Three good practices 

With the Recognition & Rewards programme, we want to achieve a healthy and open academic culture. Supervisors are primarily responsible for creating a socially safe and inclusive working environment where teamwork, talent development, and (academic) integrity are paramount. We will ensure that there is a focus on good leadership at all job levels. Below you can find some examples of training leadership.

Leadership as the driving force behind Tilburg University’s talent-based approach

As all Tilburg University’s employees have their own, unique talents, it’s only natural that we adopt a talent-oriented approach. It is our mission to recognise and reward these talents and to make each member of the team aware of them. Not only will recognising everyone’s talent lead to more work satisfaction, but the connecting of these talents will also help to create the best team results. We therefore have a clear vision on the role that leadership has in identifying talents and giving employees the room to develop themselves. Which is why it’s no wonder that Tilburg University introduced the concept of leadership entitled ‘Connected Leading’ a few years ago. We want our leaders at Tilburg University to play a crucial role in recognising, rewarding and connecting the diversity of talents we have.

The great importance of an ambassador that shows leadership

Leadership and the focus on talent have been given a prominent place in Tilburg University’s Strategy (2022-2027). We are delighted to have Vice-Rector Magnificus prof. dr. ir. Jantine Schuit as our ambassador, as her passion for the talent-based approach (which, in our opinion, is exactly what Recognition & Rewards is) acts as a lever in the change we want to achieve and, in her acting as our ambassador she shows the community what leadership is. According to Schuit: “Universities have traditionally placed a heavy emphasis on disciplinary top research, with a high position in the rankings as the ultimate goal. It is debatable whether such a single-minded focus is wise. Societal questions ask for more interdisciplinary collaboration. Moreover, it is doubtful whether a one-sided perspective will help you get the best out of your people and teams and make you attractive as an employer to a broad variety of talented people in the long term.” In her opinion, it all starts with leadership and leaders who have leadership qualities like connection, self-awareness and dialogue.

Image board on leadership roles. Illustration: UG.

Leadership talents for formal leadership roles

Of course, both research and teaching will continue to be the basis in academic careers. But if we want to take leadership seriously, we also want to offer more recognition and rewards to leadership roles. As Tilburg University sees leadership as the foundation for the significant change we want to bring about, it is important to be transparent about leadership roles: What does it mean to have such a formal role, what kind of talent do you need for such a role? One of our faculties has therefore described the leadership roles of vice-dean and director of research/education, thus giving recognition to the importance of these roles and placing us in a better position to spot leadership talents for these roles early on.

Recognising the diversity of talent in a team

At Tilburg University, we encourage employees to get to know their specific and unique talents (or ‘strengths’, as we call them), and more than 600 of them already have. As soon as supervisors and directors know the talents in their team and know how important it is that every talent is recognised and acknowledged, those talents can be optimally utilised within the team. Some supervisors already see the results of their efforts of investing in talents: more work satisfaction and a team that works together to get the best results. As Schuit says: “The current generation has different perspectives. (…) They are looking for an employer where they feel safe, where they can work in a pleasant environment and achieve their full potential.”

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For more information about our approach, feel free reach out to:

Stefan van der Meer – Programme lead Talent & Leadership:
Marjan van Hunnik – Programme lead Recognition & Rewards:

Leadership at the University of Groningen

Leadership is needed in order to be able to realise our strategic principles and our core tasks – research, teaching and impact. Leadership is not an aim in itself, but a means of working together to achieve excellent results in a safe and stimulating work environment. Taking responsibility, collaborating and being open to other perspectives: these are the things we value at the University of Groningen (UG). We are committed to the wellbeing and development of both staff and students. And this requires leadership.

Vision on leadership

The UG vision on leadership was shaped through dialogue sessions, in consultation with a large number of colleagues from different faculties and functions, and of various ages, backgrounds and areas of expertise. The vision defines what leadership consists of, why it is important and what we expect. It distinguishes four leadership roles: personal leadership, individual leadership, group leadership and organisational leadership. The boundaries between these roles are not hard and fast; you can also take on several roles at the same time.

Everyone at the UG provides leadership – for themselves, their own work, their own development and their career. This happens in research, teaching and support, regardless of a person’s age or stage in their career. Personal leadership is at the heart of our work.

Image board on leadership roles. Illustration: UG.

The leadership vision is now a cornerstone for the establishment of an overarching programme, including the creation of a leadership community/academy aimed at enhancing the standard of leadership. Our main focus during the upcoming period will be on raising awareness regarding the paramount importance of strong leadership and of the vision and ensuring that this message is heard. So, although leadership is not a new phenomenon, the explicit recognition of it is a key driver of professional success and wellbeing.

“The entire university community needs to understand that strong leadership is essential to the health of our university, to make it a place where members of staff can really flourish.”

