This article explores how it may be possible to re-energise academic staff within the current context of expectations of managers within higher education (HE) in England. Through use of an initial historic timeline the almost path- dependent development of the current status quo of increasing managerialism is traced which, it is argued, has led to an erosion of the value of the traditional ethos of HE via its system-immanent drive to adhere to the demands of a market economy. Here we question the use of learning outcomes as a determinant of academic success and explore the impact of the autocratic management style commonly found in the current era. Some ‘pathologies’ are revealed which appear to be intrinsic to the essence of such an approach and it is argued that a leadership approach would pose a valid and better alternative. The conclusion is that while such a leadership-for-learning approach puts higher demands on the managers in charge it will yield better outcomes for the students, for society, for the organisation and for the people working within such an organisation.