A leader’s approach and ability to channel stakeholders’ talents and energy toward a specific goal in which everyone has a stake that is deeply rooted in the leader’s own values, beliefs, and experiences. These collaborations directly affect both the leader’s collective nature and relationships with all of the stakeholders (Olsen, 2010). Values, beliefs, and experiences are dynamic and interconnected and serve as interpretive filters for experiences (Trackman, 2008). Being able to distinguish between all of the above can be very helpful for critical analysis to redefine, clarify, and solidify stakeholder values.
Research Findings Regarding the Collaborative Nature of Leaders
The cooperative nature of a leader from a western society is negatively affected by our culture of individualism. Yet even individualistic societies value in-group collectivism for the furtherance of cooperative leadership. Leaders who marginally value cooperation with all stakeholders will most likely be indifferent to the participative process and will fail to see the value and benefits of shared responsibility. Conversely, leaders who are willing to sacrifice some of their authority (Olsen, 2010) in the name of collective leadership will engage in a struggle to maintain the vision, focus, and mission of their Higher Education Institution (HEI) (Trackman, 2008).
When leaders develop policies for their HEI’s, they are responsible to everyone with a stake in the institution. However, ensuring the equitable input of all stakeholders in developing a structure for governing is not easy. Leaders must be careful not to create what Trackman calls “a crisis of confidence” (2008, p. 65) within the institution. He writes that “good university governance also does not simply happen. It is usually the product of painstaking effort to arrive at suitable governance structures, protocols, and processes” (p.77). Universities and colleges attempt to recruit students on a continual basis, but bad leadership and other governance problems can make that difficult. Institutional leaders must figure out how to address unproductive or ineffective HEI policies without going too far in the opposite direction, which ultimately, may cause more problems.
Influence of Values, Beliefs, and Experience on Relationships
A leader’s rapport with students, support staff and more importantly, parents, can become an important asset in HEI’s. LaRocque, Kleiman, and Darling (2011) state that many factors affect parental involvement in their child’s education attainment – factors such as income, citizenship, and others can affect parents’ involvement in the school process. LaRocque et al. stated that “teacher attitudes and actions will greatly influence how all parents perceive a school’s interest in their families and their relation to the school” (2011). My own experience has shown me that parents will become involved if they are welcomed to participate by classroom teachers. To accomplish this, I would call parents once a month. If I need support with a classroom project, parents were very willing to assist me. These interactions were mutually beneficial. Leadership in HEI’s will be much more likely to value parental involvement in future engagements.
Parents play a key role in student success (LaRocque et al., 2011) and are one of “the missing links” in positive educational outcomes. Most educational leaders are not adequately competent in the area of parental involvement. Many scholars struggle to understand the role that parent’s play in a student’s educational success. However, when leaders attempt to break down barriers such as language, cultural, emotional and physical barriers, (LaRocque et al., 2011) parental involvement is extremely valuable and important.
Likewise, shared governance with students should also be considered. In the 1960s and 70s, students were very effective at exerting their influence in decisions made on colleges campuses across America. However, in more recent years that has declined dramatically (Miles, Miller, & Nadler, 2008). Philip Carey (2013) suggests that students need a dynamic government process. Furthermore, he writes that “restrictive policies and procedures associated with managerialism should be resisted” (p. 1303). There are many ways for students to further contribute to policy-making decisions within their HEIs. Each HEI is going to be unique and one model of student governance is not going to adequately fit all HEI’s.
It is critical to have students actively involved in shared governance, as they are the ones who are helping finance the institution. As the recipients of the educational experience, students can contribute and have a voice in how their funds are used for educational purposes. When students are involved they become shareholders themselves that “buy into” the governance happening at their school. Student leadership projects are perfect opportunities to include students in the process. Productive and lasting relationships can be formed collaborating in shared areas of concern toward achieving the HEI’s mission.
