Ombuds’ corner: Speech for the defense of leadership

“First, leadership is a process that is not specifically a function of the person in charge. Leadership is a function of individual wills and individual needs, and the result of the dynamics of collective will organized to meet those various needs. Second, leadership is a process of adaptation and of evolution; it is a process of dynamic exchange and the interchanges of value. Leadership is deviation from convention. Third, leadership is a process of energy, not structure. In this way, leadership is different from management – managers pursue stability, while leadership is all about change.”*


Once again, during the 2011-2012 year, like the first year of my function, around one half of the issues reported to the Ombuds had to do with evaluation ("evaluative relationship") and career progression and development. These two categories are linked to the role of managers or leaders. This is also usually the case in other institutions, where managers are promoted to such a function due primarily to their outstanding technical skills, and not so much by taking their potential for human leadership - or their lack thereof - into consideration. Scientific excellence in research, education and innovation is the cornerstone of our culture. The Laboratory would gain even more efficiency by promoting a corresponding excellence in human leadership.

Ultimately, all case issues have an impact on the work and dedication of our personnel; a respectful workplace environment is the best guarantee of the highest effectiveness in all our missions**. That calls for leadership driven by good ethics, beyond pure management and control.


From the many cases that I have seen, I believe that our culture should equally promote and include a culture favouring an excellence in leadership. How? By making use of the new tool we have: the integrated Competency Model.

Number of cases by issue during the period July 2011 to June 2012

* “Leadership and Change: The Case for Greater Ethical Clarity”, by Bernard Burnes and Rune Todnem, Journal of Business Ethics (2012), 108:239-252 and “The nature of Leadership”, by R.A. Barker (2001), Human Relations, 54(4), 469-494.

** See the column by Sharone Bar-David, in Canadian HRReporter, November 15, 2010 © Copyright Thomson Reuters Canada Ltd., November 15, 2010, Toronto, Ontario, (800) 387-5164. Web site:


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by Vincent Vuillemin