Meet Antti Lönnqvist, Dean and Godfather of the LFC Programme

We had a chat with Antti Lönnqvist, Dean of the Faculty of Management. Antti has a long history dealing with knowledge management. Besides his thoughts considering the Master’s Degree Programme in Leadership for Change, he also shared tips about leisure time in Tampere and nearby.

Who are you? What is your role in the Master’s Degree Programme in Leadership For Change?
– I am Antti Lönnqvist, Dean of the Faculty of Management. I would say that I am sort of a Godfather in the programme! I have been involved in the very initial stages of developing this idea with other people. It all started from a discussion on the need to renew our master’s programme offerings, and little by little we developed this concept for the Master’s Degree Programme in Leadership for Change.

What are your research interests and fields of expertise?
– As a full-time Dean, I am almost like an ex academic at the moment, or an academic on hold. I have been doing research on knowledge management and I am interested in management of knowledge work and knowledge-intense organizations.

Actually, I’m now practicing the same issue that I had done research on for 15 years: how managers work, how they are able to develop their organizations, what kind of information and knowledge they use to make good decisions, what kind of information they use to guide the organization and the other employees to pursue the same goals. I have been interested not just in companies and organizations, but also in network organizations and networks: how are they managed, how they evolve and develop.

So you have also been studying networks?
– Yes, and public organizations. And not only on the level of a firm, but also R&D projects, that is, research and development projects. They can exist not only within one organization, but be cross-organizational.

In terms of Leadership for Change, this context is interesting if we think about the complex change processes that are happening in the future – or they are happening now but it is only in the future that we’ll see how things turned out. For a manager, this is a big knowledge-related challenge. They need to make decisions now, in a very uncertain situation. Yet, they do not know all the facts, how the world is going to be like in, let’s say, five or ten years.

It is an interesting managerial and academic challenge to be able to provide relevant information about the situation at hand. I think that our LFC Programme is also a good laboratory for that, because the idea is to discuss the very complex management and leadership contexts and how we can create, for example, multi-disciplinary understanding of the situation and make decisions.

Where were you working before coming to the University of Tampere?
– I was working in the Tampere University of Technology (TTY) as the Professor of Knowledge Management.

What about your interests outside university? What are your hobbies or what are you especially passionate about?
– I have two school-aged girls, whose hobbies consume a lot of my free time in terms of logistic support! I like running and I attend at least once a year a special event like a half-marathon or Pirkan Hölkkä, an annual running event in Tampere.

In winter I do snowboarding: for a short day trip there are small hills in Tampere or in Sappee, which is about 45 minutes from Tampere by car. Another skiing destination Himos is about one hour away from Tampere. The downhill skiing places have rental services and skiing instructors. You can also do cross-country skiing in Tampere. For that I recommend Kauppi: as they store snow over the summer, the cross-country skiing tracks open early, already in November. There is a variety things to do!

In your opinion, what makes you fit the Master’s Degree Programme in Leadership for Change? Is it a certain skillset or, perhaps, a special attitude?
– It is important to understand and appreciate the variety of things. It is not only the technical understanding that makes a good manager or leader, but the ability to actually do manage and lead in practice. It is about academic knowledge, but also a practice-based skill.

If we are able to teach our students these kinds of activities and ways of thinking and doing, I think they might have benefited something from my thoughts and ideas.

As to students’ characteristics, we do not have a specific, narrow profile in mind. Instead, we succeed, if we are able to recruit a versatile set of students: some of them might be more analytical and apply technical analysis and some might be more socially oriented and interested in the communication and leadership aspect.

Why do we need ‘leadership for change’? What makes the Master’s Degree Programme in Leadership for Change relevant today? What contemporary phenomena does the MDP address? What skills does the programme cultivate?
– It is very relevant today. We have tried to understand where management studies are going. The world is heading into a direction where people are skilled in taking care of small tasks and managerial challenges very efficiently – this is not a problem. Management research and education has been there for 100 years already.

However, today the world is heading into a direction where the big challenges are more complex and interconnected phenomena, which are difficult to solve from any narrow, single perspective. Instead, there is a need for this multi-disciplinary approach.

I think that our LFC approach with the combination of Business, Politics and Administrative Sciences is a good starting point in the search for solutions to these big problems. The thematic problems that the program addresses can evolve over time; we are not fixed into any particular problem or challenge, like environmental issues or security issues. Those can emerge even during one program, there are different topics coming up.

