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A Culture that Supports Quiet Leaders

Institutional Culture

A Culture that Supports Quiet Leaders

The School of Educational Leadership and Change at Fielding Graduate University has an institutional climate that promotes initiative and empowerment of its faculty and staff even if they don’t have formal leadership positions.

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The School of Educational Leadership and Change at Fielding Graduate University has an institutional climate that promotes initiative and empowerment of its faculty and staff even if they don’t have formal leadership positions.

“We have a very strong belief in social justice, and just the way ELC was created, it’s innate that we have the freedom to implement changes like that. It’s just the way we’re made,” says Anthony Holliday, associate dean.

The governance structure also contributes to this culture of empowerment. The school has a faculty senate. The senate leadership committee is appointed from each school to be a part of the faculty senate. There are also an executive team and standing committees. Proposed changes are initially taken to the executive committee to discuss, but before a change is implemented, there is a faculty vote. Faculty can vote in one of three ways: (1) consensus with the issue, (2) not in consensus but don’t want to block the proposal, or (3) not in consensus and want to block it. The issue is not passed until everybody agrees. “If one person is out of consensus and votes to block, we continue the discussion to find out how we can modify it so that person will change his or her vote. Everybody has to be in consensus. Sometimes, very rarely, the person doesn’t change his or her vote and the issue is taken off the table,” Holliday says.

Throughout these discussions, Holliday often sees examples of “quiet leadership,” a term borrowed from Joseph Badaracco’s book Leading Quietly, which is required reading in a course Holliday teaches. “[Quiet leaders] are individuals within organizations who are not necessarily out front. These are people who work in the background. It could be a secretary or a staff person. It could be almost anyone, but it’s not the person within the organization you feel would be a leader. It’s that person who sits in the back someplace but is effectively one who implements change simply because of the leadership qualities that are innate within [his or her] character,” Holliday says.

“There are individuals who are considered cochairs of the senate leadership committee, but there are also people who are on the faculty senate who don’t really have a title,” he says. “Yet, because of who they are, they can also effect change. They don’t have to have a title or be a leader to effect change. The key is being able to substantiate your suggestions. How do you support that? Give us the data. Everybody has the right to speak up. There are people who are quiet and never say anything, but they are individuals who are respected. Quiet leadership is something you have to earn.”