Journal of Indian Society of Pedodontics and Preventive Dentistry
Journal of Indian Society of Pedodontics and Preventive Dentistry
                                                   Official journal of the Indian Society of Pedodontics and Preventive Dentistry                           
Year : 2020  |  Volume : 38  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 104--109

A survey of training in leadership abilities and professional expectations among heads of pediatric dentistry departments in dental institutions of India

Gauri Kalra1, Vijay Prakash Mathur2,  
1 Department of Pediatric and Preventive Dentistry, Sudha Rustagi College of Dental Sciences, Faridabad, Haryana, India
2 Division of Pedodontics and Preventive Dentistry, Centre for Dental Education and Research, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, India

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Vijay Prakash Mathur
Division of Pedodontics and Preventive Dentistry, Centre for Dental Education and Research, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi - 110 029


Purpose: A web-based questionnaire survey was undertaken among the heads of pediatric dentistry departments to find out trainings received, participation in administrative responsibilities, expectations, stress related to the position, and overall satisfaction levels in dental institutes of India. Methodology: An online survey was sent to 188 heads of the pediatric dentistry after formulating and piloting the questionnaire. A descriptive analysis was performed using SPSS version 18.0. Results: Fifty-seven males and 43 females, making a total of 100 responses were received, making 53.2% response rate. The main issues came out to be lack of adequate training about the leadership role of heads and inadequate participation in major administrative activities related to department. The stress was primarily due to extensive paperwork, meetings, and effect on interpersonal relationships. Conclusion: It could be concluded that the respondents were not having a free hand in handling respective departments and there had been lack of formal trainings about leadership abilities and other soft skills before being appointed as head of the department.

How to cite this article:
Kalra G, Mathur VP. A survey of training in leadership abilities and professional expectations among heads of pediatric dentistry departments in dental institutions of India.J Indian Soc Pedod Prev Dent 2020;38:104-109

How to cite this URL:
Kalra G, Mathur VP. A survey of training in leadership abilities and professional expectations among heads of pediatric dentistry departments in dental institutions of India. J Indian Soc Pedod Prev Dent [serial online] 2020 [cited 2020 Jul 3 ];38:104-109
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Full Text


Dental professional heading the department plays a crucial role in an institute. The position has been described as the most challenging due to multiple spearheading tasks involved alongside teaching, clinical, and research. According to Gmelch and Miski, a department chair assumes four major responsibilities namely (a) developing and fostering a department's faculty, (b) managing groups of individuals such as subordinate faculty and dental students, (c) leading departmental agendas to the administration, and (d) contributing scientifically to the specific field.[1] Moreover, apart from core responsibilities such as patient care, scientific research, and teaching, the heads of departments must have leadership abilities to take the whole department forward as an integral unit. Other organizational skills, such as team building, managing of internal conflicts, and knowledge of processes in administration, are also required for heading a department in an institute.[2] A chair's overall accomplishments are expected to be the best in all the spheres, thus establishing an example for the rest of the faculty members. Such prospects often create pressure to perform extraordinarily and stress for the heads the department.[3]

In India, a faculty member can become departmental head on completing certain numbers of years of teaching experiences and some numbers of publications.[4],[5] In most cases, taking charge as head in a department is ephemeral without any prior training in administrative processes and leadership abilities. A dental professional promoted or recruited as head of the department may not have an idea about the existing system and may not adjust to the unknown pressures of the new position. Moreover, the head of the department may not be able to distinguish one's personal growth from the institute academically, clinically, or as a researcher.[4] Most of the countries do not have a system of grooming/hand holding for department heads and to the best of our knowledge, there are no guidelines to conduct such trainings for heads of departments in dental schools in this region.

There are many reports on stress among leadership positions in various professions including heads of medical teams and deans of the institutions. da Fonseca et al. have also documented stress among chairs of pediatric dentistry in the United States and Canada.[6] Another study reported managerial skills to be equally important along with academic/teaching skills prior to becoming a chair of emergency medicine in Israel.[7] There are no publications with mention of leadership abilities and status of work-related satisfaction or stress among heads of pediatric and preventive dentistry in dental institutions in India.

Therefore, a web-based questionnaire survey was undertaken to explore the status of trainings received, participation in administration, expectations, and stress related to the position and satisfaction levels among the heads of pediatric and preventive dentistry departments in India.



The heads of the department of pediatric and preventive dentistry in the various dental institutes in India were the target population. To the best of our knowledge, there is no single source of data or list of heads of the pediatric dentistry departments in India. Therefore, we contacted the target population personally during a professional meeting and collected their contact details for this purpose.

