Management Quandary: Humble and Transparent Leadership

Management Quandary: Humble and Transparent Leadership

Jerrid P. Freeman (Northeastern State University, USA) and Karen J. Haley (Portland State University, USA)
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 18
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-2410-7.ch007
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Abstract

Higher education is changing in significant ways and cannot continue to operate in the same ways it once functioned. This multifaceted complexity requires leaders to manage and lead not only the business enterprise of higher education, but also societal demands within the context of multiple institutional structures and values. Every leader must understand their role in managing and how to be nimble enough to respond and adapt to the needs of society, students, and business while also developing the quality of education and experience that restores the faith of the public in higher education. Higher education leaders must be willing to take on the management quandary before them—maintain a strong business acumen, manage the multiple relationships inside and outside the Academy, and address the needs of society and business in knowledge and skill acquisition. The current climate presents a scenario where it is difficult for a leader who focuses heavily on only one element and lacks the historical perspective of higher education to be successful.
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Introduction

Higher education is changing in significant ways and cannot continue to operate in the same manner it once functioned, yet there is no easy answer to how higher education should function. “Higher education is a complex enterprise open to a wide range of understandings and interpretations. Its complexity is expressed in the types of institutions, environmental pressures exerted, multiple and simultaneously occurring organizational structures, and numerous professional identities of its members” (Manning, 2013, p. 1). This complexity of higher education is also its greatest asset. Even though the American higher education system, with all its institutional diversity, is the most influential model in the world, it is “essential to look critically in order to best understand and preserve its strengths and at the same time change those elements to better align with circumstances of the twenty-first century” (Altbach, Gumport, & Johnston, 2001, p.2). This complexity also creates varying missions, values, and objectives across institutions and explains why there are various perspectives and viewpoints by state and federal governments as well as the public regarding the role of higher education in the United States.

This multifaceted complexity requires leaders to manage and lead not only the business enterprise of higher education, but also societal demands within the context of multiple institutional structures and values. The “new environmental forces, such as changing demographics, increased competition, additional government regulations, and reduced state and federal funding for education, make leading these institutions more difficult than ever” (Hendrickson, Lane, Harris, & Dorman, 2013, p. 1). Failure to manage these sometimes diverging needs can result in struggling institutions and loss of employment. These competing needs may also lead to a greater divide between colleges and universities, the public, and the business sector’s perception of higher education’s value. Therefore, higher education leaders must find ways to create new solutions for the organization of our institutions by utilizing multiple perspectives gained through relationship building across stakeholders and institutional type (Hendrickson et al., 2013; Manning, 2013). All leaders must understand their role in managing these relationships and learn to be nimble enough to respond and adapt to the needs of society, students, and business.

Higher education leaders must be responsive to and create an institutional culture that meets the changing needs of the institution while also developing high-quality education and experiences that restore the faith of the public in higher education. “Leaders of healthy, thriving institutions understand their purpose and niche in the broader higher education community, and because of this knowledge, their institutions are better governed and positioned to succeed in tough times” (Hendrickson et al., 2013, p. 9). It is more than merely embodying the mission and being mission-driven; it is finding congruence between decisions and core values/mission. It is using the “mission as a lens to interpret changes in the environment and connect institutional aspirations with what is happening in the world” (Hendrickson et al., 2013, p. 12). To be a good leader, one must be able to see the larger picture and create a campus culture that takes all elements into consideration.

Leaders must be willing to take on the management quandary before them: maintain a strong business acumen; manage the varying relationships inside and outside the Academy; and address the needs of society and business with knowledge and skill acquisition. The current higher education climate presents a scenario where it is difficult for a leader who focuses heavily on only one element (e.g., finance, fundraising, politics) and lacks the historical perspective of higher education to be successful. While some elite/historical institutions were insulated from societal and economic changes in the past, nearly all institutions now feel the pressure and struggle to manage the current change in economic climate. Our students, society, and the future of higher education needs leaders willing to chart an informed and focused path for the benefit of our American system of higher education.

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