Desirable Leadership Behavior for Higher Education

January 24, 2015 | Posted in Education, Leadership | By

Leadership is in a sense a pattern of thinking that is shown through a leader’s behavior. This past weekend I read a very interesting study about effective leadership behavior within higher education. I would like to share with you the important points from that study.

This quantitative study asserted that if certain leadership patterns or behaviors were present, this would lead to improvements in the subsequent processes, and in turn the quality of services provided by the higher education institution.


These desirable leadership patterns are known as Bryman’s proposal of desirable higher education leadership behaviors.

Desirable Leadership Behavior for Higher Education

  • A proactive approach to pursuing the university’s missions
  • An emphasis on a visionary approach that guides and provides focus for what the leader seeks to achieve for the institution
  • Being internally focused, and well connected in the institution, being seen and drawing inspiration from its participants
  • Being externally focused, having a good understanding for higher education, and networking with a variety of constituents and reinforcing within those constituencies the direction the university is taking
  • Having personal integrity
  • Introducing changes in a way that entails consultation with others
  • Importance of not sealing leaders off from the university at large
  • Importance of not undermining pre-existing organizational culture
  • Being flexible in approach to leadership
  • Entrepreneurial and risk-taking
  • Influencing the organizational culture and values to support change
  • Designing structures to support change

In addition, this study identified another set of undesirable leadership behaviors to avoid within higher education:

Undesirable Leadership Behavior for Higher Education

  • Failing to consult
  • Not respecting existing values
  • Actions that undermine collegiality
  • Not promoting the interests of those for whom the leader is responsible
  • Being uninvolved in the life of the department or institution
  • Undermining autonomy
  • Allowing the department or institution to drift

I pray this is a good encouragement for you higher education leaders out there. I will leave you with this excellent quote and bible verse;

The authority by which the Christian leader leads is not power but love, not force but example, not coercion but reasoned persuasion. Leaders have power, but power is safe only in the hands of those who humble themselves to serve.” – John Scott

But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant. – Matthew 20:26


Works Cited

Flumerfelt, S., & Banachowski, M. (July 12, 2011). Understanding leadership paradigms for improvement in higher education. Quality Assurance in Education, 19, 3, 224-247.

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What is Transformational Leadership?

April 6, 2014 | Posted in Leadership, Purpose | By

Over the past month I have been involved in a study to examine the leadership styles for a variety of senior-level administrators at different higher education universities around the United States. The goal of our research group was determine if there are particular types, or styles of leadership that are most prevalent at the American higher education institution.

The results of our findings (from the group of senior-leaders we interviewed)  indicate that  all leaders display  characteristics from a particular approach to leadership,  described as Transformational Leadership.

So, what is Transformational Leadership?

Transformational Leadership

Transformational Leadership is a approach to leadership that ehances the motivation, morale, and performance of followers through a variety of mechanisms. These include connecting the follower’s sense of identity and self to the project and the collective identity of the organization; being a role model for followers that inspires them and makes them interested; challenging followers to take greater ownership for their work, and understanding the strengths and weaknesses of followers, so the leader can align followers with tasks that enhance their performance (Bass & Avolio, 1994).

Transformational Leadership can be additionally described by the following four elements:

1) Idealized Leadership

  • Being role models; modeling the way
  • Considers the needs of others over his/her own need
  • Is consistent and shares risks with follower
  • Does the right things and demonstrates high standards of conduct
  • Avoids using power for personal gain

2) Inspirational Motivation

  • Provide meaning and challenge to follower’s work.
  • Display enthusiasm and optimism.
  • Involves followers in envisioning desired future states.
  • Arouses a team spirit.
  • Clearly communicate expectations and goals.
  • Inspires a shared vision.

3) Intellectual Stimulation

  • Employees participate in decision making and are encouraged to be innovative and creative by questioning assumptions, re-framing problems and trying new approaches to existing problems
  • Does not publicly criticize for mistakes.
  • Does not criticize an employee’s opinions if different from the leaders, rather rewards “out of the box” thinking.

4) Individualized Consideration

  • Pays attention to their employees’ needs for achievement and growth through coaching and mentoring.
  • New learning opportunities are created in a supportive climate.
  • Individual differences are recognized and accepted.
  • Communication effectively and practices “management by wandering around”
  • Sees the individual as a whole person, not an employee.
  • Delegates tasks to assist in developing others.
  • Monitors to provide support and direction, not to check up on people.

Another great model describing some practical examples of Transformational Leadership can be found from the authors Kouzes & Posner: The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership Model

This research study got me to thinking, is this coincidence, or did these administrators, from all different parts of the country mind you, stumble upon a leadership style that is truly most effective? Moreover, do leaders that embody these characteristics seem to make the greatest contribution to their organizations and onto others? Is this is why they have risen to the ranks of senior-leadership at these institutions?

My conclusions have lead me to the belief that this is not coincidence. I believe these leaders all identify with this particular approach to leadership because it is most effective. Additionally, each of the leaders we studied all have a “timeless purpose” they are committed to. This purpose helps to define their meaning, a meaning in which they believe that they are creating a “life changing” impact on the people, communities and world around them. I believe this is why Transformational Leadership seems to resonate the strongest from these leaders.

So, the last question, are you a Transformational Leader?


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