Higher Education Leadership Essay

Abstract.

            Institutions of higher learning which comprise of universities and colleges are responsible for producing responsible future leaders for our nation.  This is why leadership in this institutions is very vital as it shapes the future of the students, the staff and the society at large.  This paper seeks to identify what happens when the senior leadership of such an institution is changed, the different leadership styles exercised in a for-profit university and their impacts on the growth and development of the institution.  This research also critically analyses the pros and cons of emerging leadership models for higher education leadership and the use of successful leadership development programs in this universities.

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            From the findings of this research and other contemporary researches reviewed, it is clear that the leadership of most for-profit universities in the U. S has and is still undergoing some serious evolution from the traditional kind of leadership styles to a modernised symbolic and culturally diverse type of leadership.  Leadership in universities is also more of a teamwork between all the parties involved with decentralization of power rather than a hierarchical or authoritarian kind f leadership.  However, to address the challenges facing colleges and universities today, the leadership of this institutions has to be reviewed and redirected to be more diverse and transformational.  This and other leadership issues in a for-profit university are discussed in this paper in detail.

Introduction.

            There is a popular belief that organizations are driven by leadership and that the quality and type of leadership style exercised in a given organization or institution greatly affects its performance either positively or negatively.  Leadership in general refers to a management skill which constitutes how to motivating people in an organization towards achieving a common goal (Cashman, 1998).  Leadership in higher education is very important as it creates a conducive environment for the learners and the workers to develop and achieve their intellectual or career goals and expectations.  Leadership in for-profit universities is even more crucial as it determines the institution’s ability to overcome competition from other institutions as well as the ability to offer quality education and earn a good profit.  For-profit universities refer to those institutions which are not directly funded by the state, local or federal governments (Bragg, 2001).

            In most universities, the campus populations are highly diverse in terms of the language used, the backgrounds from which the students and their lecturers come from, the religion and so forth making the campus environment very flexible, fluid and vibrant to both the learners and their teachers.  These conditions make it very challenging to manage universities effectively.  Moreover, with more people seeking to add knowledge and pursue the highest levels of education they possibly can, the demand for vacancies in this institutions of higher learning is very high.  To survive such high demands and fulfill the expectations put on universities by the larger community, higher learning institutions have to adapt to change and embrace flexible leadership now and in future.  Leadership styles are responsible for making this crucial change and transforming our universities into conducive places to acquire knowledge.

            There has been a perception that most institutions of higher learning in the U. S are experiencing a major crisis in terms of their leadership (Clark and Clark, 1997).  This is a serious challenge because it is believed that the youth especially those in universities and colleges are the leaders of tomorrow and they can not be good leaders in the society if they don’t experience good leadership in the institutions where they are studying.  This shows that there is an urgency need to reclaim the old legacy in this institutions through better, stronger and more vision-focused leadership.  This research paper seeks to identify different perspectives of higher education leadership and their impacts on the institutions of higher learning which are for-profit.

Literature Review.

Leadership in Higher Education.

            America’s higher education has for some time now been facing some difficulties especially in the for-profit universities and the entrepreneurs are continuously searching for stronger seniors managers and leaders who can turn the institutions visions into reality (Bernard, 2001).  This problem has been attributed to the fact that most of those people in the managerial positions first trained on teaching and research professions before being promoted into the administrative positions they are in now.  This means that most of the higher education leaders have minimum leadership training and once in this positions, they find that they have to develop new skills and strategies in order to fit in the managerial positions in which they have been entrusted with.  Although this on-job type of training gives the leaders to grow and develop as the institutions progress, the mistakes they makes can be quite costly and at times even fatal to the progress of the institution (Gardner, 2000).

            The study of leadership in institutions of higher learning is a bit complex due to the dual control systems, conflicting issues between the administrative leaders and the faculty authorities, lack of unclear goals to drive the institution and other normative professional issues.  Leadership in higher education institutions can be well understood from the perspective of leadership theories and organizational frameworks.  Major organizational topologies suggests that good leadership in any organization works on a four pillar framework which include symbolic, structural, political and human resource frame.  The structural frame emphasises on formal relationships based on th roles and responsibilities, the symbolic frame views organizations as a base of different cultures of people who share common goals or values, the political frame addresses competition for scarce resources within the organization while the human resources frame focuses on addressing the needs of the people.

