Academic journal article Community College Review

Community College Leadership Preparation: Needs, Perceptions, and Recommendations

Academic journal article Community College Review

Community College Leadership Preparation: Needs, Perceptions, and Recommendations

Article excerpt

This research provides the results of a random survey, administered in 2001, of 128 community college instructional leaders. Respondents rated 48 skills and areas of expertise in effectively fulfilling community college instructional leadership roles. Survey results also suggest respondents recommend a different emphasis in doctoral coursework than they experienced in their doctoral programs of study.


A doctoral degree is considered a passport to community college leadership (Townsend, 1996). In 1990, Townsend and Wiese reported that 38% of senior community college administrators had a doctorate in higher education. A survey of community college academic officers administered by Townsend and Bassoppo-Moyo in 1997 revealed that 49% of the respondents with a doctorate had one in higher education. Green (1988) notes another factor that supports the need for quality doctoral program preparation is the fact that higher education institutions have a lack of interest in developing administrative leadership; institutions have paid little systematic attention to developing their own leaders.

While leadership training is clearly needed, a review of the literature reflects questions about the relevancy of a higher education degree and the preparedness of graduates of higher education programs of study (Green, 1988; Hankin, 1996; Keim, 1994; Mason & Townsend, 1988; Palmer & Katsinas, 1996). Young (1996) claimed that the challenge of providing administrative leadership for two-year colleges exists in a vastly different milieu than that of the 1950s, 1960s, and early 1970s and that it may be time for a thorough assessment of manpower supply and demand and of the attributes needed by effective two-year college leaders. He added that the types of persons and the skills required to maintain and improve an institution might be somewhat different from the skills required to establish and develop new institutions.

A review of literature reveals little documentation of research related to the specific responsibilities of community college instructional leaders. Additionally, although the literature reveals that the roles and responsibilities of community college leaders have changed over a period of 30 years, there is no documentation of the restructuring of university higher education leadership programs to prepare students for these new community college leadership positions. Furthermore, there is documentation of dissatisfaction on the part of graduate-level education program alumni (Mason & Townsend, 1988).

Future college leaders need a multicultural perspective of leadership that includes a sensitivity to diverse sense-making and decision-making strategies, an understanding of organizations as cultures with symbolic dimensions, (Gibson-Benninger, Ratcliff, & Rhoads, 1996) and a balance between theory and practice that includes concept application, reflection, and an understanding of the future by way of the past (Hankin, 1996). Leadership curriculum must include and reflect an awareness and acknowledgement of how race, ethnicity, gender, and social class affect individuals' experiences and perceptions and that these factors also affect the perceptions of community college leaders (Townsend, 1996).

Professors in community college administration programs need to reexamine the leadership models they present, with sensitivity to cultural biases, and their programs need to reflect new management and leadership models that include the new scholarship about women and minorities, not only the "traditional models designed by and for white males" (Townsend, 1996, p. 61). Although traditional paternalistic leadership styles are outmoded, they may still be studied in university leadership programs (Chliwniak, 1997).

Community colleges are considered homogeneous in that they generally serve diverse populations and share a commitment to open access, comprehensiveness, and responsiveness to local needs. …

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