Friday, December 3, 2010

Start Leading and Stop Profiling

Guest Blogger: Bob Millette

The challenges for Historically Black Colleges and Universities are varied and complex, and they require the energies, management and leadership skills of the entire university. Administrators should seek to harness the creative energies, academic skills, community and political support of friends and foes alike (Millette 2002, p. 107). Michael Fullan (2001) said that the more complex society becomes, the more sophisticated leadership must become. "Failing to act when the environment around you is radically changing leads to extinction... schools are beginning to discover that new ideas, knowledge creation and sharing are essential to solving learning problems in rapidly changing societies… Thus, leaders in business and education face similar challenges- how to cultivate and sustain learning under conditions of complex, rapid change... Leadership required in a culture of change, however, is not straightforward ...Leaders must be able to operate under complex, uncertain circumstances..." (Fullan 2001, pp. IX-XIII).

In times of economic, political, student, or social unrest, we need leaders who are capable of challenging and mobilizing the university community to "face the problems, and develop practical and visionary approaches to solve them..." (Interview with a Dean of Business at Clark Atlanta University, 2002).

Effective leaders, according to Fullan (2001), "make people feel that even the most difficult problems can be tackled productively. They are always hopeful--conveying a sense of optimism and an attitude of never giving up in the pursuit of highly valued goals. Their enthusiasm and confidence (not certainty) are, in a word, infections, and they are infectiously effective... in their day-to-day behavior... Leaders will increase their effectiveness...if they pursue moral purpose, understand the change process, develop relationships, foster knowledge building, and strive for coherence-with energy, enthusiasm and hopefulness…” (pp. 7-11). Our research found several college and university presidents, vice presidents, and deans who were "leaders without followers" (Interview 2003). As a result, there is a lack of administrative and programmatic continuity at several Historically Black Colleges and Universities. A former vice president for academic affairs and a history professor for nearly 40 years said that the failure of some administrators to seek to reach "common ground" with the faculty and students has resulted in the death of excellent administrative initiatives, academic programs and centers of excellence.

The Need for Visionary Leadership at LU

Some college and university presidents lead by attempting to manage and control the faculty by manipulation, force, direct and indirect threats, the withholding of certain academic incentives, and administrative and bureaucratic means. The "Gamesman Administrator" (Millette 2002) is interested in winning at any cost. He/she governs by "fiat" and "favors" and not by established principles of the academy. The Gamesman Administrator is usually not committed to deeply held beliefs, principles, patterns of behavior, management and administrative guidelines. This type of administrator is always on the lookout for individuals (faculty, students, staff or other administrators) who would assist him/her in managing and manipulating the actions, thoughts and behavior of social actors (pp. 103-104). In addition, the Gamesman becomes so carried away with the game that he/she acts like a jungle fighter. "In some cases, the game becomes reality for the Gamesman. In such cases, the mission, vision and goals of the institution take a back seat to the administrator's personal desire to win" (Millette 2002, p. 104).

Responding to Middle States: Some Recommendations

The Middle States Commission on Higher Education report (November 18, 2010) could be seen as a “wake up call” for Lincoln University. In my view, the report “forces” the institution to pay more attention to assessment of student learning, data analysis and sustainable development. In this regard, the university might want to consider the following:

How to harness the creative energies, leadership and expertise of the faculty. We need to consider having a faculty retreat to discuss how best to position Lincoln to meet the challenges of a changing world.

How to involve the campus community in the decision making process. Shared governance could be used as a mechanism to harness the energies and expertise of the campus community. Imagined or real, some of us feel that our expertise in areas such as fundraising admission, planning and development are not being fully utilized.

How to create a vibrant and academically stimulating campus community. We have to change the widely held image that “Lincoln University is a party school”

Deep and sustained reforms require commitment and involvement from everyone. Leadership knows no racial or religious bounds, no ethnic or cultural borders. We find exemplary leadership everywhere we look. Successful leaders seek to accomplish the following:
  • Model the way
  • Inspire a shared vision
  • Challenge the process
  • Enable others to act
  • Encourage the heart

In modeling the way, leaders must be guided by a moral, philosophical and ethical compass. We agree with Kouzes and Posner (2003) that it is your behavior and not your title that will win you respect. "Exemplary leaders know that if you want to gain commitment and achieve the highest standards, they must be models of the behavior they expect of others... Leaders must be clear about their guiding principles...Leaders are supposed to stand up for their beliefs... have some beliefs to stand up for...Exemplary leaders go first. They go first by setting the example through daily actions that demonstrate that they are deeply committed to their beliefs..." (pp. 4-5).


  1. Your comments are timely and encouraging. We can become a flagship institution once more. Now, more than ever, the future is in our hands. Shared governance, however, speaks to shared leadership and production. We have some of the vehicles but we must make sure that those vehicles are fine tuned, oiled, and working. The collective faculty and its standing committees are vehicles of our academic success. However, Dr. Millette does remind us, and rightly so, that where ever we end up we will have been led there by our leaders.

  2. I hope Dr. Millette is right in his belief that "the Middle States Commission on Higher Education report forces the institution to pay more attention to assessment of student learning, data analysis and sustainable development." Middle States' report has not done that in the past and I am afraid it will not have that effect in future unless we, both faculty and administration, stop doing what we have been doing in the past. Nothing but a revolution will save us!