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(Bass, 2008, p. 874) They may seek these individuals from within, or choose a secondary leader to hold the position, temporarily until a new leader can be chosen. The interim leadership period is frequently a challenging time for the university as many feel that such a situation leave the university in a limbo position with regard to changes, proposed from within and without and challenges to interim leadership may even be greater than they are once a new permanent leader is chosen. Interim directors and presidents are often seen as not worth collaborating with as they will not be in the position long enough to implement real long lasting and transformational change projects.
Behind every presidential transition, of course, is a story that almost never gets told but that is very germane to this account. The untold story is the period of waiting at the University of Michigan for an announce- ment of a new president. Some new presidents, as you all know, like to import new senior staff and administrators, and some prefer to maintain as much continuity as possible. Often, the departure of a previous presi- dent automatically creates a number of senior-level vacancies, as current vice-presidents take this opportunity to explore other options. At the University of Michigan, there was a (Brown, 2006, p. 72)
If these individuals are then later chosen to become permanent senior leaders they then face significant challenges as they try to transition their colleagues into the mindset of their potential as good partners for change action. Many are left wondering why the position was initially titled interim if the university intended to retain them and the individuals wonder if the university was simply unable to find a better candidate, and simply settled for the interim president or other senior leader or if the university has questions as to the ability of the interim position holder to lead in the first place. The appointment of interim senior leaders, unique to public institutions can be a source of total concern as the need for the university to continue to run is essential and at the same time the need for senior leadership to have the power and prestige to get the job done is concurrently present. It is for this reason that interim positions should be avoided and senior exiting officials should be retained, whenever possible while the university seeks out a new leader, with a skilled and prestigious search committee.
Many political and social strife situations can come from these two possible scenarios that are not seen as frequently in other organizations, excluding some other public institutions. Additionally, when an interim position is created it is not uncommon, for the previous leadership resignation to have occurred in an unexpected way, such as when serious problems are already present and the senior leader resigning has been somehow linked to the problems. Worst case scenarios for any one of these previous situations can culminate into faculty strikes and work stoppages, which in turn affect the lives of every student enrolled at the university.
Consumers in a university are highly invested in the functioning of the university as their timelines for completion of the various requisites for their degrees' are usually highly time dependant. In other words when classes stop and credits are not earned it may mean that the student will have no opportunity to continue at the present rate and complete their degree on time, according to their original schedule, which then costs more time, money and sacrifice. Even if individual student have a high degree of loyalty to faculty and even understand the reasoning behind strike decisions they are still often gravely affected, much more so than when strikes occur at a lower level in education, as concessions are not made for higher level students where they are for those in lower grades. In a study conducted regarding the effect of the student body during and post a strike at a Canadian university Albas & Albas discuss the results of the strike on the student body;
…for the student body, the strike was initially "carnival time." After a week or so the mood changed, however, and in the final days of the strike it was characterized by considerable anxiety and frustration. He added, "I also think that at this later period there was considerably less sympathy for the professors." (Albas & Albas, 2000, p. 461)
Initially the students saw the experience as a temporary and possibly exciting break in the drudgery of classes and yet as time when on they were much more likely to fear the outcome, to themselves and have less and less sympathy for striking faculty. Interim senior leadership has limited abilities to resolve such conflicts and the university itself is at a disadvantage for choosing new senior leadership when its faculty, often a part of the hiring process are on strike and are not focusing on loyalty to their employer but are instead focused on the negative aspects of the associated reasons they are striking. Such extreme circumstances are the direst of outcomes for senior leaderships' failure to realign the environment with their strategic vision. This sort of worst case scenario could also result from a situation where a leader practices top-down or hierarchical leadership strategies among a population of individuals who are highly insightful, educated and knowledgeable about the way in which the system works or does not work and how it can or cannot be changed. The population of both faculty and students are clearly members of a knowledge driven group who have likely thought through many of the possible changes that would make the university a better place, in nearly every area of change. Therefore a senior leader in a university must create transparency and collaboration opportunities that are both supported and develop real change process possibilities. (Ahn, Adamson & Dornbusch, 2004)
Given the nature of the comprehensive university environment, the duality of its population, the knowledge that they hold and the need for its recognition, many challenges are present, especially when there is an acknowledged need for change. The acknowledged need for change can be as a result of historical failures, or as is often seen in today's universities a need to realign standards with economic as well as fundamental accountability. The quality of the search committee and the perceptual way in which they choose a successor for senior leaders is significant and fundamental.
The particular representation of organizational members on the search committee for the successor enhances the status of their various constituencies in the organization. The quality of the committee's search process adds legitimacy to the chosen successor's leadership. (Bass, 2008, p. 885)
Once such leadership has been chosen the qualities they bring to the table including maturity as leaders, previous substantial experience revolutionizing a similar environment and of course his or her ability to balance short- and long-term change, as well as large and small change processes using the resources they have (including colleague knowledge) make a positive senior leadership change possible in a comprehensive university environment or any environment. Above all perception is the key as leaders are required to help foster and create shared vision and represent themselves as collaborators rather than hierarchical decision makers. The challenges to universities to transfer power in a fluid manner under the circumstances of global change in the manner in which universities are seen as accountable in many new ways are many and getting more complicated yearly.
…the increasing complexity of the transitional process as well as the pressures that must be dealt with and skills needed to navigate the often unknown and treacherous waters of the modern-day college presidency, not the least being the transition into, as well out of, the office…Because while presidents, ultimately, come and go, how they come and go has a profound effect on the institution and largely determines the difference between extended periods of failure and success" (p. 20). (Vaughan, 2006, p. 539)
The development of transformation al leadership under any definition is an essential change that needs to take place across universities, as they have been charged with fundamental accountability for their own services as well as for the ability of their consumers (students) to be successful in a transformational environment and economy.
Ahn, M.J. Adamson, J.S.A. & Dornbusch, D. (Spring 2004) From Leaders to Leadership: Managing Change. Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies. 10 (4) p. 112.
Albas, D., & Albas, C. (2000). Tertius Dolens: The Student Experience of the University of Manitoba Faculty Association Strike [*]. The Canadian Review of Sociology and Anthropology, 37(4), 461. Retrieved August 31, 2009, from Questia database: http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=5001193248
Alexander, F.K. (2000). The Changing Face of Accountability. Journal of Higher Education, 71(4), 411. Retrieved August 31, 2009, from Questia database: http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=5001062123
Bass, B.M (2008) the Bass Handbook of Leadership.…[continue]
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