Exploring the Leadership Development Opportunities for Academic Leaders in Canada

Year: 2016

Author: Scott, Shelleyann, Scott, Donald, Dudar, Linda, Anne, Abdoulaye

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

This research is part of the International Study of Leadership Development in Higher Education (ISLDHE – www.ucalgary.ca/isldhe ) and represents the findings of Phase 2 of the Canadian component of this project, in particular the mapping of leadership development across 13 top-ranked research-intensive and comprehensive universities (26) across Canada. From internet searches and from documents obtained from senior university leaders we were able to map the availability, types, and prioritised topics of leadership development at the 26 universities included in the study. PurposeThe overall purpose of ISLDHE project is to explore the availability and effectiveness of leadership development for formal leaders in higher education, but prior to identifying the effectiveness we needed to establish the availability, range, and content of any leadership development in a sample of the top ranked research intensive and comprehensive universities in Canada. This phase of the research focused on establishing a baseline for the subsequent phases.Theoretical FrameworkTwo key assumptions underpin this research. First, academic leadership is important and influences many stakeholders; and second, leaders need support to be effective. Transformational and authentic leadership theories as well as research about the role of deans and their work context inform this research.ResultsMapping purely from internet searches of university websites was distinctly inaccurate as many of the programs on the websites were only for professional staff not academic leaders while some universities did not publicise their programs at all. Many universities had some form of leadership development although very few had coherent, systematic, and in-depth programming. There were few programs specific for deans, rather most were for associate deans, heads of department. Mentoring, executive coaching, orientations and induction programs, and regular meetings were the most common forms of leadership development for formal academic leaders. Most programs were reserved only for incumbents and aspirants were only able to attend if nominated by the current dean or provost office. Topics included: dealing with difficult faculty members, relational acumen, performance evaluations, and fiscal management and budget models. We explore the pros and cons of what is offered and provides information about the other stages of the project.Significance of the StudyWith increasing levels of accountability on leaders in universities, the change in the role from previous expectations in decades past, and the fact that most university leaders are selected based upon their research profile rather than on management or leadership capacities, the level of support of our formal leaders is becoming increasingly important. This study aims to explore leadership development with the view to informing leadership development programming, comment on the changing nature of leadership in higher education, provide leaders a voice about the available (or not) supports, and to inform higher education policy.