About leadership and employeeship at Karolinska Institutet

The purpose of the policy is to convey a common view of leadership and employeeship for all employees at Karolinska Institutet.

Annika Östman Wernerson
Annika Östman Wernerson Photo: Martin Stenmark

KI is WE! We, together, all of us.

KI is a fantastic university with a clear vision. We drive the development of knowledge about life and promote better health for everyone. Every day, our creative, competent and professional employees contribute to both research and education to make this a reality. We are all needed and together we will reach our goals.

As a university, our work is based on the academic tradition of free research and collegiality. But we are also a Government Agency and must ensure that Society's expectations for KI are lived up to, that regulations are followed, and trust is upheld in a professional way. To handle this level of complexity requires mutual respect and understanding of our different roles. Professional leaders and empowered employees are of vital importance in creating a culture that is conducive to a university which is all inclusive and creates effective cooperation throughout the organisation.

We have a shared responsibility to promote a modern, trust-based and communicative organisational culture where everyone wants and can contribute with knowledge, commitment and responsibility - both for their own tasks and for KI's results as a whole. We want our employees to engage in meaningful dialogue, learn from and together with each other, find synergies and creative solutions that help us excel. Taking responsibility and collaborating across boundaries are prerequisites for us to be able to live up to our ambitions while continuing to be an attractive and sustainable workplace.

My hope is that this policy document creates greater clarity when it comes to KI:s expectations for our current and future employees. I also hope it can guide and inspire when we recruit, introduce new employees to their roles, develop competence or actively seek to improve cooperation in work groups and teams. It is also meant to shine a light on what is required of all to create an optimal work environment and a well-functioning everyday life for all.

I suggest you discuss the policy at your workplace within your teams and with colleagues around the organization so that good leadership and employeeship get to be an integral part of how we work and continuously develop as an organisation.

For KI is WE - and together WE change the world.

Annika Östman Wernerson, President

Policy for leaders and employees at Karolinska Institutet

The purpose of the policy is to convey a common view of leadership and employeeship for all employees at Karolinska Institutet. 

Karolinska Institutet's (KI's) policy for leaders and employees is based on the Swedish Government's mandate to introduce trust-based governance and leadership within all Government Agencies. It also reflects the university's vision to work for the health of all people through pioneering education and research. KI's ambition and aspiration is to create an organizational culture with optimal conditions for KI-wide collaborations. A culture which inspires employees to produce quality research and education while providing optimal conditions for a healthy working environment and sustainable career and work-life balance.

WE are KI. We, together, everyone. To deliver on our promise to drive the development of knowledge about life and better health for everyone, we need employees and managers who feel engaged and uphold KI's values in an organization characterized by mutual trust. KI strives to be a pioneering and committed university - a modern workplace where we continue to attract employees at the forefront of their fields who want to contribute to our mission and value a trustbased culture where partnerships are built on mutual trust, cooperation, responsibility, and integrity.

Area of application

KI's employees, managers and leaders are vital for KI success. We want to create a workplace where good leaders and dedicated employees are willing and able to contribute with knowledge, commitment, and responsibility, both for their own tasks and for KI as a whole. The policy for leaders and employees at Karolinska Institutet wants to inspire dialogue and discussion as well as introducing a set of common rules, expectations and demands placed on all our employees. The policy is designed as a living document that can be adapted and used for recruitment, introduction of new employees or new managers, employee interviews and development initiatives for both managers and employees.

To be an employee at KI

Being an employee at KI means that tasks are often complex and require good professional judgement, personal responsibility, independent thinking, and decision making within the framework of one's own role and field. That means that employees, managers, and leaders together are meant to define ways of working, organizing, and governing to create optimal conditions for employees to be able and willing to take on responsibility, develop their roles and improve results and quality within their chosen professions. This is what we call CO-LEADERSHIP.

Co-leadership means that all employees are leaders in their own areas, and that they both want and have the mandate, means and ability to contribute, learn and develop in their professional everyday lives. This requires a culture that offers and rewards innovative thinking and self-leadership. A culture where success and meaningfulness are linked to a distribution of leadership which allows employees to make decisions in their specialized fields. For this approach to be successful co-leaders collaborate and create learning together with colleagues, share knowledge throughout the organization, network and take on input from external partners and society at large.

In an organization where Co-leadership is an integral part of how we lead and organize work, employees and managers create a continuous dialogue to increase understanding of what this means for the group as a whole and the employee in their specific roles. The Policy suggest the following focus area for implementing co-leadership.

