December 3

Petty Principles for Leaders in Higher Education

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Higher education leaders have an opportunity to make an impact on the education and development of a diverse population of students and help them become contributing citizens in society. However, the job comes with a myriad of challenges that can confound both novice and experienced leaders alike.

In this post, I offer seven tips to help guide academic decision-making. In a play on my last name, I call them “petty principles.”


leadership development November 8

Assessing the Impact of Leadership Development, Part 2: The Holton Model

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Elwood F. “Ed” Holton III, former director of the School of Human Resource Education & Workforce Development at Louisiana State University, recognized as early as 1996 that the Kirkpatrick Model of Training Assessment, although so widely adopted that it has become virtually an industry standard, had several serious drawbacks (Holton, 1996). To begin with, he noted that the Kirkpatrick model is essentially a taxonomy, or classification scheme, and he stated, “One shortcoming of taxonomies is that they do not fully identify all constructs underlying the phenomena of interest, thus making validation impossible” (Holton, 1996, p. 6).


Leadership development November 7

Assessing the Impact of Leadership Development: Part 1, The Kirkpatrick Model

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With all the investments that colleges and universities make in trying to develop their academic leaders—sending them to conferences and workshops, creating their own in-house professional development programs, assigning new leaders to mentors, and so on—institutions want to know whether they’re getting any return on their investment. In short, does the leadership development that current and prospective academic leaders participate in make any real difference? If so, what difference does it make? And in either case, how do we know?


succession planning October 29

Succession Planning: Developing Future Leaders from Within

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Succession planning, or targeted leadership development, is not very common in higher education institutions, perhaps because of the corporate cronyism it often calls to mind. Certainly, the values and hiring practices in higher education are inconsistent with the “good ol’ boy” network found in the corporate sector, but perhaps higher education institutions could apply some of the more benign aspects of succession planning to minimize disruptions associated with leadership change, preserve institutional memory, and make full use of the talents within the institution.


avoiding groupthink October 25

Avoiding Groupthink

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With the spate of books and articles that deal with the issue of incivility in higher education, it’s easy to conclude that destructive disharmony is the single biggest problem facing colleges and universities today. To be sure, lack of collegiality has become a significant challenge, and nearly every academic leader can recall at least one department or college that became increasingly dysfunctional because of its inability to work together in a mutually supportive manner. But the great deal of attention we pay to the challenges of incivility can cause us to underestimate the dangers of an opposing threat that also exists in many academic units: groupthink.



Academic Chair October 1

10 Things I Never Knew about Being an Academic Chair

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My professional goals have always included teaching but never administration. I tended to be a bit judgmental and suspicious of administration. However, after five years in an elementary classroom and 19 years in a university classroom, circumstances led me to take the plunge into higher education administration. Having served as a faculty member at the University of Central Arkansas for some 21 years and being an alumna there, ties of loyalty and service ran deep. It was my duty to take on this new adventure and ensure that I was doing my part to serve our faculty, promote idealistic goals of my university, and make sure that the future of higher education was in good hands. I felt that I could take all that I had learned from a faculty viewpoint and implement the best leadership strategies to be the kind of administrator that all faculty would love!


community advisory council September 18

The Community Role and Challenges of a College Leader

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Strong and innovative leadership collaborations keep the college in the community landscape. Today, the president and the college’s leadership team are invaluable resources to states and to the nation—they educate the many talented people who work in our industries, businesses, and civic sectors. Chief executive officers address the overall balance of education at their institutions by looking at community advisory council input, educational trends, and state needs.


toolbox September 17

More Tools for the New Dean’s Toolbox

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A couple years ago, I wrote an essay for Academic Leader suggesting that new deans should examine the administrative implements in their metaphorical “toolbox” to make sure they were ready for the job at hand: providing leadership to their institution when difficult dilemmas require effective administrative action. Those tools included: (1) a hammer when it was imperative to come down hard; (2) a saw when a dean must decide to cut some program or individual loose from the institution; (3) sandpaper to smooth out the rough spots left by hammer and saw; (4) a drill when a complex issue requires more “drilling down” to reach the substrata of the issue; and (5) tape to bind up the fractures, broken relationships, and disconnected policies and practices needing mending.


introverted leaders September 13

Academic Leaders as Introverts and Extroverts

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In a position such as department chair or dean where interpersonal skills are so important, you might think that all academic leaders would be extroverts. In fact, once while I was out on an interview, a university president (whose wife made a living administering personality profiles) told me that he’d never hire a dean who didn’t have a Myers-Briggs profile of ENTJ. (My own profile is INTJ, and needless to say, I wasn’t offered the job.) That incident taught me a lot about how even experienced academic leaders sometimes misunderstand what academic leadership is all about—not to mention that they sometimes misunderstand what purpose the MBTI (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator) is intended to serve.