            The academic environment of the present day institutions of higher learning is one which is subject to momentous changes and numerous challenges.  The number of people seeking to advance their academic knowledge is increasing both nationally and internationally with a rise in population and this has forced the institutions to employ more people who are up to the level of quality and scholarly practice to cater for this change.  This influx of learners and workers calls for leaders with transformational kind of leadership qualities who are ready and willing to lead this institutions with compassion, commitment, a clear vision and high integrity.

Transformational leaders are the type of leaders who posses qualities and attributes capable of developing, changing and reinventing certain skills and abilities for the betterment of the institution (Gardner, 2000).  A good leader should be in a position to develop strategies and instill initiatives in others be it staff members or the students in order to ensure that all learning processes take place with minimum interruption.  Effective leaders in higher education institutions should have the ability to operate efficiently in any framework be it a political, symbolical, human resource or structural framework (Birnbaum, 1998).

            There is a common notion of a leader as a leaner which is highly important to leaders in higher education institutions.  Ramsden (1998) has argued that, academic leadership is a process which is analogous to learning in the university and thus, all leaders in the university should be ready to learn from their previous experiences as well as from what their colleagues have to say about effective leadership.  In this case, the administrative leaders must adopt follower-ship qualities to help them avoid confrontations with other staff members and academicians in the universities who are also highly qualified leaders in their own sense.

            Follower-ship qualities are helpful in that they allow the leader to step aside and let the people who have better knowledge in a particular field lead as they follow obediently.  This is important because no one leader posses expertise skills in every field and thus, by allowing other people to lead in specific tasks ensures that those tasks are performed to the best level possible.  For instance, when planning a seminar or a conference in the university meant to address issues concerning how the environment has been affected by Global warming, it is best for the leader(s) to give that particular responsibility to the faculty lecturers or academicians who posses expertise knowledge in that particular field since they are in a better position to know what needs to be addressed, how, when, to whom and so forth.

            A healthy relationship between the higher education administrative staff and the rest of the faculty staff is developed when there is decentralized kind of leadership as this helps them to run the institution effectively by complementing each other’s strengths and weaknesses thus removing the historical mistrust which has always existed between the administrators and the faculty staff in universities (Bolmann & Deal, 1999).

            When leadership in the senior positions in universities and colleges change, the reorganization of the institution follows (Birnaum, 1998).  This reorganization may be for the better or for worse because, every manager or the president of a higher learning institution holds different values and style of leadership.  Moreover, a change in the senior managerial positions offers the university with an opportunity to transform in its processes of making major decisions, implementing policies, strategies and procedures to be followed in the institution as well as directing the progress of research activities in the academia and research fields.

Styles of leadership and their impacts.

            Most colleges and universities have a decentralized kind of leadership which means that they are designed to serve as open, free, welcoming and motivational place for people to learn and interact socially with one another.  Leadership involves a clear balance between what one regards as personal philosophical values, visions, knowledge and the strong will to overcome day to day challenges including instances of power struggles (Cohen & March, 2004).  An exceptional and masterful leaderships style requires a leader to posses qualities of authenticity, a clear vision and an ability to create and add value to the institution through contribution of ideas and actions.

            As a leader who has clearly mastered the art of leadership, one understands the importance of being flexible in all major frameworks of operation which include political, structural, symbolic and management of the human resources deployed in the institution.  By balancing leadership in all these frameworks, the leader is able to minimize conflicts by understanding each individual perspectives, needs and interests of all the parties involved in the institution (Bolmann & Deal, 2003).

            In most cases, the interests of all those involved in higher learning institutions are focused towards achieving a successful life, good employment, involvement in prestigious scholarly activities, gaining access to freedom of choice, pursuing their intellectual interests, diversity and so on.  All this interests vary from one individual to the other and therefore, leaders in this institutions must address each and every interest by utilizing the community notion as explained by Gardner (1998) in his book titled On Leadership.  According to him, higher education leaders should wholly embrace the concept of diversity in their institutions, promote a common culture, develop a good and trustworthy team work, promote good communication both internally and externally, participate and share out leadership tasks, develop the young people through youth empowerment programs and create good links with the government and the community at large (p.  117).

