Type to search

Encouraging Faculty Leadership Development

Leadership and Management

Encouraging Faculty Leadership Development

Pareena Lawrence, dean and chief academic officer of Augustana College, says that faculty need to take on a different and more active leadership role in order to meet the demands of the 21st-century higher education landscape. “There is limited space in the traditional system of shared governance to share with faculty leadership the rapid changes in higher education. It seems like sometimes I have a lot of information, but they have to make some of the decisions as part of shared governance without access to much of this information. And there’s no committee on campus that’s looking at long-term trends or threats that should concern us,” she says.

Part of the problem is that institutions are so discipline- based and committees are often task t-based, that  “it doesn’t allow for these conversations to happen with most faculty together such that we can come to joint decisions,” Lawrence says.

In addition, there appears to be less of an emphasis on developing faculty leaders than on developing student leaders. “We talk about student leadership. Look at our mission statements. We want students to be leaders. We want them to be adaptable to a changing world. We don’t use that language for faculty. We don’t say we want our faculty to be leaders. We don’t say we want them to be adaptable to a changing world,” Lawrence says.

Here are Lawrence’s recommendations for encouraging faculty members to get involved in institutional leadership: 

  • Be willing to give up power. Inviting faculty to participate in decision making means having to give up some control. “You are asking them to come to the table and be leaders. That means in some ways you are giving some of your power away and saying, I want you to share this power with me so we can make better decisions,” Lawrence says. “Some administrators are not comfortable with sharing or willing to share this decision-making authority with faculty members. Do you really want to do this?”
  • Have an agenda. When providing leadership opportunities, start by asking, What will be the end result? What do we want out of it? “Each campus and each leader has to decide what they want to come from developing faculty leaders. Do you want better curricular decisions? Do you want faculty to consider innovative programs? Do you want faculty leaders to understand the budget of the college? Then you build a program toward that,” Lawrence says.
  • Be sure everybody understands his or her responsibilities. Each committee member and its chair, and each department chair needs to understand his or her responsibilities. “One of the things we’re working on is making sure that committee and department chairs understand what it means to be chair,” Lawrence says. “[Often,] department chairs learn from their predecessors because there’s no formal program. If we have a great department chair who models great chairship, we aspire to be like that person. If you have a person who is laissez-faire, you may end up with someone who does not pay much attention because that’s how it was done in their department in the past. Department chairs need to be equipped to take on this role and the expectations of their positions must be made clear to them as the change and unfortunately expand. What do good department chairs do? Not, what did your predecessor do?

    “Each committee needs to understand its charge and how members operate together. What is the agenda? What does the core curriculum committee need to know about the tasks and timelines of the educational policy committee? We need to spend at least a couple hours with the committee members and chairs at the beginning of the year going over the charge and talking about what is expected of the committee this year,” Lawrence says.

  • Build trust. When Lawrence became dean, the main goal of her first year was to build trust among the faculty. Part of building trust involves being clear about your leadership style. “My first year [was focused on] investing in those relationships so faculty [would] know how I function. … If you don’t have their trust, nothing else you do matters. You can do all the agenda setting, follow all the rules, but if you haven’t built that sense of trust you won’t get them to participate and be willing to look for answers [and] to problem solve with you,” Lawrence says.
  • Seek diverse participation. When forming a task force, make sure that you don’t always select the same people to participate; avoid the impression that there are a select few worthy of participating in decision making.
  • Be clear on the decision-making process. Different decisions call for different processes. “Do you like making decisions yourself? Do you just want recommendations from the faculty and not joint decisions? Sometimes I only want recommendations because the ultimate call is mine. Sometimes it’s really a joint decision. When you call them to the table and ask for input and if it’s perceived that you are not taking that input in, if the decision is already made and you’re doing this for a show, they’ll know soon enough.It may take a year. It may take two years, and then you’re not going to have people show up. Why would they?”

Leave a Comment