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Leadership Practices for Higher Education

Dr. José Gerardo Martinez (1)

Introduction

If universities and colleges are to raise standards, status, and improve the overall campus environment they must advance and improve their leadership practices for higher education, which are needed in the 21st Century. The effectiveness and efficiency of the university and college campus is an emerging crisis - a crisis directly related to failed practices in certain areas of leadership. The challenge for academe, more specifically leaders in academe, is to initiate and follow new leadership practices that directly confront unethical, failed and out-of-date methods of campus governance.

Ethical Leadership

Academic leaders of the 21st Century must re-cast their leadership practice to include the following essential aspects of the ethical dimension:

(1) Leaders set the tone for the ethical climate of their organizations. Members of Boards of Regents and Trustees, presidents, vice presidents, deans, and others comprising the academic leadership of the institution must, by deeds, speech, and action, portray their commitment to high ethical standards.

(2) A clearly understandable and set of ethical standards that can be adhered to must be devised and articulated by the campus leadership. An unreachable or idealistic ethical code will be breached in day-to-day or routine business - thus, diluting the components that can be lived up to.

(3) Ethics violations within the leadership hierarchy should be dealt with swiftly, authoritatively, and affirmatively. The results of inquiries and investigations into ethical lapses should be widely publicized.

Team Leadership

Leadership unitage, that is, the quantity of leadership within a particular unit of leadership, is significantly improved when all leaders in the institution are empowered to lead their respective unit -teamwork increases productivity. Critical actions that can be undertaken to improve the institutional climate wherein team leadership can thrive are:

(1) Just as the Boards of Regents and Trustees work as a team, so should the academe leadership operating entities. No matter what they are called, problems, challenges, opportunities, or issues, organizational activity requiring leader attention should be pursued via a collaborative or shared effort.

(2) Often, those with new ideas are not considered team players. In the future, team leadership must accommodate the innovative, create, and forward-thinking from team members. Internal procedure must allow for exchanges of creative ideas - sharing a particular new way or another new idea.

(3) Reward joint effort as often as individual effort is recognized.

(4) Instill teamwork through team building and training.

Accountability Leadership 

One of the significant new initiatives to impact higher education is the "accountability movement." Legislators, parents, students, government, accrediting bodies, industry and business are all demanding that universities and colleges produce a competent graduate.

The academic leader must:

(1) Exercise visionary and "out-front" leadership in resolving academe's responsibility in arriving at and establishing standards for graduation, guaranteed or warranted degrees, and re-schooling or refresher education for graduates not deemed fully prepared by industry or professions.

Privatization Leadership

The privatization of higher education must be investigated carefully to see if certain services, activities, research and learning can be privatized or "out-sourced." The balance between better services and lower cost must be thoroughly examined in the framework of the mission, scope, and role of the university or college.

(1) Privatization demands results in change in the organizational structure. The new paradigm of institution leadership calls for a special ability to wrench out of the traditional bureaucracy an attitude that accepts and thrives on change.

(2) Just as public schools are seeking new ways to join with the private sector to fulfill their education mission so must higher education leaders explore creative paths toward including the private sector in operating the university. 

Global Thinking Leadership

The Untied States of America leads the world in the number of other nation or international students studying in U.S. institutions of higher education. These students, many pursuing graduate degrees, return to their country to become influential leaders. Such leaders often take a leading role in policy-making and operational matters affecting world peace, war, and terrorism. Leadership in this environment requires academic leadership that (1) Understands and projects the global implications of the role of education on the grave matters of peace, war, and the economy. (2) Academic leaders must develop grant contacts in the home countries of international students so as to assist in the retention and graduation of these students. Just as business leaders are required to integrate into the economies of other countries so should academic leaders learn to cope with grant challenges in the high student sending countries of China, Russia, Japan, Iran, Germany and others.  

Volunteer Leadership

As the age demographics of America change toward an ever-increasing older population, many of these citizens are volunteering to assist community institutions. Volunteers will offset the financial retrenchment underway in many higher education institutions. The progressive academic leader of the future must:

(1) Envision the role of and integrate volunteers into the academic institution.

(2) Develop unique motivational and reward systems to keep volunteers on the job and productive.

Distance Education Leadership

Education is rapidly expanding beyond the physical boundaries of the university and college. The challenges posed by technology assisted education are (a) balancing the personal contact of classroom professors and the impersonal contact of technology, (b) limitations, such as library access and student services, of not being on-campus, and (c) the benefits of group learning over individual learning. The academic leader in the time that is to come should possess the following leadership skills with regard to distance education:

(1) An appreciation and understanding of the relationship between education, technology, time, distance, location is essential. Moreover, the goals of education must blend with the technology so as to be the medium rather than the message. Distance education will be commonplace in the future. Just as the home is fast becoming a workplace so might home learning become the central place of learning.

(2) The interaction of communications technology and knowledge dissemination is a rapidly advancing field. Academic executives must rapidly learn to control and harness this process.

Multicultural Leadership

Leadership in today's society demands recognition of the diversity and difference present in our culture. The effective academic leader of the future must negotiate the multicultural environment by fully recognizing diversity and difference while exercising leadership that unites all toward a common goal. This process of future leadership must include the following:

(1) Successful reformation and change of education can only take place when academic leaders are able to unite disparate and diverse individuals and groups. Envisioning the possible contributions of all persons, regardless of gender, ethnicity, or other measure of difference and diversity, will be a significant challenge to future leaders.

(2) Creative means of communicating the accomplishments of diverse and different individuals within our global society must be developed to portray the importance of multiculturalism.

Conclusion

Leadership in American higher education needs to take new directions. Higher education leaders, administrators, and faculty must be more progressive, innovative, and creative to manage the reformation and change that is underway and will occur in the future. This new leadership must take new directions in ethics, collaboration, accountability, privatization, international and distance education, volunteerism, and multiculturalism.

1. Doctor of Business Administration in Information Systems, 2001.  University of Sarasota, Sarasota, Florida. Master of Business Administration in Industrial Management, 1995.  Inter American University of Puerto Rico, San Germán, PR. Bachelor of Science in Computer Engineering, 1989.  University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez, PR.

 

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March 10, 2003

 

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