InstructionsAssume you have been asked to speak to graduate students considering a career in higher education leadership. Prepare a PowerPoint presentation for your audience and be sure to address the following:Use your readings and other scholarly resources to identify and explain the challenges of leadership in higher education.Explain how one’s knowledge of motivational theories can help guide leaders to implement best practices in higher education organizations.Analyze specific leadership behaviors needed in higher education organizations.Discuss how to navigate different influences of power within higher education organizations.Recommend which leadership style that might fit best with the challenges and opportunities, and provide a rationale for your selection.Incorporate appropriate animations, transitions, and graphics as well as speaker notes for each slide. The speaker notes may be comprised of brief paragraphs or bulleted lists.Support your presentation with at least five scholarly resources within the last 5 years in addition to these specified. Other appropriate scholarly resources may be included. Length: 12-15 slides (with a separate reference slide)Notes Length: 200-350 words for each slideBe sure to include citations for quotations and paraphrases with references in APA format and style where appropriate
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Volume 8 Issue 1 Winter 2010
Posted On Tue, Sep 07 2010 13:57:51
Authors: M.P. Koen , E.M. Bitzer
The context of the higher education leadership mantle is dynamic, complex and multidimensional (Filan and Seagren 2003, 21). The elusiveness of the leadership notion
has enticed researchers to interpret, capture and analyse the essence of leadership in higher education from different perspectives. As Burns (1978, 2) noted thirty years
ago, “Leadership is one of the most observed and least understood phenomena on earth”. Although these studies identified leadership as a concrete and observable
phenomenon, no consensus has as yet been reached on the exact characteristics of a successful leader in higher education (Buller 2006, 159). The concept leadership in
higher education thus presents numerous opportunities for further investigation.
Recent studies not only highlight the diversity of universities, departments and leaders but also the constant change, adjustments and turbulent environment of higher
education during the past few years (Hanna, 2003, 34). Lees (2006, 333) consequently asks: “Why would a sane, rational person even consider becoming a leader at a
higher educational institution?” This article intends to answer why sane individuals at this university should consider becoming leaders by arguing that the type of leadership
that enhances a culture of cohesiveness can indeed address and resolve critical issues collaboratively. In order to explore and interrogate this specific aspect of leadership,
we cover three areas. First, we investigate the concept of leadership and transformational leadership in literature. Then, employing qualitative research, we examine how
challenges of leadership can be better addressed at one institution in South Africa. We next explore possible solutions to these challenges by means of a leadership profile,
and we ultimately draw a number of conclusions.
Conceptual framework
Although Wolverton, Gmelch, Montex and Nies (2001, 59) state that “… leadership is a matter of degree” and is therefore indefinable, we believe that an explanation of the
concepts lead and leadership might serve as a useful heuristic in the investigation of leadership in higher education. McCaffery (2004, 59) explains that the word leader is
derived from laed – a word common to all the Old North European languages – meaning path, road, course of a ship at sea or journey. Furthermore, the words lead or
leader usually refer to the social influence of authority figures and can be defined as someone who accompanies, rules, guides or inspires others on their journey and
steers them in the right direction (Taylor, Peplau and Sears 2006, 327). Leadership, on the other hand, is a recent addition to the English language, and which came into
use only in the late 19th century (Brungardt 1998, 1). It seems that the concept leadership in higher education encompasses a much more complex meaning that reaches
beyond a single authority figure and revolves around the needs, aspirations and expectations of both the leader who aspires to lead and those who choose to follow (Keith
and Levin 2002, 19). In other words: leadership in higher education involves a relationship or, in the words of Morrill (2007, 9) a “followership”. Astin and Astin (2000, 9)
concur by defining leadership as a “collaborative endeavour among group members.” We wish to suggest that the role and functions of leadership are today integrated in
higher education where academic leaders need to lead, motivate or direct their units to accommodate transformation collaboratively.
Effective academic leadership can be viewed as being the biggest advantage a university can have in a resource-hungry, competitive higher education environment
(Ramsden 1998, 4). Given the above, leaders can aptly be described as “the brokers of time and relationships” (Krahenbuhl 2004, 48). Taking into consideration the critical
role of such brokers in the rapidly changing context of higher education, our empirical study was guided by the primary question: How can challenges of the 21st century in
higher education be better addressed at this specific institution?
