Academic journal article Planning for Higher Education

Shared Leadership for a Green, Global, and Google World

Academic journal article Planning for Higher Education

Shared Leadership for a Green, Global, and Google World

Article excerpt

The authors propose that shared leadership will foster institutional success in the green, global, and virtual future world of higher education.

We are in the midst of a new era. Given the extreme economic challenges facing higher education, many refer to this as a "crisis" era. In their "2020 Forecast: Creating the Future of Learning," the KnowledgeWorks Foundation and Institute for the Future (2010, * 1) note that "system shocks and disruptions in the arenas of energy, finance, climate, and health care are key forces of destabilization in this century" and that institutions must build "resilience into their systems."

Higher education institutions indeed must be resilient as we face vastly increased expectations for sustainable environments, global focus, and technological support. Speed of response to these expectations ultimately depends on shared vision, shared agreement, and shared accountability. Scholars emphasize that speed of response comes through shared leadership:

Speed of response to environmental pressures that are today far more turbulent than in the past is now a striking organizational reality - especially since the global financial crisis. This demand suggests that organizations cannot wait for leadership decisions to be pushed up to the top for action. Instead, leadership has to be more evenly shared across the organization to ensure faster response times to environmental demands. (Pearce, Manz, and Sims, Jr. 2009, p. 235)

In this article, we challenge all those engaged with planning in higher education to foster shared leadership throughout all levels of the organization as a means to meet the challenges and opportunities in our Green, Global, and Google (GGG) world and, in so doing, reinvent higher education. Here, "green" represents the need for ongoing attention to sustainability, "global" highlights the expanding global market for higher education and the evolution of approaches to global education, and "Google" denotes the increasing use of Internet (or "above- campus") resources in place of local computing resources. Each "G" force represents a complex issue in demand of shared leadership.

Defining Shared Leadership

To remain relevant in a GGG world, higher education organizations must evolve from machines with leaders at the top to living, dynamic systems of interconnected relationships, ready to change in smart ways to meet and exceed new expectations and demands. Such dynamic systems require new models of leadership. These new models "conceptualize leadership as a more relational process, a shared or distributed phenomenon occurring at different levels and dependent on social interactions and networks of influence" (Fletcher and Kaufer 2003, p. 21).

Figure 1 [cr] includes characteristics present in more traditional (i.e., vertical) and in shared leadership situations. According to Pearce, Manz, and Sims, Jr. (2009, p. 234), "Shared leadership entails broadly sharing power and influence among a set of individuals rather than centralizing it in the hands of a single individual who acts in the clear role of a dominant superior." For shared leadership to be successful, there must be balance of power, shared purpose and goals, shared responsibility for work, respect for each person, and willingness to work together on complex issues.

While higher education organizations largely embody vertical leadership models, given the complexities of GGG work, we attest that leaders must proactively identify, understand, and foster shared leadership characteristics. These characteristics are best illustrated through examples in which shared leadership is being practiced as a means to address GGG challenges and opportunities.


The complexity of "green" requires shared leadership. Associations, colleges and universities, and local teams are sharing leadership to address sustainability issues across multiple sectors, as being "green" has become a major competitive factor in recruiting and retaining students as well as in addressing the ever-changing landscape surrounding energy costs. …

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