Managers and employees should:

  • engage in regular dialogues on how to practically collaborate and agree on how the group or the individual employee best take on tasks, make decisions and face challenges that arise in day-to-day work situations.
  • translate KI:s vision and the overall objectives in Strategy 2030 into own role and team mission.
  • strengthen the "we-feeling" and identification with ONE KI through a broader and inclusive perspective, an open dialogue and the willingness, ability and ambition to collaborate both within and across professional and organizational boundaries.
  • be aware of, respect and comply with the decisions, guidelines, laws, and regulations that govern one's own activities and KI as a public agency.
  • continuously improve their skills and strife to develop and raise the quality of work in the professional contexts they are a part of.
  • contribute to a "we-feeling" by understanding and representing both one’s own, the group’s, unit’s, and the profession’s agenda as well as aligning oneself with KI:s goals and ambitions as defined in KI mission and strategy.
  • continuously calibrate and agree on competence requirements, mandates and accountability when it comes to taking on (new) tasks and adapting to a changing environment.
  • foster a trusting work and study environment through responsibility, curiosity, openness, and respectful treatment of others' by honouring diversity of perpectives, knowledge, and experiences.
  • consciously contribute to an inclusive work culture where focus on good working environment, integration, equality, diversity, sustainable development, and equal conditions are the norm.
  • create sustainable relationships based on mutual respect for own and others’ boundaries, by acting reliably, be accountable, honor confidentiality, act with integrity, non-judgment, and generosity.
  • be available as a colleague, sounding board, mentor, and support for other employees at KI.
  • keep up to date and continuously develop knowledge and skills vital to own roles and positions.
  • take responsibility for own and others' learning by seeking and sharing knowledge.
  • cooperate with the surrounding society, represent both their own area of expertise as well as KI as a university and government agency.

To be a manager and/or have a leadership assignment at KI

To be a manager and leader in an academic environment is to operate in a specialized and complex context where the demands can be conflicting, and different interests need to be balanced.

A line manager at KI has personnel, budget, and operational responsibilities. Leaders with assignments in education, research or in operational support do not need to have line manager responsibility but have a delegation for their assignment.

As a manager at KI, you lead specialists and are responsible for employees who have high competence but need support, trust, and room to maneuver in order to do excellent work. It is a manager's job to create optimal conditions for everyone, keep track of budget and quality, simplify processes, and remove obstacles. You must be able to navigate inside and outside your business, understand and manage several different professional and organizational affiliations, and must be aware of which rules and approaches apply in each specific context.

As a manager and leader, you influence the employees' work environment and lay the foundation for a health-promoting and sustainable working life. Within your area of responsibility, together with your employees, you create the conditions for an

operating culture that will be characterized by mutual trust, commitment, learning and shared responsibility. KI's managers and leaders must be role models for employees and influence how collaboration partners, financiers, stakeholders in society and the global college of science view KI.

KI's managers and leaders must be an integrating force for diversity within our organization. They must be concerned with ethics, quality and follow laws and other processes to which KI is subject.

The various perspectives of the line management role

As operations and line manager you are responsible for your unit/group according to the delegation order you received from your line manager. You have personnel, operational and budget responsibility, and the managerial assignment also includes conveying KI's overall vision and strategy to the specific unit you are responsible for and operate within.

Personnel responsibility: Based on your delegation, you lead your staff. Together with your employees, you set clear goals, discuss and agree on operational strategy, and create optimal conditions for a good working environment. You clarify expectations and goals, distribute work, continuously monitor performance and learning, review working conditions and define skill gaps through employee dialogue. You support and encourage a flexible way of working based on the individual's situation and the nature of the work, where the assignment and the needs of the business are in focus.

Communication responsibility: Managers have a vital role in creating optimal conditions for an open and communicative culture with good dialogue - both externally and internally. Information must be shared on an equal basis and in time and solutions need to be discussed and collaborated on in an open and trusting forum.

Business and budget responsibility: You have control over the finances, business goals and strategic priorities and together with your employees you formulate a business plan which creates clarity in how to reach common goals. Together with other managerial colleagues, you contribute with a broader view, involve employees in short- and long-term decisions and delegate mandate and responsibility for initiatives linked to the tasks of the business and the individual employee’s area of responsibility.

Employer representative: As a manager, you are an employer representative and share the responsibility for implementing the organizations employer policy in daily operations. Areas that are defined in the employer's policy are

1. the promotion of a good working environment

2. enabling participation and an open dialogue

3. guaranteeing equal conditions, gender equality

4. fair wage setting

Holding an employer's role also means planning, attracting, recruiting, developing and evaluating strategic skills needed for your unit’s future business needs. You are also responsible for ensuring that higher management decisions are followed by creating buy-in and clarity through transparency regarding background, purpose and goals of the decisions.

As an employer representative, you follow societal developments, monitor trends that affect KI and your business, and share information and environmental analysis within your area and with regard to your role and specific assignments. You inform and encourage your employees to stay up to date with regard to laws and guidelines and communicate about changes that affect the business, your personnel or might impact work conditions or staffing.

Leadership roles or assignments

As a leader with a special assignment or as an employee and manager with a special leadership assignment you might have line manager responsibility. But more often you are assigned to lead a special competence area (theme) or function within KI. You could be chair or a member of a committee, a council or a board or lead project groups within KI. As a leader, you are responsible for reaching the goals set for your assignment by creating incentives and favorable conditions for collegial interactions and good relationships within and across professional and operational boundaries. You are accountable for your results and the quality of your work, and you share your knowledge and your networks and create effective cooperation. Decisive for your success as a leader is that the group you are leading feels that you have the right competence for the assignment, act for the good of the group, the assignment and KI as a whole and show integrity and collaborative skills. Regardless of whether the group refers to a work group, an institution or KI as a whole.

Methodological support for implementation

If you want to order a customised workshop or need methodological support for implementation, please contact Sandra Helminen, Leadership Specialist.

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Sandra Helminen

Leadership Specialist