December 11, 2014
Michael Kubit has a terrific article in the latest EDUCAUSE Review on The New Leadership Challenge. Kubit, the Interim COO at Case Western Reserve University, argues that today’s academic information technology leaders need a different set of skills and practices from those traditionally associated with these roles. Rather than being subject domain experts, today’s academic technology leaders need to develop expertise in communication, collaboration, and mentoring. High levels of social and emotional intelligence, as well as the ability to operate in environments of ambiguity and little information, are the hallmarks of a successful academic IT leader.
In reading Michael’s article I found myself constantly nodding my head. He deftly synthesizes the larger leadership and organizational change challenges that we all face on a day-to-day basis. These leadership challenges are placed within the context of the larger trends impacting our postsecondary institutions, including “….escalating costs, decreased funding, rising demand, increased regulations, broader access, and dated practices”.
Whenever I read a great article like The New Leadership Challenge I have 3 reactions:
Reaction 1: I wish that I had written it. (Jealousy).
Reaction 2: I wish that we could get the author to come to my campus to talk to everyone in sight. (Longing).
Reaction 3: I’m thinking that they must be really doing things right on the author’s campus. (Envy).
Any piece of writing that can inspire jealousy, longing, and envy you know has to be good.
My working career assumption has always been that it was a good thing that I went through a traditional graduate program, started my career in a traditional academic track, and only later switched in administrative academic IT. But what if this is wrong?
When I read articles as good as Michael’s I think about how organizational change is an entire academic discipline. The literature that I’m most interested in now is all about higher ed leadership. All those years studying the demographic transition were enjoyable, but would it have been better to have been reading the Harvard Business Review rather than Demography? Knowing what I know now about the course of my academic career, would it have been better to get a terminal degree in higher education leadership as opposed to one in sociology? Are academic leaders who have academic training in organizational leadership and change better positioned to lead organizational change?
I couldn’t help but noticing that Michael Kubit has an MBA with a concentration in Organizational Behavior. Would a traditionally trained academic, even one who has made the tradition to academic IT, have written such a great article?
Whatever your answers to these questions it is very unlikely that many of us that are done with grad school are going to go back and get another degree. Where you stand on the best credential to lead academic IT change probably depends on where you sit. Those of us with traditional discipline-based degrees will believe that we are well situated to lead change because we get faculty culture and can relate to faculty as peers. Those of us with degrees in higher ed leadership or organizational change will thing that we are best positioned to lead change, as we have been studying this issue for years and are well grounded in the theoretical and empirical literature. Which one of us do you think is correct?
Is it possible to really come up to speed on the organizational change and higher ed leadership literature outside of a specialized graduate program? Have any of you embarked on a program of self-study around organizational change? How important is it to have a cohort of fellow learners studying the subject together? How do we overcome not having wise faculty mentors to guide our studies and push us along with questions, challenges, and assignments?
I have the sense that I should be reading the Harvard Business Review as eagerly I read EDUCAUSE Review. Is this correct?
What are the best articles or books that you have been reading about leading academic change?
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