Leadership in higher education settings is inspiring and challenging at the same time. Education is getting impacted by innovation, and the industry now assumes an entrepreneurial approach in its ways of doing things. The increasing trends imply a series of difficulties in raising funds and satisfying the needs of students and the workforce. This paper will examine gathering information about leadership perspectives and leadership experiences from a formal leader and explain the leadership beliefs and practices of a contemporary leader through interviewing. The information in the paper is from an interview with a selected leader in the higher education sector. It is essential to gather information from former higher education leaders concerning their perspectives and experiences in leadership and then examine the beliefs and practices of modern leaders in comparison to leadership theories.
The interviewee was a leader in higher education who holds the position an Administrative Services Manager in the departments of Education, Psychology, and sociology and Criminal Justice at Suffolk University. He manages staff members that work in those departments, and he facilitates daily operations of the departments. The manager gets in contact with both the students and the faculty, and many other offices within the university, especially those that support functions of the academic section. He leads his team in performing specific tasks within the department. The team handles student tracking, syllabus review, budget tracking, coordination of events, routine department management, advisory support, course scheduling, and evaluation support. The skills that this manager requires include active listening, organization, and strong communication.
The interview was conducted in the office of the manager at Suffolk University, which offered a calm and collective environment. He was very welcoming and friendly; he was very willing to share his views and thoughts while giving clear explanations. He understood the purpose of the interview, and his explanations enabled an easy understanding of his belief system as a leader. The interview was conducted as a Question-and-Answer session, but the interviewee had to first go through all the questions before responding to them one by one. Some of the questions asked of him include the following; he was called upon to describe his work and role as though he talked to someone who is not from the higher education field. He was asked to state his philosophy on leadership and how he developed it; he had to state how he dealt with and resolved a most challenging leadership issue.
The manager was required to state some of the critical leadership issues in his department at the current time and in years to come and explain if leadership can be taught and his appropriate time of basing decisions on evidence and intuition. He was requested to state what he finds most rewarding and most frustrating in his job, the specific tasks he is required to accomplish, his essential skills, hindrances to his success, and describe his most significant leadership experience. He was to state the criteria he uses to choose between making decisions on consultation or individually and finally reveal how his definition of leadership changed as he advanced in his career.
Findings from The Interview
The manager at Suffolk University was friendly, and he responded to as many questions as he could. He shares his philosophy about leadership and states that his philosophy has been continually changing. He no longer regards himself as a leader since he realized that he focuses on a team rather than an individual. His focus is to see that every team member feels comfortable with where the team aims to go. He allows team members to share their thoughts concerning the decisions made in the departments. He claims that all his actions stem from the kind of person he is, and it feels more natural to him. He says that in many instances, he likes to base his decisions on the policies and then inquire from his colleagues about how they responded to similar situations when they arose in their respective departments. If the opinions of his colleagues do not seem right, he makes the case known to the appropriate channels. He claims that his definition of leadership has changed, and he finds it essential to understand that a leader’s priorities should be in the right place. He urges leaders to be mindful of members of their organization as they work towards serving their best interests.
The manager further explains that among the many issues he has experienced in his leadership journey, the most challenging one was when he transitioned from his management role to a supervisor. This seemed most difficult to him since he had to supervise someone older than he was and also one who had been in the occupation for a more extended period at the university. He states that the older person he was to supervise had adequate and valuable knowledge that was beneficial to the team and could be used in executing new processes or deviating from the initial methods that were extremely difficult. The challenging thing for the interviewee was change; therefore, he had to make sure that he seeks the older person’s input to honor and value the experience he had. Another challenge he encountered was that the experienced person was about to retire, and this resulted in resistance against new pieces of training and software since the team thought they did not need them in the long run. These challenges made him end up working with the human resource department to find a plan that worked.