Development of tool

After extensive literature search, the investigators enlisted 54 items covered by other similar studies in health sciences. Then, based on these items, 42 questions were framed with a mix of open- and close-ended (multiple-choice questions, Likert scale) covering almost all the listed items. This draft tool was sent to five independent experts for opinion on the items and language of the questionnaire.

Content validation was established by revising and redesigning of the questionnaire by a group of five experts in pediatric dentistry and qualitative research. The instrument was finalized after minor corrections, and a dry run was performed for a sample of six participants. Based on remarks and suggestions, overlapping and subjective questions were removed, leaving 28 close-ended questions.

The instrument included basic demographic information and years of teaching experience, method of selection as head, various roles and responsibilities as a head, participation in administrative decisions being taken, their training in administrative processes and leadership abilities, expectations in support received and time being spent in various activities, and their stress levels and satisfaction levels. This was then converted into an online survey tool using Google Surveys and pretested again by placing dummy answers in the online survey tool.

The survey method

Then, the survey questionnaire was mailed via Google Forms along with a consent form stating the objectives of the survey. Two reminders were sent at an interval of 1 week to all nonrespondents. After two rounds of mails to this list, the authors collected further names and e-mail addresses by sending personal text messages to professional colleagues, and about 32 more names of heads of departments could be arranged. The same Google Form was mailed to this list. After this, a total of 72 replies were received. On subsequent reminders to all nonrespondents, finally 100 replies could be received at the end of 4 weeks. The data were analyzed using descriptive statistics. The details of the process and number of respondents are depicted in [Figure 1].{Figure 1}


Demographic details

The web-based survey was sent to a total of 188 head of the departments in pediatric and preventive dentistry in dental institutes of India, out of which 100 filled and returned the questionnaire (response rate 53.2%). The mean age of the respondents was 48.2 years (standard deviation ± 6.8 years) with 57 males and 43 females. Out of them, about 64% of the respondents were currently working in private dental colleges, about 23% in universities, 12% in government institutes, and only 1% were working in a hospital-based setup.

Before becoming the head of their department, about 28% of the respondents had at least 10 years, whereas 21% had about 10–15 years of experience. Nearly 16% of the respondents reported 15–20 years and 8% had more than 20 years of academic experience.

Most of the respondents (68%) were already professor before becoming the head followed by reader (12%), associate professor (10%), assistant professor (7%) [Table 1]. Only 3% of the respondents had been heading the department since inception of the department in their respective Institutes. On asking how were they selected for this post, 42% said that the previous head retired/left the current institute and the respondents were the most eligible among the remaining faculty. About the same number reported that they were invited by the management. Only 16% of the respondents reported to have faced a formal interview as an applicant for the post of head of department.{Table 1}

Prior to joining as a head of the pediatric dentistry department, 66% of the respondents were working in the same department and the institute. Only half of the respondents claimed to have some administrative experience before joining as head. However, most of them did not undergo any formal administrative or managerial, neither they received any training in leadership skills prior to joining as heads of the department.

Roles and responsibilities of position

Only 12% of the respondents reported that they do the primary budgeting of their departments independently, whereas participation in budget management along with dean/management committee was reported by 42% of the respondents of the survey. About one-third of the respondents mentioned that faculty selection is only performed by the administration of the institute. Only 5% of the respondents reported that they could independently recruit faculty, while 41% were part of selection process of faculty in their department along with the administration of the institute and its selection committee. While making decisions about promotion of a faculty or an annual increment in salary for faculty working under them, about half of them are being consulted by management, but 20% said that they have no role in such decisions.

About 40% of the respondents reported that they participate in annual performance evaluations of faculty under them, whereas 60% reported that this evaluation is done by the dean/principal of the institute. Another finding of the survey was that though there were lot of expectations and a big list of roles and responsibilities of head of the department, more than two-third of the heads were not explained their position-related expectations before joining as the head of the department.

Expectations as head

About one-fourth of the respondents reported that they did not receive the support as expected from their administration as well as faculty under them. About 58% mentioned that more than expected paperwork is required after becoming head. About one-third of the respondents mentioned that the number of meetings and time spent responding to communications and to manage curricular activities are more than expected [Table 2].{Table 2}

About 26% of the heads mentioned that they have more than expected strains of interrelationship with other faculty members in the department, whereas 49% expected that there is going to be strains on relations with other faculty in department after they have joined on this position. Almost 40% of the heads were of the opinion that their position as head is not as rewarding as it was expected, while only 14% mentioned it more rewarding than expected [Table 2].