Our aim is to cultivate a multi-disciplinary understanding, so that the graduates are familiar with the concepts and language of these different sectors – business, politics and administration. That is at least one factor that makes it easy to understand how different actors think. I hope that we will also be able to provide analytical skills, so that the students can understand the world and the changes taking place. And hopefully they’ll have some tools that they can use to have an impact, whether it is related to their writing or some other ways of communicating. Not necessarily all will become change leaders straight after the graduation, but they will have good skills in contributing to these kinds of complex change processes.

I think that if you look at the world through these change lenses, you will see change processes everywhere. There’s the Finnish social and healthcare reform SOTE, Brexit, climate-change related problems… There are many big problems that no single actor alone is able to take the responsibility of or to manage them.

So there are many places where the students can apply their knowledge?
– Yes, I believe so. There is a need for these kinds of skills. When we look at these change processes, things are not going so well. My conclusion is that there is a lack of skills to handle these problems.

Could you tell more about the difference and relationship between the terms ‘management’ and ‘leadership’ in the case of LFC?
– That is not an easy task: I could spend two hours for this kind of conceptual analysis! Management is more about controlling and also guiding the organization as a whole, making sure that the limits of the budget are kept, the expected outputs produced, the given targets met … It is about getting a firm grip of the organization.

Leadership is more about how I, for example, interact with the Faculty, with the staff: we come up with the goals together, deciding directions for the future, which development targets we decide to take. Especially in this kind of an expert organization as the university, you do not have only one leader, but you need to be in a continuous discussion with the professors and other faculty members as well, and identify together what we want.

Especially in cases, where there is a big problem without a clear “owner” or no single organization that could just decide what we are going to do with this, leadership is about informal influence, sharing of knowledge and trying to convince other people to join the band.

A manager can give directions and say that this is how we do things, this is my decision, if you’re not happy, you can move to another organization. But when it comes to leadership, it is about negotiating and trying to convince the other ones that it is in our mutual interest to do something.

What makes the Faculty of Management a unique institution to run this programme?
– It is a combination of three different fields – business, politics and administration. Our attempt is to be cross-disciplinary and find thematic areas that are interesting from all these perspectives. This is one of the key points why we are unique. This is the whole idea behind the Faculty of Management: to be cross-disciplinary and find value in crossing disciplinary boundaries and doing things together instead of working in separate silos, which has been the traditional way of doing research.

Then a bit about the city of Tampere! What are the top 3 things to do in Tampere?
– It is a tough question, because we have a very versatile group of students: there are Finns, who know Finland and even Tampere very well, and there are foreign students, who may find different things interesting. I would recommend going and exploring the nature. There are good jogging routes and parks in the city and outside the city. There are many nice places!

I have been talking to some international people here in the past weeks and many have been completely excited about the nature: you can just go to the forest and pick some blueberries or mushrooms. That is something quite exotic from the perspective of many countries or big cities, where there are no forests close by.

The variety of activities depends on the period of the year: in wintertime, there are a lot of nice things to do outside, skiing and other winter sports. It would be good to try out those. Don’t be concerned about the cold weather – it I actually quite nice. In summertime and in spring there are a lot of people outside. We have many festivals, such as music festivals, and I would recommend attending them. Tampere has also a lively theatre scene. Many plays are in Finnish, but there are also plays in English.

What would you like to say to the students, who are interested in the Master’s Degree Programme in Leadership for Change and are considering applying to the programme?
– Nowadays there is so much talk about the future skills in the work place, what is valuable and appreciated. These multidisciplinary skills, the understanding of different fields and the ability to operate with different people, are really important. In terms of the academic content, the Master’s Degree Programme in Leadership for Change is very valuable.
Another trend is internationalization. The opportunity to do this master’s degree in English and meet people from different backgrounds, whether you’re coming from Finland or some other country, is very fruitful in terms of really understanding what it is to work in an international team. Working in English language makes it also easier to work in English after you graduate.

The third point is that this is a flagship programme of the Faculty of Management. We aim to put together the best ingredients from the three degree programmes. Therefore, if you are not sure what is the area you want to specialize in, it is a good way to study a little bit about different things.

This is an important programme for us and we are committed developing it. It is also profiling everything we do here at the Faculty of Management and many of our teachers are happy to participate in the programme.

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