During the last two decades, medical education in Iran has shifted from elite to mass education, with a considerable increase in number of schools, faculties, and programs. Because of this transformation, it is a good case now to explore academic leadership in a non-western country. The objective of this study was to explore the views on effective academic leadership requirements held by key informants in Iran's medical education system.
A nominal group study was conducted by strategic sampling in which participants were requested to discuss and report on requirements for academic leadership, suggestions and barriers. Written notes from the discussions were transcribed and subjected to content analysis.
Six themes of effective academic leadership emerged: 1)shared vision, goal, and strategy, 2) teaching and research leadership, 3) fair and efficient management, 4) mutual trust and respect, 5) development and recognition, and 6) transformational leadership. Current Iranian academic leadership suffers from lack of meritocracy, conservative leaders, politicization, bureaucracy, and belief in misconceptions.
The structure of the Iranian medical university system is not supportive of effective academic leadership. However, participants' views on effective academic leadership are in line with what is also found in the western literature, that is, if the managers could create the premises for a supportive and transformational leadership, they could generate mutual trust and respect in academia and increase scientific production.