ERIC Identifier: ED301144
Publication Date: 1988-00-00
Author: McDade, Sharon A.
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Higher Education Washington DC.
Leadership in Higher Education. ERIC Digest.
American higher education continues to face difficult times. As the number of
problems has grown over the past decades, the many constituencies of the higher
education enterprise have searched for stronger managers and visionary leaders.
It is not enough to be only an administrator or only a leader. Colleges and
universities need leaders and managers who can turn their visions into reality.
Since many senior academic administrators of colleges and universities first
trained for academic careers in research and teaching and scarcely anticipated
their current administrative positions, they have had minimal management
training. Both academic and nonacademic officers with years of administrative
experience find that they must quickly develop the new and different knowledge
and skills needed to manage an institution when they move into senior leadership
positions. Likewise, administrators in senior positions must continue to grow as
leaders while adapting to a constantly changing environment.
Although on-the-job training is best, mistakes can be costly to individuals
and institutions. Reading is probably the most common way to acquire knowledge
about management and leadership, but it is a passive learning mode. Professional
development programs provide a more active alternative: they increase knowledge,
add to and enhance management skills and leadership techniques, broaden
perspectives, and stimulate creativity.
While many administrators enthusiastically embrace professional development
programs, other administrators just as actively ignore them. Although such
programs have existed in higher education almost as long as they have in
business and industry, they have never achieved the same acceptance in
education. A more complete understanding of the types and benefits of
professional development programs as well as their problems and drawbacks may
enable executives to take advantage of these programs as learning experiences.
For this investigation, a senior administrator is defined as a president or
an officer who reports directly to the president, supervises a major division of
the institution, and has substantive policy-setting responsibilities. A
middle-level administrator manages a major enterprise within the academy and
charts a future for that unit within the broad policy map established by the
senior executive team. Professional development (including both management and
leadership development) denotes programs that increase the capacity of
individuals to provide leadership, to be effective in their work and thereby
improve the effectiveness and the quality of a college or university.
CAREER PATHS LEADING INTO ADMINISTRATION
It is necessary to
identify various career paths to discern fully the development needs of
administrators and to understand the reluctance of many to participate
extensively in these programs. Many academic administrators began their careers
as faculty members. Yet the department chair, the most common entry position
into academic administration, has not been the first step of the majority. In
addition to the traditional ladder-department chair, dean, provost, and
president-other paths are now just as common, including assorted entry-level
positions within higher education institutions and in related areas of
postsecondary education, education agencies and organizations. Non-academic
administrators enter administration and rise through the ranks through another
set of varied paths.
Because administrators follow many career paths their skills, knowledge, and
expertise depend on their experiences. For every administrative and leadership
strength developed and polished through on-the-job experience, just as many
weaknesses are ignored because of lack of opportunity, time, or assessment.
SKILLS AND KNOWLEDGE REQUIRED FOR EXECUTIVE POSITIONS
understand the significance of professional development to all administrators,
it is important to understand their responsibilities. In any consideration of
administrative responsibilities, it is impossible to separate leadership and
administrative responsibilities, since most leaders also must manage and most
managers must occasionally lead.
Administrators, particularly senior executives, are responsible for
developing visions and goals and for achieving them. Although others may
actually run the systems and tend the processes, the senior officers are
ultimately responsible for the operations that enable the complex enterprise of
the modern college or university to function. The senior officers are
responsible for the interrelationship between the environment and the
institution. They must develop people, a working climate, and good
In surveys of business, government, and secondary and higher education,
administrators indicated that organization and planning skills were the most
important, while human skills ranked second, with financial management and
LESSONS GAINED FROM OTHER FIELDS
for all management levels is accepted in business, industry, the military, and
government. Business alone spends nearly $60 billion each year on professional
development, with a significant percentage of that sum going to programs for
senior administrators (Eurich 1985: Sonnenfeld 1983). Although colleges and
universities offer the most prestigious of these executive programs,
corporations have begun to compete with offerings from in-house institutes.
BENEFITS AND PROBLEMS OF PARTICIPATION
benefits of participating in professional development programs are easy to
identify, value is difficult to quantify. Participants provide strong anecdotal
evidence of the personal worth of those programs, but no comprehensive studies
have surveyed several programs to collect quantitative evidence of benefits.
The knowledge derived from the curriculum is the most obvious benefit. Other
benefits--less easily identifiable and described, but no less important--include
new ideas, stimulation, contacts and networking, access to reference materials,
team building, time for reflection and thought, increased promotability,
increased access to senior positions for women and minorities, opportunities to
augment previous experience through simulation, broadened perspectives, and
increased self-confidence (Green 1988). Although the little evidence that exists
only documents some of these benefits (for example, promotability and access),
the myths surrounding some are pervasive and can become self-fulfilling
These benefits must always be balanced against the drawbacks of
participation, including career timing; the obsolescence of training; the costs
in time and money; and the issues of selection, integration, evaluation and
feedback. Professional Development Issues Facing Higher Education Administration
The evidence that does exist on the benefits--anecdotal, tentative, and
personal as it may be--still outweighs the disadvantages for many
administrators. The issues is then how to use professional development programs
so that administrators and institutions can derive the greatest benefit. A fully
integrated and dynamic plan requires the commitment not only of the executive
participants but also of an institution's trustees.
To be most effective, professional development experiences need to be part of
an integrated, comprehensive organizational plan that links development
activities with the actual tasks and responsibilities of the job. Improved
preparation can help participants absorb the experience with clear expectations
about how the new information or skills will later be used. While much research
on such related areas as adult development and learning styles already exists,
further application still needs to be applied to management and leadership
development. Foundations can continue to affect the leadership of colleges and
universities by investing in professional development for administrators in a
variety of ways.
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Eurich, Nell P. 1985. Corporate Classrooms, Lawrenceville, NJ: Carnegie
Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and Princeton University Press. ED
264 785. 172 pp.
Gray, Sandra Trice. 1987. An Independent Sector Resource Directory of
Education and Training Opportunities and Other Services, 2nd Edition.
Washington, D.C.: Independent sector.
Green, Madeleine, F., ed. 1988. Leaders for a New Era: Strategies for Higher
Education. New York: Macmillan.
Moore, Kathryn M.; Salimbene, Ann M.; Marlier, Joyce D.; and Bragg, Stephen
M. September/October 1983. "The Structure of Presidents' and Deans, Careers."
The Journal of Higher Education (54) 5: 500-515.
New Management, Winter 1987. Special issues on executive education. Vol. 43.
Sonnenfeld, Jeffrey A. 1983. "Education at Work: Demystifying the Magic of
Training." In Human Resource Management: Trends and Challenges. Cambridge, MA:
Harvard University Business School Press. NOTE: This ERIC Digest is a summary of
Higher Education Leadership: Enhancing Skills through Professional Development
Programs by the same author (ERIC ED 293 479).