The interviewee also responded to the question about whether leadership can be taught or not. He claims that leadership can certainly be taught since leadership is a skill that can be exercised just like any other skill. He says that even though there are those people who feel more comfortable when they step into higher leadership positions, this does not mean that they cannot be taught about leadership. He, therefore, stresses that leadership should be taught to every leader, especially those occupying new positions so that they gain skills on how to function effectively. He also builds upon the interview by stating that he has had critical timelines constantly stacked on him for his case as a manager. The issues needed his urgent attention and keeps emerging from time to time. He says that as he was taught leadership, he understood that leading in higher positions needs tolerance, and he was trained to handle such pressures. He claims that this skill has enabled him to avoid dwelling on a single task for more extended periods than required; he gained the ability to complete several tasks in a limited time. He emphasizes that leaders should be taught stress management techniques to avert the risk of poor and impulsive decision-making.
Connection Between Leadership Theories and the Interviewee’s Responses
Leadership theories are thoughts and explanations on why specific individuals in a group are outstanding enough to become leaders. They also explain behaviors, traits, and skills that leaders can attain to improve their leadership qualities. Several leadership theories include contingency theory, transformational leadership theory, relationship leadership, situational leadership, and participative leadership theory (Northouse, 2019). From the interview findings, it can be concluded that responses from the interviewee connect with the literature learned in class. The results link to the situational, behavioral, transformational, and skills approaches read in class.
Responses of the interview connect to the situational leadership theory. The situational theory states that leaders arrive at the best course of action depending on situational conditions (Northouse, 2019). In this approach, different leadership styles may be suitable for making different kinds of decisions. From the responses, it is found that he uses various techniques in making decisions. In a situation where the conditions are similar, he connects with his colleagues to receive counsel from them on how they went about the matter; when the counsel of his colleagues does not seem to offer any help, he uses the channels laid down by the organization before making decisions. Sometimes he applies the authoritative style of leadership if he is the only one with the required skills and applies a democratic style in instances where his team members are skilled; he consults the older team member who was more experienced.
Based on the responses received from the interviewee, there is a connection between his type of leadership and the Behavioral theory. Northouse (2019) states that behavioral approaches are founded on the belief that great leaders are made. This leadership approach concentrates on the actions of leaders and not their academic qualities. This theory states that individuals can learn to be leaders through training and observation. From the interview, the manager agrees that leadership can be taught, and he emphasizes the essential leadership qualities that can be gained when leadership is taught. This proves that the interviewee applied the behavioral approach in his administration.
The Transformational theory states that connections have to be formed between leaders and followers. It focuses on leadership as a process in which an individual engages with others to develop a relationship that leads to increased motivation and morality in both the leader and the team members (Northouse, 2019). This theory directly connects to the interviewee’s responses as he states that his focus is on his team. He always gives them a chance to share their thoughts concerning different matters and keep in mind their interests. This helps him build a connection and beneficial relationships with them, which serves as a motivation to the team members.
The skills theory from the readings in class relates to the manager of a department at Suffolk University. The skills theory suggests that learned knowledge and acquired skills are essential factors in making leadership effective. The thesis argues that skills learned from others are the real solutions to leadership performance. The manager stresses the importance of leaders acquiring skills through being taught; he states that tolerance and stress management are among the skills he acquired. It explains how essential those skills have been helpful in his leadership journey as they have helped him conquer difficult leadership situations. He even goes further to acknowledge that even though he is the supervisor, one of his team members is more knowledgeable and keeps seeking support from him; he values his skills and learns from him.
From the interview, important leadership lessons can be learned from the responses of the interviewee. It can be understood that leadership is not about the individual leader but the entire team since it is the coordination of the team that leads to success either in a department or in an organization. Another lesson is that for leadership to be effective, necessary skills need to be acquired either from others, learning materials, mentors, or experience. Acknowledging and valuing the knowledge and skills of team members is an essential tool for success; individuals need to seek support from experienced staff members in areas that they find challenging to handle by themselves. The interviewee arrived at applying these theories in leadership to emulate the leaders he encountered in college during the study.
The interview gave a glimpse into the skills required of a leader in higher education techniques. It portrayed how various leadership theories influence the leadership capacity of a leader. Transformational and transactional leadership theories have been shown in the paper to be very efficient in motivating individuals and teams toward attaining specific objectives. The interview also reveals that leadership is a skill that leaders need to continue building to enhance their leadership capabilities. Learning the various leadership theories will enable leaders to improve their leadership skills.
Northouse, P. G. (2019). Leadership: theory and practice (8th ed.). SAGE Publications.