Leadership abilities and other skills required for the position of the head

Heading the department is an important task requiring competent leadership skills and other personal abilities. Various skills were recognized by the investigators and asked if the respondents were trained for the same before becoming the head of their respective departments [Table 3]. Almost half of the respondents of the survey were trained for competencies such as understanding the roles and responsibilities of a head though they were partially trained for recruiting/retaining and developing faculty in the department. As for personal abilities, 50% of the heads received training including soft skills such as cultivating positive working relationships with the dean and the management and resolving intradepartmental conflicts.{Table 3}

Stress and job satisfaction

The position of the head of the department is multifaceted and challenging. The heads of the department were under mild stress (29%), moderate stress (35%), or severe stress (26%). The domains where they reported work satisfaction included academic/teaching, clinical practice, administrative abilities, meaningful research, and overall professional growth of the heads of the departments. About half of the participants were very satisfied with their teaching and clinical practice exposure while heading the department, though little lacking behind in research (44%). About 57% of the total respondents were very satisfied with their overall professional growth being in the position of the head of the department.


This study is novel and first of its kind as it describes some of the characteristics of the heads of the departments and their professional growth in the field of pediatric dentistry in the country. Few studies have been conducted in the USA and Canada illustrating the same, but we assume that some of the characteristics and the roles and responsibilities of the heads of departments in this country might differ due to different educational and administrative structure.[6] The main outcome studied here was that the responsibilities and functioning of the heads may not be limited to teaching and research only, but also mastering the administrative skills such as strategic planning, goal setting, budget, and human resource management. While managing multiple tasks, it becomes imperative to develop certain leadership qualities and managerial skills.

Our study included the various heads of the pediatric dentistry departments in India, however in this survey, 57% of them who have responded were male despite the fact that majority are females in pediatric dentistry.[8] The mean age of the heads was about 48 years, and major proportion of the respondents were working in private institutions, findings dissimilar to the study conducted by da Fonseca et al., in which majority of the respondents had at least 10 years of academic experience prior to becoming the head of their respective departments.[6] In the similar surveys, the years of experience before becoming the head was less in anesthesiology (6.5 years)[9] and pharmacology (7.9 years).[10] In the current study, majority of the respondents became heads by just being the most senior in the faculty of the respective department or if the previous head left/retired, however, in clinical settings in the USA/Canada, the professionals choose to be the heads for personal growth and development and to seek newer opportunities.[6]

No formal training in administrative processes and management reported to be attended by about 50% of the participants of the study before taking charge of their duties. Due to this, they would have lacked in adequate discharge of their duties in terms of management, focused growth, and intradepartment relationships. About 64% of the survey respondents were already professor before becoming the heads, indicating relatively adequate experience required for the post of the chair. This was in accordance with the Dental Council of India regulations where 9 years of academic experience is required for becoming head,[5] though this was not in agreement to a study reported by Cipriano and Riccardi (2012), which suggested that only 44.2% were full professors before joining as head.[11]

The responsibilities of a head are academic scheduling, academic and research target setting, budgeting, hiring of workforce, appraisal for promotion, etc. They are also supposed to do planning for the growth of department. This study indicated that these tasks were not performed independently by the heads of the departments in majority of cases. Moreover, administration or the selection committees had a more active role in faculty selection, budget allocation, etc., thereby signifying lesser authority and control of heads on their respective departments. In the present study, about two-thirds of heads did not get adequate support of deans/management in major activities of the department, while about one-thirds did not. It was also observed that more than two-thirds of the respondents were not formally oriented/trained for heading the departments. Wilson in his article suggested that chairman can be supported in learning additional managerial and leadership skills by “on-job-training” method.[12]

Most of the respondents reported to be under moderate stress due to extensive paperwork and inadequate instructions being provided before becoming the head. Therefore, it could be proved from the observations that there was a mismatch between the workload and responsibilities of the head and the authority to take decisions for a successful running of the department by the head of a department. However, it was found that about half of the respondents had attended some form of relevant trainings during their tenure and had been trying strategies while working in the department but did not find their job as rewarding. This further leads to role and identity confusion and diminished working efficiency of head of the departments.

The limitations of this study are unavailability of a single source of information about all the head of the departments in pediatric dentistry due to data privacy issues and web-based survey. However, in the given situation, best possible data could be arranged by personal contacts during specialty events and workshops. Another limitation is that the response rate was about 53.2% only. However, despite lower response, these data can give a broader picture of issues around the heads of departments of pediatric dentistry in India.


From the present study, it could be concluded that adequate independence/authority in managing their departments is lacking in most of the heads. It can also be concluded that the heads were under moderate stress of the job as there was more paperwork and no formal training/orientation before joining the head position in an institute. Based on these findings, we would like to raise a flag about the unmet expectations and lack of working efficiency among the heads of the departments. The professional organizations/institutions should conduct relevant trainings in the areas of leadership skills, human resource management, budgeting, and stress coping to bring about overall change in pediatric dentistry as a specialty. These training must occur in different formats including self directed programs as well as formal trainings for pediatric dental specialists for pediatric dental specialists.[13]

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.


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