Peter Verhoef, Dean of the Faculty of Economics and Business and member of the University of Groningen Recognition & Rewards Committee

How do we approach leadership and leadership development?

Leadership is not always something that comes naturally if you are, for example, a brilliant researcher, lecturer or support professional. But it is something you can learn. Developing leadership behaviours and skills is more than just theory. Compare it to learning a sport. You master it mainly through training, practice and just doing it. But also by regularly reflecting on your own actions and learning from inspiring colleagues who lead by example.

‘Although leadership is not a new phenomenon, the explicit recognition of it is a key driver of professional success and wellbeing.’
For the UG, continuous leadership development is such an important issue that we have decided to stimulate and monitor it in a number of ways. First, we will identify the changes needed to give leadership the place it deserves in our organisation. We will also set up an internal leadership community/academy, which will help staff to develop their leadership skills, both in theory and in practice. Finally, we will make leadership development part of the onboarding and re-boarding process. Leadership will also be part of the assessment framework when we appraise staff through the R&O and when assessing them for their next position.

For more information and to download the vision statement, go to:

A leadership programme resulting from co-creation

Ann Vanderhaeghe

Looking differently at leadership, organisation-wide, is just one of priorities of the Maastricht University Recognition & Rewards programme. “It is important that we identify, recognise, develop and retain everyone’s talent”, emphasises Ann Vanderhaeghe, programme manager of the university’s Leadership Academy. “It begins with the way supervisors talk to staff members about their development. Which is why we have developed a training course covering precisely that theme.”

Maastricht University (UM) set up the Leadership Academy to enhance leadership skills in accordance with the principles of Recognition & Rewards. “UM already offered a range of leadership courses, we just didn’t know whether they were what supervisors at all levels were looking for”, Vanderhaeghe explains. “That’s why we consulted stakeholders and the target group at length. This resulted in various formal training courses, supplemented with forms of informal learning (such as coaching and peer review) and the first foundations for a learning community.”

Among other things, focus groups revealed that supervisors needed a detailed explanation of the principles of Recognition & Rewards. “That has prompted us to develop a completely new programme, in co-creation with the target group”, says Vanderhaeghe. “Their feedback enables us to make additions and improvements to the programme on an ongoing basis.”

Designing a development-oriented career policy

The input from the focus groups has produced, among other things, the ‘Recognition & Rewards: Room for everyone’s talent’ training course. The two-day course (plus one return session) is intended to familiarise supervisors with the guiding principles to be applied for the talent development of their staff. Participants also learn how to conduct development interviews, both one-to-one and with the whole team.

“Supervisors often have to search high and low to find information on how to use the Recognition & Rewards programme to implement the career policy”, says Vanderhaeghe. “There is no playbook, step-by-step plan or check list. Nor do we want there to be any; supervisors should be able to put it into effect themselves. However, with this programme, we are giving supervisors the opportunity to reflect and learn from each other.”

Cross-pollination of academic and support staff

Academic and support staff encounter each other at all Leadership Academy courses. “We deliberately use the term ‘university staff’ and make no distinction between them”, Vanderhaeghe points out. “Encounters between academic staff supervisors and support team supervisors make for interesting cross-pollination. They find learning from each other’s experiences enriching.”

UM Career Compass

Learning how to use the UM Career Compass is an important component of the training course. “A format for development interviews has been developed for each of our five profiles. We call it the UM Career Compass”, Vanderhaeghe explains. “This compass replaces the existing tool kit for appraisal interviews. It helps during interviews regarding staff members’ development and helps in finding a good balance between the talents and ambitions of staff members and the organisation’s strategy and requirements.”

Looking ahead

Almost all training courses for 2023 were fully booked. This means that, by the end of this year, the Academy will have trained around 240 supervisors in total. “We will continue to improve the range we offer by collecting feedback and monitoring the results”, says Vanderhaeghe as she looks to the future. “A change in culture will require more than just training courses, but we are making good progress. So far, we have received positive reactions from participants.”

If you would like to know more about this project, you can contact the Leadership Academy team at, and they will be happy to tell you more.

Hilde Verbeek: ‘The training course has given me some specific tools to use’

Prof. Hilde Verbeek took the training course in her role as programme leader for the Ageing and Long-Term Care line of research. What are her thoughts, looking back on it?

“The training course taught me a great deal about how to implement the Recognition & Rewards programme into my own research group and in the workplace. Above all, it has given me some specific tools to use. How do you discover talent? How do you help people with their development? How do you conduct development interviews? I enjoyed exchanging ideas with people in similar positions. It also helps with self-reflection. Thanks to the course, I am now better equipped to help staff members think about their own development and talents, across the entire spectrum of education, research and impact.”