Higher education leadership today, particularly in South Africa, is confronted not only by transformation but also with the task of simultaneously moving universities forward.
It seems therefore crucial to revisit the wisdom of previous research. Relevant theories uncover important clues about leaders and followers’ values, perceptions and
leadership styles, which could provide current higher education leaders with valuable information when planning direction. It is however necessary to bear in mind the
warning of Bargh, Bocock, Scott and Smith (2000, 26) that, owing both to its unique characteristics and the current period of profound transformation in higher education,
general theories are not always compatible with the context in which it is practised.
Figure 1 demonstrates the revolution in leadership theories that occurred over centuries and varied from an individualistic, leader-centred focus to a distinctly processcentred one with recognition to mutual power and influence (Kezar, Carducci and Contreras-McGavin 2006, ix). It outlines but one perspective on the shift in focus from one
of what leaders can do to or for others, to one of how leaders engage with others (Morrill 2007, 8). The circles in figure 1 highlight leadership in higher education as the
glue that holds a university together, and this glue can direct, accommodate and inspire the entire university community.
Academic leaders, however should be aware of at least two paradigms – transactional and transformational leadership – that has dominated scholarly research on
leadership since the 1960’s (Van Zyl 2008, 183-185; Kezar et al. 2006, 108; Wolverton et al. 2001, 41). Burns’s transactional theory (1978) offers a negotiated process in
which the power bases of the leaders and the followers counterbalance each other. Consequently, the success of this leadership depends on the conviction that an
individual can make a difference (Van Zyl 2008, 192; Filan and Seagren 2003, 26). Bass, a disciple of Burns, moved in a slightly different direction in focusing on
collectively directed leadership, where any power exerted by leaders and followers mutually supports a common goal (Wolverton et al. 2001, 42). Our views in this article
were influenced by the theory of transformational leadership, firstly because this leadership style acts as a bridge between old and new insights of leadership and secondly,
because it focuses on the interactions between leaders and followers, an emerging idea significant in the university context (Kezar et al. 2006, 35).
Transformational leaders are self-confident and inspire, or display what Golemann (1998, 196) terms “emotional intelligence”. However, Morrill (2007, 13) emphasises that
transformational leadership must not be seen as motives or rigid categories; the key factor must be the “potential to motivate the academic community to respond effectively
to change”. We believe transformational leadership in higher education should tend to arouse, satisfy and engage individuals, while simultaneously becoming a source of
inspiration to staff, administrators, and students (Barling and Turner 2005, 1; Filan and Seagren 2003, 26; Kelly 2003, 1; Astin and Astin 2000, 8-9). In the ensuing
discussion of our empirical research it will become evident that, if leadership in higher education acknowledges and embraces followership, this situation might have a
positive downward ripple effect to every member of this particular university community.
An empirical study
Our empirical study took an interpretivist stance with a qualitative approach whereby we interacted closely with academic leaders at one university. A qualitative case-study
design employing semi-structured interviews allowed us to explore – through a variety of lenses – how academic leaders at this particular university deal with challenges
(Baxter and Jack, 2008, 544). We followed a case-study approach because: a) the focus of the study was to answer “how” and “why” questions; b) we could not manipulate
the behaviour of those involved in the study; c) we believe that the contextual conditions (cultural diversity) are relevant to the phenomenon of leadership challenges at the
particular university and, d) the boundaries between the phenomenon leadership and the context were not clear (Yin in Baxter and Jack, 2008, 545). For example, the study
of how to deal with challenges at (say) University X sought to determine leaders’ perspectives on how to approach these challenges in the very specific context of
University X. University X is a multicultural parallel-medium institution which was established in the early 1900’s. Its six faculties offer a full range of undergraduate and
postgraduate programmes to almost 25 000 students. Over the past few years leaders have been challenged enormously to function within the framework of an
increasingly diverse university community.