Proposed Method for Effective Shared Leadership
The HEI’s vision must embody values and beliefs that are esteemed by all stakeholders. Outside stakeholders are essential to the survival of any organization. Whether they are gatekeepers or stakeholders in the decision-making process, they maintain standards or bring in fresh ideas. Support staff, students, and parents want to create relationships with their institutions’ governance gatekeepers, yet are also doubtful (2013). Carey writes that “respondents acknowledged the occasionally negative impact of gatekeepers on the system, but the data offers little insight into the motivations for their actions” (p. 1300). One way to create this trust is to develop brand communities. Brand communities “can be vibrant entities where consumers can be actively engaged in collaborative practices with one another and with supportive institutions in ways that can build brand equity” (McAlexander & Koenig, 2012, p. 123).
State colleges and universities are receiving less money (Chakrabarti, Mabutas, & Zafar, 2012). To balance this decrease, tuition at HEI’s continue to increase (Doyle, 2013). Accreditation agencies are important external stakeholders, helping determine whether certain colleges and universities are providing quality education to their students. These agencies evaluate if colleges, universities, and academic programs have achieved an acceptable level of quality for academic viability. Accreditation approval is important for an HEI because potential students can then evaluate if their academic efforts will prepare them for a career in their chosen field.
Communication is one of the best ways to break down barriers is to involve and engage parents, student, and staff. Critically reflecting on how well an HEI is accomplishing its mission provides an opportunity for participation of all stakeholders (Miles et al., 2008). One way to help identify collaborative opportunities is through groups that survey the goals of the HEI. Once data for the survey groups have been tallied, leaders can classify and prioritize the issues, then they should create leadership forums and deliberate solutions to the challenges that exist. The purpose is to be able to build trust and openness within the forum. The answers to institutional challenges are discoverable in the stakeholder’s collective wisdom, knowledge, and experiences (Miles et al., 2008). Colleagues in other HEIs may also be a gold mine of creative solutions. Networking with leaders from neighboring HEIs may shed light on positive or negative outcomes of implementing procedures or programs under consideration.
In talking about how critical accountability is in HEIs, Gary Olson (2010) wrote that “our increased commitment to accountability has led to more deliberate, defensible, and professional decision-making. Specifically, it has highlighted the necessity of making data-driven rather than seat-of-the-pants decisions, much less ideologically driven ones” (Olsen, 2010). HEIs have legal responsibilities to all stakeholders of the institution. That’s why administrators, faculty, support staff, and students all benefit by working together as a team toward a shared vision with a collaborative leader.
Carey, P. (2013). Student engagement: Stakeholder perspectives on course representation in university governance. Studies In Higher Education, 38(9), 1290-1304. doi:10.1080/03075079.2011.621022
Chakrabarti, R., Mabutas, M., & Zafar, B. (2012). Soaring tuitions: Are public funding cuts to blame? New York, NY. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
Doyle, W. R. (2013). Playing the numbers: State funding for higher education: Situation normal? Change, 45(6), 58-61. doi:10.1080/00091383.2013.842112
LaRocque, M., Kleiman, I., & Darling, S. M. (2011). Parental involvement: The missing link in school achievement. Preventing School Failure, 55(3), 115-122. doi:10.1080/10459880903472876
McAlexander, J. H., & F. Koenig, H. (2012). Building communities of philanthropy in higher education: contextual influences. International Journal Of Nonprofit & Voluntary Sector Marketing, 17(2), 122-131. doi:10.1002/nvsm.1415
Miles, J. M., Miller, M. T., & Nadler, D. P. (2008). Student governance: Toward effectiveness and the ideal. College Student Journal, 42(4), 1061-1069.
Olsen, G., (2010). Holding ourselves accountable. The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved from http://chronicle.com/article/Holding-Ourselves-Accountable/64325/.
Trakman, L. (2008). Modeling university governance. Higher Education Quarterly, 62(1-2), 63–83.