Abdulghani Muthanna compares leadership he has experienced at OsloMet with his experiences on other institutions. Foto: Øystein Fimland
Abdulghani Muthanna compares leadership he has experienced at OsloMet with his experiences on other institutions. Foto: Øystein Fimland

True Reflections of a Visiting Scholar in Norway

Leadership. It is with the greatest pleasure and truthfulness I am reflecting upon my academic experience in Norway, Abdulghani Muthanna, guest lecturer at OsloMet, writes.

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Leadership is not an easy activity, and demands the possession of many skills/qualities. Among many qualities, patience, effective communication, team spirit, flexibility, and empathy are important qualities of an excellent leader.

It is us being humans who treat one another with caring, positive understanding and trust that builds sincere collaboration among colleagues.
Abdulghani Muthanna
Associate professor, OsloMet

However, the most important skills/qualities - rightly, in the author's mind - are concerned with attentive listening accompanied with a positive understanding of colleagues' words and intentions. These two qualities help in the creation of a future, strategic vision, which in turn motivates the colleagues towards achieving the already planned vision as well as the created one.

It is with the greatest pleasure and truthfulness I am reflecting upon my academic experience in Norway, particularly in relation to the Head of the Department of International Studies and Interpreting at the Faculty of Education and International Studies at OsloMet – Oslo Metropolitan University. This academic experience is reported in comparison with different leaders the author has worked with in different nations.

In other words, I am very glad to share my reflections with readers. These reflections signify the criticality of leadership in academia.

Gunn Bjørnsen is the Head of the Department of International Studies and Interpreting until the end of July, and based on my practical experience, I have observed that she is excellently professional for many factual factors.

Among many, the following 11 factors reflect upon the qualities of Gunn as a successful leader:

1. She welcomes visitors with an open heart, making them feel at home from the first moment of their arrival. This is very critical for reducing the pressure of traveling and leaving family members, and makes a smooth transition into the new context. Only excellent leaders strategically think of achieving this as they know that this is critical in establishing a positive attitude towards the new context and colleagues.

2. She carefully listens to me with a positive attitude towards understanding me and my intentions. Listening to, and positively understanding colleagues are the core qualities of a successful leader and Gunn is highly endowed with these two qualities. We have had lots of meetings and I have observed these two qualities in her.

3. Despite her being busy with many issues in the department, she welcomes me whenever I approach her or her office with a sincere smiling face and a kind heart, and this is very important for new colleagues for further productivity.

4. Gunn treats me like a family member and with simplicity, and this is very important for a positive experience of a visiting scholar. I feel at home when I meet and talk with her. In fact, the moments I spent talking with her at her office top the happiest moments I ever had in Norway. Whenever I meet and talk with her, I feel relaxed, and I become more motivated to keep working on my research ideas. This reflects how really a skillful leader she is.

5. She is very caring. I still remember when I arrived to Oslo, having no money left with me. She gave me money and lots of accommodating tools, clothes, and above all, a welcoming reception, all of which are kept and appreciated in my heart forever. Not every leader would consider such minor but important issues that lead to a strong colleagueship sooner rather than later.

6. One of the most important qualities of a successful leader is becoming considerate; Gunn pays attention to me whenever we come across/by each other, and starts greeting me. Her being considerate leads to strengthening the positive conceptions of her in my mind. Further, her being considerate also reflects her being very sociable; an important feature of an excellent leader.

7. Treating people equally is a rare feature of an excellent leader; during my stay till now I never felt that Gunn is giving orders or imposing her opinions on me or others and this reflects how professional she is.

8. She personally took me on a tour in the campus, showing me the offices of other colleagues (introducing me to them), libraries, canteens, et cetera, and this reflects how caring and welcoming she is. It also reflects how she cares for the further harmony of the department.

9. All emails I received from her are very positive and encouraging. They also inspire me to work harder.

10. She is very smart when it comes to discussing administrative and academic matters. We had many discussions about many academic and administrative matters and I found that she is very smart in providing critical insights.

11. Last but not least, the factual truth of the saying that «it is hard to please everyone» is global, but excellent leaders still attempt to be friendly with all. And I have observed this during my stay in OsloMet.

To conclude, I would state that it is not only the mutual understanding between cultures, languages, religions, beliefs, et cetera, that helps in the better understanding and treatment of one another, between leaders and colleagues or even among colleagues themselves.

It is actually us being humans who treat one another with caring, positive understanding and trust that builds sincere collaboration among colleagues. With this sincere collaboration in action, institutions of higher education would then realize their visions and achieve their missions professionally.