Academic journal article Planning for Higher Education

Strategic Leadership: Integrating Strategy and Leadership in Colleges and Universities

Academic journal article Planning for Higher Education

Strategic Leadership: Integrating Strategy and Leadership in Colleges and Universities

Article excerpt

Strategic Leadership: Integrating Strategy and Leadership in Colleges and Universities by Richard L. Morrill Praeger 2007 295 pages ISBN: 978-0-275-99391-7

Reviewed by Philip A. Glotzbach

Colleges and universities are strikingly bifurcated organizations. They consist, on the one hand, of administrative divisions that function (for the most part) in ways reminiscent of corporate hierarchies. On the other hand, at their core are academic divisions that operate according to quite different principles. Academic departments and programs comprise faculty members who necessarily work with high degrees of autonomy and, at best, experience only episodic formal institutional oversight. These differences in structure can promote divergent organizational cultures characterized by alternative views of mission and values. Moreover, because of their central role in determining the nature of the curriculum, members of the faculty legitimately expect a significant voice in institutional governance. In short, colleges and universities represent complex, loosely coupled organizations (Per row ?984) that employ various forms of collaborative governance in which decision making is distributed among different stakeholder groups groups that frequently regard those institutions from multiple, overlapping, and not always fully congruent perspectives.

Ideally, involving a community of smart people, working from diverse points of view, in collaborative decision making should give an institution the benefit of many good minds and ensure that important proposals are subject to intense scrutiny before being implemented. In this context, it is a primary function of administrators and, most especially, the president to bridge the internal gaps, provide leadership that is collaborative and inclusive, and still ensure that strategic thinking effectively translates into action. But precisely how are presidents and other academic administrators to accomplish these tasks? More specifically, how can academic leaders help these many constituencies understand one another's points of view and, ultimately, come together around a shared vision that both unifies and gives meaning to their actions?

In Strategic Leadership, Richard Morrill takes up these many-sided questions. The result is an intelligent, insightful, and practical treatise on a timely and timeless topic. Drawing upon his 19 years' experience as a college and university president at three different institutions (with his final 10 years at the University of Richmond), as well as his extensive reading of the leadership literature, Morrill has produced an elegantly written guide for college and university administrators. His background in religious studies and ethics enables him to locate his quite pragmatic discussion of leadership in the academy within a broader and deeper theoretical framework of human agency, "the notion that humans are in charge of their own conduct and determine the meaning and direction of their lives through the enactment of their values and beliefs" (p. xiii).

Using strategy as his central organizing concept, Morrill argues that it is the administrator's primary responsibility to facilitate the "various forms of organizational sense-making and sense-giving that depend on a process of mutual influence between leaders and those led" (p. xiii). Most generally, the ref ore , strategie leadership

designates the use of the strategy process as a systematic method of decision making that integrates reciprocal leadership into its concepts and practices. Strategy is not just a tool of management used by leaders who hold positions of authority but is as well a method of interactive leadership that clarifies purposes and priorities, mobilizes motivation and resources, and sets directions for the future, (p. xi)

In recent years, the universe of leadership literature has seen many attempts to ground discussions of management and administration in larger theoretical contexts. …

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