Hello Roosevelt’s TRDV/HPI(T) students and alums.
Today, I write to you about Leadership, a topic that is rather messy and often misunderstood. Specifically, I am writing this blog post from a leadership education in higher education perspective. Leadership education is a field that is expanding and gaining in influence across higher education (inside the US and beyond). In fact, leadership education is becoming so popular that there are now entire leadership centers, leadership minors, graduate degrees, and leadership education journals. The field has also experienced growth within higher education national conferences (AERA and ASHE) and has carved space in prominent human resources and business oriented associations, such as the International Leadership Association and journals like the Journal of Leadership and Organizational Studies. In short, leadership education in higher education is expected to continue to expand.
Now, you may be asking yourself, “How is this important to me in my TRDV or HPI positions?” I propose that TRDV and HPI professionals are the individuals who should most clearly understand the general frameworks, concepts and skills that dominate leadership education, because we are generally the professionals who introduce new college graduates to our respective organizations, coach team leaders, work on projects aimed at retaining quality human capital and assist in identifying high performing individuals. Additionally, by introducing the TRDV/HPI concepts to leadership education scholars and practitioners can bridge gaps and come to understand how these concepts transfer into post-college professional experiences. Plainly speaking, I believe there is opportunity there for you to develop a niche skill-set in higher education leadership.
The Myth of the Born Leader
Recently, Astin & Astin indicated that in order to evolve with contemporary challenges, higher education must move people from beliefs that leaders are born great people who have authority and title via position toward a belief system where leadership is a values-based, relationship focused and centered on change; not defined only through position (be it birth or title). The leadership paradigms were developed by Rost where hierarchically, title based leadership is identified as industrial, and the relationship based paradigm as post-industrial. In response, contemporary leadership education programs in higher education overwhelmingly operate within post-industrial frameworks.
Within the post-industrial model, leaders are expected to adapt to group needs, encourage contribution through team processes, and develop environments of shared responsibility. Essentially, post-industrial leadership conceptualizations are designed to break down myths that only special people lead and that the agenda set forth by “leaders” is the only agenda that matters. In order to transition students from preconceived and socio-culturally reinforced industrial leadership beliefs toward internalization of post-industrial beliefs, leadership educators must help students acquire soft-skills associated to team-based processes, these skills include but are not limited to: (1) critical thinking and problem solving, (2) development of interpersonal communication, and (3) the ability to influence others to work toward a common goal. Many of these skills are highly desired by employers in their new college hires.
Even though the post-industrial paradigm is dominant in higher education leadership education programs, outcomes of leadership education are mixed. Moving students to a post-industrial leadership belief system is difficult due to pre-existing industrial beliefs, socio-cultural reinforcement of industrial leadership and the self-belief many students hold that they are born to lead. This struggle had led leadership educators to question methods and has been influential in developing the Leadership Identity Development Model [LID]. LID gives leadership educators a framework to gauge how students may move from industrial leadership identities to a predominantly post-industrial leadership identity. Within LID there is one rather important process that leadership educators are placing increasing focus on, The Key Transition. Within this potential purgatory, students are adopting post-industrial conceptualizations as they also hold industrial beliefs, thus resulting in internal struggles and contradictions as students “play” with new leadership identities.
The Key Transition is important for TRDV/HPI professionals to understand because without proper mentorship, support and experience, students may never emerge from this process and by the time they seek employment, they may still be “playing” with their identities. I believe that many students are often stuck within this transition as they are hired for their first professional positions and that the contradictions students hold regarding leadership beliefs could explain why Millennials seek other professional opportunities so quickly after gaining employment. Employees may now believe they should be part of a flatter structure, allowing for their immediate inclusion of their ideas and access to employees with organizational power; however, these students may also believe they are unique leaders who should control agendas and assume the benefits of hierarchically based power, which sometimes leads to unethical behavior. As new employees may be stuck within this zone, TRDV/HPI professionals have the potential to develop processes to ensure new employees appropriately navigate their internal dissonance and internalize post-industrial leadership concepts.
Mentoring and Self-reflection
Arguably, the way to emerge from The Key Transition is through mentoring processes that encourage self-reflection. Organizations must develop mentorship programs that explicitly cultivate the beliefs and skills associated with the post-industrial model. Integrated within mentorship programs should be opportunities that encourage new employees to: (1) critically examine what effective leadership entails, (2) reflect on how new employees should act in their current and aspired future roles when making complex leadership decisions, and (3) critically examine recent self-action. Through this type of mentoring, I believe that new employees could more easily emerge from the transition, resulting in the type of employee organizations claim to want.
As I wrap up, I encourage you to click on some of the hyperlinks provided. Please, explore what is happening on campuses from a leadership education perspective and take a deeper look at the models provided. After you have more deeply explored, I would encourage you to again ask yourself, “How is this important to me in my TRDV or HPI positions?”
Finally, I believe that while leadership education in higher education develops the beliefs and skills claimed to be desirable, I also believe that leadership educators are unsure whether these beliefs and skills actually help or hinder organizations from the TRDV/ HPI perspectives. As someone who straddles both worlds, this is a notion that I consistently consider. However, there is not much published research on whether leadership education in higher education develops quality organizational talent and if it does, where this occurs in the career phase. Since leadership education within higher education is not expected to retract, this is a question that may affect your future ability to hire and promote the right talent. With that, I would encourage you to participate and seek answers to these questions.
If you would like to further converse, please contact me. I wish you all an excellent 2015 and great luck recruiting, training and retaining your new employees.
Daniel A. Collier, MAHPI
PhD Student, Education Organization and Leadership
The University of Illinois – Urbana Champaign