Data were collected through systematic, open-ended interviews. Ten leaders were interviewed between July and December 2008. Purposive sampling was used to select
ten academic leaders (seven male and three female) according to the following predetermined criteria for desirable participants (Henning, van Rensburg and Smit, 2004,
· leaders at University X permanently appointed (top management, deans, directors or heads of departments);
· Professors, older than 45 years, from diverse cultural backgrounds and from a variety of disciplines.
The predetermined criteria allowed us to find key informants which could provide information rich data until theoretical saturation was reached. Participants gave informed
consent both to participate and that interviews may be recorded (McNiff and Whitehead 2006, 86-87; Bruckman 2002, 1). Qualitative content analysis was employed to
make sense of the data. The data were coded and categorised manually to identify themes that could be used in the re-contextualisation of the data when these were
integrated as a basis for arguments (Henning et al. 2004, 104-107). The trustworthiness of the study was enhanced by the following factors: openness and trust that all
information will be kept confidential; data was supplemented by findings from the literature; data was described as accurately as possible; verification of raw data and raw
data and notes of all the decisions taken was kept safe (Niewenhuis, 2007,111-113).
Aim and significance of the investigation
The aim of our qualitative interviews with academic leaders was to explore the different perspectives regarding leadership in the 21st century within the context of University
X primarily, but also within a changing South African higher education dispensation. Utilising a qualitative approach, we attempted to use the rich descriptions of the
participants to investigate and interpret dealing with challenges confronting leadership holistically.
The interviews re-orientated our current understanding of the complexity of dealing with challenges in higher education. We, like Chu (2006, 115), believed that a vision
could serve as a tool to ensure a meaningful and lasting effect in addressing critical challenges. However, an additional perspective emerged during the interpretation of the
data, namely one of followership. It seems that the key factor for leadership is “to take people along” (Participant G). Consequently, a vision can only be implemented if
followers are active participants. Participant D stresses that “a leader today does not stand separate from his followers. I even want to say he does not merely walk in front.
He walks in the front lines, with his arms around them .”
Social capital is so crucial today that there are critics who imply that the lack of this particular asset led to the downfall of South Africa’s former president, Thabo Mbeki. For
example, the Associated Press (2008, 1) highlighted that “despite his nine years at the top, Mbeki never managed to win the hearts of the masses because of his aloof,
academic manner, lacking … spontaneity”. It seems as if “leaders do not get extraordinary things done by themselves” (Kouzes and Posner 2007, 27). Participant H
explains: “And the leader becomes like the conductor of a choir. And he will get people out. This is time for you to sing a solo, and then it is time for the two of you to do
this. But in all the dynamics ultimately give an excellent result.”
It could be argued that leadership in this institution probably needs to embrace followers beyond the borders of vision. Leadership should excite followers with its vision in
order to create a positive mood that can set a university on a new course towards excellence. By excellence we mean a visible, productive academic community where
every individual will be the beneficiary for years to come (Leaming 2007, 128).
Critical leadership challenges
Higher education in South Africa has, since 1994, found itself in the midst of profound transformation and changes, confronted with a challenge “to embrace the new”
(Pityana 2003,1). How universities address these issues, foster transformation and take advantage of challenges will determine their survival. It is vital that leadership
should manage resistance to the new in a positive fashion, because “it is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent; it is the one that is most
adaptable to change” (Darwin in Marshall 2007, 1).
The next session discusses identified themes used as evidence in continuing arguments of how leadership and decision making systems in University X could create
reciprocal commitment when addressing challenges (Henning et al. 2004, 107).
People orientated leadership
In higher education, the concepts leadership and management pose challenges requiring a complementary set of competencies. The symbiotic nature of the
management/leadership relationship is highlighted by the fact that there is limited value if you do things right, while not knowing where you want to go, or equally
importantly, it would not help to know where you are going if you “haven’t got the wherewithal to get there” (McCaffery 2004, 59). Equally importantly, Krahenbuhl (2004,
185) reminds us that “the dean may find it distasteful to think of him/herself as a manager, but a significant portion of the dean’s leadership task is effective management”.