            For any institution to remain competitive and a good representative of the values and goals entrusted to it by the society, progressive leadership style is vital and this calls for a leader who is able and willing to adapt and acquire wide knowledge concerning the different cultures represented by the institutions staff as well as the cultures of the student community (Cashman, 1998).  Leadership in higher education is thus supposed to be more of a team effort rather than a hierarchical or authoritarian style of leadership.  Diversity leadership style is a new phenomenon which is proving to be very useful in higher education leadership

Diversifying leadership in higher education.

            During this research it was found out that many leadership structures in the university faculties and the organizational structures of most institutions in the U. S have in the past been mainly constituted of White Anglo American leaders.  However, with the increased population evolution which is being experienced in the U. S and other parts of the world, the leadership of institutions of higher learning has been forced to evolve as well to include members of other ethnic backgrounds and some policies calling for affirmative action have enabled the representation of the minority population and more women into university leadership positions (Ssmith, Wolf & Busenberg, 2006).  As a result, higher education leaders are now faced with the challenge of diversifying their administration and faculty leadership structures by coming up with initiatives to employ people of different colors and cultures.

            Diversity leadership style enables the leader to acknowledge and respect different goals, needs, strengths and career expectations of his staff while at the same time respecting the values and long term goals of the institutions.  In addition, diversity contributes to intellectual competitiveness, promotes a healthy institutional culture and offers a wide range of leadership agendas (Aguirre & Martinez, 2002).

            However, diversifying leadership in higher education is one of the major challenges faced by universities in the U. S today.  This is because it involves moving from the strategies in which diversity has for long been seen as a rigid organizational approach to a more transformational kind of strategy where diversity is viewed as part of a dynamic process meant to bring positive change.  It involves putting more factors into consideration when recruiting, hiring and promoting the junior staff into the faculty leadership and later to higher administrative leadership positions (Smith, Turner, Osi-Kofi & Richards, 2004).

            Although many institutions have embraced diversity through the incorporation of the minority population and women into their senior administrative positions, this kind of diversity is faced by some limiting factors such as lack of qualified people in the minority groups who are suited to occupy high positions of leadership in the institutions (Meritt & Reskenn, 1997).  In addition, the process of diversifying leadership requires a lot of input in terms of money and time resources.  In this case, the minority populations refer to the blacks and the Hispanics as well as the native Americans in U. S.  This ethnic, racial, cultural and gender diversity has mainly been as a result of internal and external pressures put on the institutions by calls for affirmative action and equality for all (Reyes & Haalcon, 2001).

Reviews and critics of emerging leadership theories/model.

            Traditional research theories on leadership have grouped it into six major classes which include personal traits theory, power and influence theory, the behavioral, cultural, contingency (nature of the situation) and cognitive processes theory (Bernard, 2001).  Several researches have suggested that leadership theories in academic organizations has been undergoing a major transformation from the traditional rational perspective to a modern cultural and symbolic perspective.  Symbolic perspective of leadership involves the management of meaning, the process of instilling reality into the institution and interpretation of the myths, symbols and rituals associated with that particular institution (Bolman & Deal, 2003).

            In most cases however, this symbolic and cultural perspective has not been incorporated into the administration leadership styles of many institutions and this may be as a result of the fact that this kind of leadership places the leader in position which is more modest than most rationally based  transformational leadership styles.  Symbolic and cultural leadership theories are most suitable for the institutions of higher learning as they present theories which are able to address issues concerning ambiguity of power and purpose which are some of the major challenges encountered by most leaders in the modern day academic institutions.  This symbolic perspective is aimed at making improvements and create a sense of belonging in the institutions.

            Considering the challenges facing the governance of the current for-profit universities, there is a need for a new model of governance which places the future values, expectations and attitudes of the administrators in line with those of the institution (Ramsden, 1998).  There is overwhelming evidence for emerging leadership models which must be acted upon by the administrators, faculty, students and the members of the trustee as well as the institution presidents.  Some of these models are positive and bound to bring systemic survival but others are bound to bring negative results.

            A new governance model requires all the presidents, administrators, trustees, faculties and students to function as leaders who are working towards a common goal of making the institution a better learning place.  This model of governance facilitates continuous and positive transformation of the institution while at the same time, it builds healthy relationships between the stake holders a move which improves the amount of revenue collected by the for-profit universities.

