us to have a really positive impact across those three core areas of our business - I think that's a really good starting point,’ she says.
Four months into the role, Prof. Pyman says that working with people is the aspect she enjoys the most.
‘One of things I’m most looking forward to is learning more about the other DBS departments (outside the Department of Management) and being able to work with people across the entire school. That’s a privilege and an opportunity that I’m very much looking forward to. In this role, if I can leave DBS in a little bit of a better place to where I found it – which I believe is absolutely possible – then that’s success for me and for our people and partners.’