Leaders must nevertheless not regard themselves as “paper pushers”, because if they do, “that may be all they will accomplish” (Lucas 2000, 28). The focus of this article is
not on a question of being one or the other, because in higher education leadership/management functions are closely integrated, as noted by Bennet (2003, 184) “in the
academy, good management is a necessary condition for effective leadership, and vice versa.”
The bottom line is that higher education leaders in the 21st century need to be effective managers of what they have. Therefore this article argues that
leadership/management in University X has “people.” Only if they manage/lead this social capital effectively, then they will lead their institution to greater achievements
(Leaming 2007, 18; Chu 2006, 114). Table 1 reports how participants in this study understand social capital of people-orientated leaders.
The responses captured in Table 1 seem to confirm that leadership is being challenged to acknowledge competence and value in order to create a relationship of
reciprocal respect, which would ultimately lead to an atmosphere conducive to transformation and change at this institution.
Transformation and change
Already in 500BC, Heraclitus comforted people that “there is nothing constant except change” (Farzaneh 2009, 1). Since transformation and change are conceptualised as
a natural part of human development, higher education in South Africa, too, did not escape the throes of unsurpassed change or, put differently, “massive political and
administrative surgery” (Ndeble 2004, 1; Walvoord, Carey, Smith, Soled, Way and Zorn 2000, ix). As a matter of fact, change in education is so significant as to be
recognised as a respectable field for research (Jansen, Herman, Matentjie, Morake, Pillay, Sehoole and Weber 2007, 157). Therefore the challenge arises for higher
education leadership to develop academics’ “adaptive capacity for tackling an ongoing stream of hard problems” (Heifetz 1994, 247).
Naturally strong leadership is required to inspire, direct and guide people by replacing the obstacles of change with opportunities of change, a deliberate action, thus, to
enhance quality. This means that if academic leaders want to improve the quality of their academic output, it is inevitable that departments become dynamic, ever-changing
units (Leaming 2007, 117). This notion is supported by the challenge of cultural diversity at the campus of University X.
Cultural diversity
South Africa’s university student body is becoming increasingly diverse and manifests its uniqueness in different ways. Each separate element (cultural, educational level,
ability, age, part-time or full-time, place of study, individuality, and disability) raises different challenges and requires different solutions. A critical challenge for leadership at
University X for instance is to establish an atmosphere fostering cultural diversity, especially when it seems that, historically, higher education in South Africa has a poor
record in respect of embracing cultural diversity. Pandor claimed that although the new vision of 1994 was one of reshaping South African society, “14-years into the new
democracy universities have not changed much” (CHE 2008, 1). Reddy (2004, 1) adds that in South Africa the state and the composition of its personnel has changed, but
civil society (higher education institutions) has yet to adapt. The focus of this article is not to explore the problems of cultural diversity, but to highlight that if culture diversity
is addressed collaboratively it does not necessarily have to be an obstacle. According to Pityana (2003, 4-5), it should actually be regarded as an “opportunity for
intellectual dialogue”. In other words, diversity can be seen as varied perspectives and approaches that different identity groups offer (Thomas and Ely 2001, 36).
The question now arises as to when Institution X will reach the stage where its vision will reflect the contributions and interests of its culturally diverse constituency? We
think that the challenge we face at this institution is to “begin at the beginning – back to the basics” (Pityana 2003, 8). Leadership at Institution X may commit itself to
building and promoting a culture of tolerance and respect in order to contribute to the achievement of a multicultural campus (MacGregor 2008, 1). As Participant E
emphasised: “It might be something we would not achieve during our lifetime but it is a path worth mapping out, so that we know what the direction which we were working
towards, was. We may fail, but at least we will take solace in knowing that we failed, while trying.”
Potential solutions at the level of leadership
Theorists have identified a variety of solutions to the above-mentioned issues, arguing that leadership should create a diverse culture, develop a strategic planning process,
consult others, learn to say no or be someone who cares, think strategically or apply self-directed leadership (Van Zyl 2008, 180; Leaming 2007, 1-18; Sorensen, Furst-Boe
and Moen 2005, 17; McCaffery 2004, 76). Drucker (in ThinkExist 2009, 1) adds the idea of active involvement through collaboration through the following message:
“The leaders who work most effectively, it seems to me, never say � …
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