Successful leadership programs.

            As already mention earlier in this paper, the environment in the current institutions of higher learning is constantly changing.  As a result, leaders in the senior administrative and faculty leadership positions are required to continuously grow and adapt to the changing environment.  Reading is the most common way of keeping up with the current skills in order to acquire knowledge on how to handle challenging situations now and in the future (Ramsden, 1998).  However, reading is a passive method of acquiring skills and at times it can be hard to read, understand and put into practice the skills acquired.  Therefore, the use of professional development programs is probably the best alternative to reading.

            By use of leadership development programs, the leader is able to acquire knowledge which can help him to broaden perspectives and stimulate creativity in the field of leadership (Trower & Chait, 2002).  The implementation of such a program requires commitment of the participants and the institution trustees.  A successful development program needs to be part of a comprehensive, well integrated plan which links the development activities to the actual activities and responsibilities involved in that particular job.  This helps the administrators to get experience with clear views on what to expect and how the skills learnt will be of use later in the institution.

            The importance of an efficient development program to all administrative leaders especially in for-profit universities is to acquire proper planning skills, human skills and knowledge on how to effectively manage the institution’s finances.  The benefits of such programs are easy to identify although no quantitative studies have been carried out to determine the exact value of these benefits.  Such benefits include knowledge acquired, ideas, mental stimulation, healthy contacts and links with other leaders, access to reference materials, promotion of team work, access to senior positions in the institution especially for the minorities, broader perspectives to the whole aspect of leadership as well as increased self confidence (Trower ; Chait, 2002).

            On the other hand, these professional development programs have few drawbacks which include training obsolescence, the programs are costly in terms of time and money, program selection issues, integration of the programs, monitoring and evaluation the outcomes of the program.  However, evidence exists that the anecdotal, personal and tentative benefits of these programs by far outweigh the drawbacks to the institution’s growth and development.

            While many administrative leaders in universities and colleges are often willing to embrace these professional development programs, a few of them just chose to ignore them.  Some contemporary research findings have shown that the main reason why some administrators or presidents in this institutions refuse to embrace the development programs is due to the fact that most of them originally start their careers as members of a certain faculty in the university before progressing into higher ranks.  Due to this long career path, the administrators usually have many skills and knowledge acquired from their on-job experiences with so many strengths and weaknesses that they see no importance for the development programs.

            Although such programs have been long existent in the institutions of higher education, they have not been very successful due to lack of commitment by the leaders.  This calls for a better understanding of the development programs by the senior managers and how they may help in enhancing their learning experiences concerning leadership of their respective  institutions.  Successful development programs in leadership management are capable of increasing the capacity of individuals to provide better leadership, be more effective in their work and as a result, improve the general quality and effectiveness of the institution.

Conclusion.

            Institutions of higher learning represent the norms and values of the societies in which they operate in.  The students and the staff in the institutions have freedom of choice and in most cases, no strict rules are enforced on the students by the management.  This leaves the whole choice of whether to learn or not to learn to the student or to involve himself in any other activity be it political, social, economical or extracurricular activities.  A faculty member on the other hand has the freedom to choose to be a lone scholar, a conscious teacher, a participating or a nonparticipating member of the larger university community, a conformer or a protester.

            From the findings of this research, it is clear that effective leadership style is very vital especially in for-profit universities and colleges since any managerial blunder may lead to huge losses or even collapse of the institution.  As the U. S population continues to undergo evolution to incorporate more members of different racial and ethnic origin, universities and other institutions of higher learning located in the region have been forced to undergo evolution too.  With this evolution, the rational leadership styles previously exercised in the institution have now been transformed into modern leadership styles which practice democracy and encourage contribution of all the parties involved in order to achieve the long term goal of improving the university environment for the better.  Moreover, diverse leadership has been adopted in many universities with the aim of incorporating more members of the minority population and women into the institution’s senior administrative leadership positions.  The implementation of professional programs has also improved the leadership structure of the universities.

            From a personal point of view i can conclude that, the responsibility of improving the for-profit universities in U. S lies in all the leadership styles adopted by the universities’ president, administrators, faculty members, trustee members, students body and the university community at large.
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