Medical Journal of Dr. D.Y. Patil Vidyapeeth

: 2019  |  Volume : 12  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 285--286

Power factor: Promises and perils of rotational headship in academic departments

V Dinesh Kumar 
 Department of Anatomy, Jawaharlal Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education and Research, Puducherry, India

Correspondence Address:
V Dinesh Kumar
Department of Anatomy, Jawaharlal Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education and Research, Puducherry

How to cite this article:
Kumar V D. Power factor: Promises and perils of rotational headship in academic departments.Med J DY Patil Vidyapeeth 2019;12:285-286

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Kumar V D. Power factor: Promises and perils of rotational headship in academic departments. Med J DY Patil Vidyapeeth [serial online] 2019 [cited 2022 Dec 5 ];12:285-286
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Dear Sir,

Ever since the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Health and Family Welfare[1] had proposed the scheme of rotational headship for the academic departments in central government institutes such as All India Institute of Medical Sciences, the topic became a buzz among the entire array of stakeholders of the medical fraternity. The key aim for the proposal is to ensure sharing of fresh ideas, initiate newer endeavors, and infuse innovative thinking in the organizational proceedings. However, most institutions, if not all, have not adopted this proposal in practice. The discussions related to what counts as professional power, how it operates, and what are all the tangible effects in individual life are scarce related to the Indian context.

In practical sense, the head of academic departments act as “power holders” who can influence individual actions and behavior. Autocratic leadership, where power and authority are concentrated on the leader, many times turn into authoritarian leadership and this might in turn breed cynicism among subordinates.[2] Drawing upon Raven's framework of conceptualizing power,[3] we could evince the tacit act of a head in “empowering” few subordinates, and “disempowering” others is liable of generating tension in complex system. Also, this might boil out as different forms of formal discrimination, related to job-related decisions such as promotion or informal discrimination, related to negative behaviors against those who question the authority or express disagreement.[4] Most of us, if not all, would have evinced real-life examples, whereby the subordinates struggle with being silenced, feeling like they cannot respond to such power abuses, protected by the established hierarchy of authority.

Under bewildering situations, faculty would feel stressed out which negatively affects the organizational climate. To attenuate the accumulation of power and protecting it in the name of authority, the practice of rotatory headship, whereby the head of departments change over after a particular period of time, was suggested by the Parliamentary Committee.[1] In other words, it rotates the “legitimate power,” the power which stems for the person's position in the organization or authority frequently and reduces the “coercive power,” whereby a person with power can punish the subordinates for noncompliance. In extreme conditions, it avoids undue ostracism and animosity to an extent.[2]

A recent survey[5] related to department leadership in an institute has identified that majority of the respondents felt that their organization had no clear succession plan for the headship. Indeed, in health-care settings where formal leadership training programs are lacking, smooth and seamless transition of leadership would ensure optimal distribution of power and view leadership as an organizational quality, rather than a “power halo.”

Rotational headship also has some drawbacks. First, long-term goals cannot be framed unless the succession development plans are well maintained. Second, really vision-oriented and “charismatic” leaders cannot accomplish their mission in the stipulated period, which might in turn lead to passivity to an extent. Third, positive attempts of modifying or changing the attitudes or behaviors of another individual or group might not be well imbibed, considering the fact that headship is transient. However, leadership in health care is an endeavor requiring employment of various “power” strategies to further the mission of organization. In odd scenarios, such leadership should not turn be an entanglement which could potentially arrest the freewill of employees and to prevent that, rotation of headship would be a feasible solution. I hope this letter would ignite dialogs in medical fraternity and would help in bringing out the pros and cons related to this topic in other forums as well.

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Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.


187th Report the Functioning of All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS). Department-related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Health and Family Welfare. Available from: http://www. [Last accessed on 2018 Jul 13].
2House R. Path-goal theory of leadership: Lessons, legacy, and a reformulated theory. Leadersh Q 1996;7:323-52.
3Raven BH. The bases of power and the power interaction model of interpersonal influence. Anal Soc Issues Public Policy 2008;8:1-22.
4Harrison DA, Newman DA, Roth PL. How important are job attitudes? Meta-analytic comparisons of integrative behavioural outcomes and time sequences. Acad Manag 2006;49:305-25.
5Patterson P. An OR leadership crisis is looming, but is the C-suite listening? OR Manager 2012;28:1-12.