Following, Leading, and Managing: Roles of Administration

The chair of my department and soon to be Dean of our School of Education, Robson Marinho, reminded me that American higher education has more faculty governance than higher education in most other countries. As an international expert on higher educational administration, he noted how in Latin America there is more clear divide between faculty and administration roles. Here faculty participate more in governance.

Both systems have their weaknesses and strengths. The US system allows more possibility of faculty sharing ownership and control over programming and that breeds more democratic processes and buy-in and shared decisions. It also increases the likelihood of trickle down shared leadership where faculty let students also share in governance decisions.

However, US college governance can be tediously slow at responding to needed change. It can create decoupled systems (to use Karl Weick’s idea), where part of the system works without coordination with the other part, creating inefficiencies and poor timing to new trends. The decisiveness of top down administrators with an eye for coordination is needed.

There are several models for keeping the tensions of top down decisiveness with faculty shared governance together in a workable way. My last university (University of Akron) used unionization which had its pluses and minuses. We at Andrews have recently developed a faculty senate where subcommittees of faculty eventually bring policy changes that are reviewed by this group and the Senate works with the administration to improve coordination and try to overcome the natural indecisiveness of the US system.

Governance or administration is the result of holding together the dynamics of leadership and management to facilitate the work of followers. Tension is inevitable in this process as the follower and leader try to work together while the manager is trying to also challenge the leaders new innovations and interest the followers in, well, following.

Foster tension creates more effective governance….. if trust oils the process. These three–following, leading, or managing–are essential. If you work against followers, a manager or leader can alienate the very people who make things happen. If the leader stops following, they can no longer be considered part of the governance system. Its a great tensions. The organizations that figure it ways to keep the tension an engine of growth and not an engine of abuse and shame typically succeed.

Leadership is a pervasive social influence that works to create innovation, motivation, collaboration, and is the engine for change, and the means by which the organization continues to re-create its work and bring synergy between its operations.

Management has to do with practicing the policies and ethos established in governance processes. It comes up with details and protocols, procedures, operations that create forms and filing systems the promote and establish order and improving the day to day operations.

Following is the dynamic of people responding to both leadership and management. These three can help the organization, but each also comes with liabilities if each wants to be the sole governance engine or single administrative force of a group.

Embracing this three areas as vital manifestations of the Godly ordained administration can help us appreciated more the leadership dynamics at work in each of us.

We know groups when the democratic governance processes got stuck in making policies and keep so busy hearing everyone’s voices they can’t move to a decision. They need to be dislodged by more effective leadership.

I have seen where leadership works to create innovation, but fails to know when to give over the reigns of decision to management. They can create such a strong reform mentality that throw out the good with the bad and fail to foster sustainable processes. Leadership that can only listen to its innovative change mentality will eventually hurt the organization.

Leadership without sustainability practices eventually ends up building a frontier to nowhere or towns that can’t stay inhabited.  We need frontier creators and most frontiers eventually find sustainability, so leadership is powerful, but there are just enough Ghost Towns in the world to remind us that we also need leaders who encourage governance process and attract managers.

See Chost towns

I grew up in the US West where we can still visit Ghost Towns but also we have had some of the fastest growing areas of the last 100 years. So, without leadership we don’t have frontiers created and without management we don’t have them sustained.

And all the while, both need followers. So, respecting these three aspects of administration is crucial.

P.S. This blog was updated April 8, 2015 to add Robson’s new role, place followership as the glue holding management and leadership together in the framework of governance, and to cut wording (yes, I hear your critiques and I am trying to be shorter!).


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