Attributes of the Ideal Leader Thesis

Excerpt from Thesis :

). Concomitantly, many higher educational institutions may lack the resources needed because of the aforementioned dwindling state budgets and overall shaky national economy, as well as skyrocketing costs of administration.

Not surprisingly, these trends have combined to make the accountability of educational leaders a timely issue, but one that remains under-studied. In this regard, these authors cite internal and external political pressures that are calling for such accountability concerning educational leadership's effectiveness as well as organizational-institutional efficacy (Armstrong et al.). Based on their review, Armstrong and his colleague conclude that the most critical issue facing departmental chairs is the disintegration of trust in leadership in higher education. Rebuilding and fostering trust is an essential component of effective leadership, and it appears that the 360-degree feedback model can provide educators at all levels with a framework in which to overcome such obstacles in this important area (Armstrong et al.).

According to Amey (2005), just as the area measuring the effectiveness of leaders in higher education remains relatively understudied, there is also a dearth of timely information concerning what attributes can be said to characterize an ideal leaders in higher education. As Amey emphasizes, "College presidents are perhaps the most studied groups of academic administrators, and yet, not enough is known about this key leadership role" (p. 604). This author reviews a recent publication (the Entrepreneurial College President by James L. Fisher and James V. Koch. Westport, CT: ACE/Praeger Publishers, 2004) that addresses this gap in the literature, which provides a comprehensive analysis of 713 current college presidents that are distinguished as either "entrepreneurial" or "representative" educational leaders.

While this type of analysis represents an important contribution to the study of the attributes of effective leaders in higher education, Amey maintains that entrepreneurial and effective are not quite synonymous, and suggests that what is viewed desirable attributes in one setting do not necessarily translate wholesale to others because of fundamental differences in values, culture and missions that distinguish one college or university from another. In her conclusion, Amey points out that more research in this area is needed before any meaningful insights can be gained from such studies, particularly in view of the qualitative nature of the enterprise.

In reality, though, measuring the effectiveness of leaders in higher educational settings is complicated by a number of factors, not the least of which is the different graduation rates that characterize different types of students. For instance, Krahenbuhl (2004) emphasizes that, "While working students may be classified as full-time, schedule conflicts often prohibit them from taking the coursework sequences that lead to graduation in four or even five years. Some colleges and universities have more commuting students, while others have more nontraditional students. Foreign students often accumulate massive numbers of hours before graduation so as to preserve their student visa status" (p. 131). By contrast, colleges and universities that enroll a larger percentage of freshmen students who enter college straight out of high school and scholarship-supported scholars may enjoy truly stellar performance levels, but these rates are not necessarily reflective of the quality of the leadership that is in place in these institutions, but rather is an indication of the types and quality of the students that are involved.


The research showed that effective leadership in higher educational institutions is difficult to quantify for a variety of reasons, and largely depends on who is asking and who is being asked. A board of regents, for example, may well consider an educational leader as being "ideal" if that person is able to keep faculty turnover manageable, raise large amount of funds for the school and maintain the status quo. By contrast, the student body of a college or university might well consider an ideal leader as one who is charismatic and provides them with the tools, resources and services they need to succeed academically. Likewise, faculty members at colleges and universities may view an educational leader as "ideal" to the extent that their jobs are secure and they receive regular wage and benefit increases, as well as the opportunity to participate in research initiatives to their liking. Yet others such as nontraditional students might consider an educational leader as "ideal" if that individual is able to provide them with the types of curricular offerings they feel best fits their needs when and where they need it. In this regard, an "ideal leader" in higher education must be viewed as context based. In the final analysis, then, there is no one-size-fits-all mold that an educational leader can aspire to in order to become an ideal leader, but there are some guidelines available to help them be as effective as possible under a wide range of circumstances and settings.


Aguirre, a., Jr. & Martinez, R. (2002). Leadership practices and diversity in higher education: Transitional and transformational frameworks. Journal of Leadership Studies, 8(3), 53- 54.

Amey, M.J. (2005). The entrepreneurial college president. Journal of Higher Education, 76(5), 604-605.

Armstrong, T., Blake, S.Y. & Piotrowski, C. (2000). The application of a 360-degree feedback managerial development program in higher education: The Florida model. Education, 120(4), 691.

Kezar, a. (2007). The research university presidency in the late 20th century: A life cycle/case history approach. Journal of Higher Education, 78(1), 119.

Krahenbuhl, G.S. (2004). Building the academic deanship: Strategies for success. Westport,…

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