Critical Analysis of Leadership Needed in Higher Education

By Wang, Victor C. X.; Berger, Jim | International Forum of Teaching and Studies, April 1, 2010 | Go to article overview

Critical Analysis of Leadership Needed in Higher Education


Wang, Victor C. X., Berger, Jim, International Forum of Teaching and Studies


[Abstract]

This article is intended to critically analyze what leadership is needed in higher education. By doing so, leadership theories have been discussed from different angles as researchers in the field have done. Then, the article attempts to point out existing problems associated with leadership theories and practice in U.S. higher education. Concrete examples are used to demonstrate the gap between leadership theory and practice which has been a common phenomenon resulting from lack of support of linking leadership theories with practice from our society, institutions of higher learning and even individuals. Rather than placing blame on certain individuals, concrete examples are used to support the theme of this article, that is, poor leadership in higher education has been caused by a poor educational system and a lack of the correct philosophies.

[Keywords] Skills approach; situational approach; theory X; theory Y; three typology; creative leaders; emotional intelligence

Introduction

Nothing is needed more than leadership in a society, business or higher education. It is not uncommon to emphasize that the rise or fall of a nation depends on its leadership (Wang, 2010). Good leadership causes the right kind of change needed in a society or in higher education. Without the right kind of change, a country or a university is bound to lag behind. Leaders of all levels have some common duties and responsibilities; they are expected to formulate a vision and above all to prescribe structure and directions for followers. In higher education, policies are made based on leaders' vision or blueprint. Universities and colleges do not mind spending millions of dollars on effective leaders. It is not surprising that a university pays a university president over $ 300,000 per year simply because the university needs specific knowledge, skills and expertise to help the university remain competitive. Right after the Nation At Risk report came out in 1983, all schools, including universities, began to pay more attention to their instructional, as well as administrative, leadership in order to produce learners that would compete with learners in other industrialized nations. After many years of effort, our school leaders simply failed to help our students catch up with those learners from other industrialized nations. Then, in 2002, a similar occurrence, the No Child Left Behind act, was passed in order for our primary and secondary school leaders to do the same. However, student achievement gaps have not closed given the current leadership skills and/or expertise.

The problem seems to have been compounded by competition from emerging industrialized countries such as China and India. Every year, these two countries produce a lot more engineers than the USA. The picture is gloomier when taking into consideration the number of universities in the United States (to date, there are over 4,500 universities for approximately 300 million people). Whereas, in China, there are approximately 2,000 universities for its 1.4 billion people. These statistics show there must be some good educational policies associated with leadership needed in higher education, and in education in general. On the other side ofthat coin, there must be some bad policies associated with leadership in the United States as well. One way to attract qualified leaders is through job announcements and descriptions. Oxymoronically, job descriptions in the United States are often created as follows:

1. We are looking for leaders who are visionary and must lead the university to a new height.

2. We are looking for leaders who are committed to shared governance.

3. We are looking for leaders who possess conceptual, human and technical skills (Katz, 1995).

4. We are looking for leaders who have an excellent record of teaching, scholarship and service.

5. We are looking for leaders who are committed to doing the right things and doing things right. …

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