Academic leadership can be defined as a pool of duties and functions performed by individuals employed in formal positions of responsibility within institutions of higher learning (Fisher & Koch, 1996; Hecht, Higgerson, Gimelch & Tucker, 1999). Ramsden (1998) describes academic leadership as the talents and characteristics of a person who are accepted by others as academic leaders. In contrast, Trowler (1998) and Taylor (1999) classify all academic staff as academic leaders, because they are seen as experts in their various disciplines.
This study opted to expand on the definition offered by Hecht, Higgerson, Gimelch & Tucker (1999). Ramsden (1998) has developed a model that defines the characteristics that influence effective academic leadership. According to Ramsden (1998), effective academic leadership in higher education is a function of several factors or characteristics. These include: leadership in teaching, leadership in research; strategic vision and networking; collaborative and motivational leadership; fair and efficient management; development and recognition of performance; and interpersonal skills Ramsden (1998) elaborates that teaching leadership refers, for example, to bringing new ideas about teaching to the department or creating excitement about teaching. Research leadership can be evidenced, for example, by inspiring respect as a researcher, or leading by example.
Strategic vision and networking are demonstrated through furthering the interests of the department across the institution of higher learning. Collaborative and motivational leadership is demonstrated among other things by honesty, integrity and openness. Fair and efficient management is evidenced by delegation, highly organised working of the department and getting things done with little resistance. Developing and recognition of performance include aspects such as praising and sustaining success of the departmental staff and giving good feedback to improve. Interpersonal skills refer to communicating well and having concern for others.
To recruit leaders for institutions of higher learning is a challenging task because leaders at institutions of higher learning are not recruited for their leadership qualities, but rather on their research, course development and/or teaching abilities (Hill, 2005). Gayle, Bhoendradatt and White (2003) defined university governance as the structure and the process of authoritative decision-making across issues that are significant for the various stakeholders within a university. Stakeholders are the institutions’ employees and students as well as other entities that have a vested interest in these institutions. Abdullah, (2012) refers to corporate governance in institutions of higher learning as the way institutions are managed and structured and the liaison between the stakeholders.
Abdullah, (2012) argue that the following components will ensure institutions are well organised and planned to ensure beneficial relationships and outputs amongst and for all stakeholders. Responsibility and transparency mean that all affairs are conducted in a responsible and transparent manner and consider the requirements that relevant codes and practices may place on them. Committees should be established to ensure that student affairs are dealt with professionally and with integrity. Efficiency, effectiveness and economics control must be done through effective internal control and vigorous risk management, to the benefit of the institution and the stakeholders at large. Professionalism and integrity must be observed by all staff members to ensure excellent quality graduates from the institution to the benefit of the society and the country at large.
According to Miller and Schiffman (2006) any change or transformation in higher learning institutions requires leadership. Organisational transformation cannot be accomplished by one person working in a vacuum. If we want institutions of higher learning to meet international best practices all the stakeholders input are of utmost importance. A series of reviews over the period 1997 to 2003 from Lambert (2003) have addressed the question whether the structure and process of ‘governance’ in higher education is fit for modern times. This is a valuable question as functional environments change and pressures on institutional resources have increased drastically over the years. This increased pressure on resources can also be attributed to the increase in student enrolment.
Calderon (2012) asserts that student enrolment at institutions of higher learning globally was 99,4 million in 2000 and is expected to increase to 414.2 million students by 2030. This is of particular importance for public institutions of higher learning that are dependent on government funding. Over the years government responsibilities have increased while their resources have depleted. Governments continuously cut on budgets in order to address sometimes unexpected demands from society. These cuts in resources by governments place a huge responsibility on the day to day management of public institutions of higher learning to ensure that resources are efficiently allocated.
The generally poor leadership and management of public institutions of higher learning have led to disappointing performances (Yizengaw 2003). Yielder and Codling (2004) recommend a model of leadership within tertiary institutions based on research into expertise and institutional distinctiveness. It builds on two particular styles of institutional development. Firstly, in the traditional university (higher learning) sector, promotion to senior management positions has tended to be based on academic expertise mainly focused on research competence. The result is that senior academic leaders who may not be well matched to perform line or functioning management.
By contrast, in the traditional polytechnic (vocational education and training) sector, promotion to leadership positions has tended to be based more on apparent executive qualities, and the resulting leaders may be more inclined to be good managers without displaying explicit academic leadership (Yielder ; Codling, 2004). If public institutions are less dependent on funding from government, then Vice-Chancellors should be appointed more on management, leadership and business principles and experiences. The Vice-Chancellor is responsible only for the overseeing of daily operations and has the Pro/Deputy Vice-Chancellor to assist with the necessary expertise to oversee the academic, administration and finance, and research and innovation activities. As with continuous changes in the environment of any organisation, and at institutions of higher learning in particular, constant changes in rules, regulations and acts should be made. These changes mean that the inputs of all the stakeholders are of critical importance.
Lozano (2006) mentioned the various organisational barriers to implementing development principles, which include internal power struggles and the radical nature of sustainable development, relative to traditional management approaches. Rytmeister (2007) argues that it is important to examine how members of the governing bodies of public institutions of higher learning understand and perform their roles in the politically multifaceted context of modern-day higher learning. The presence of competing interests, societal expectations and government intervention, which currently beset public institutions of higher learning, place a huge responsibility on leadership at public institutions of higher learning (Rytmeister, 2007).
Hanna (2003) suggested 11 strategic challenges to build a leadership vision in higher learning institutions. These strategic challenges are: removing boundaries, establishing interdisciplinary programmes, supporting entrepreneurial efforts and technology, redesigning and personalising student support services, emphasising connected and lifelong learning, and investing in technological competent faculty members. The last five strategic challenges are building strategic alliances with others, incorporating learning technologies into strategic thinking, measuring programme quality, achieving institutional advantage and the last is to transform bureaucracy, culture and assumptions.
All organisations, including profitable/non-profit and service/traders worldwide need to transform to adapt to the changing and increasing demand from their various stakeholders. If organisations remain with the status quo, the continuous existence of the organisation may be at stake or their reputation or profitability may be diminished significantly. Another challenge that organisations face today, and institutions of higher learning in particular, is the cross cultural interactions caused by globalisation. Klenke (2007) states that this becomes important in relationship practices to deal effectively with the intense growth of intercultural organisations.
Muller (2014) suggests that public institutions of higher learning sector and the government must take two key decisions. The first has to do with what diversity in the system will best produce the optimal results for national innovation. The second is whether it wants one or two world-class universities. Is this still an option for all countries? Najam (2014) argues that since institutions of higher learning globally are faced with limited funding it is then of utmost importance that those governments should ask themselves if their countries really need more than one world class higher education institution. To gain world class institutions status needs funding and to have a sustainable world class institution status requires additional resources.
With regard to organisational transformational leadership and groups Downton, (1973) emphasises the importance of the relationship between leaders and followers in leading effective teamwork-based performance. Bass and Riggio (2006) stress that the popularity of transformational leadership might be due to its emphasis on aspects of inherent member motivation, team member development, and emotional caring in the workplace. Specifically, the behaviour of transformational leaders include articulating a vision, providing an appropriate business model, encouraging the acceptance of team’s goals, holding an expectation of high performance, and providing individualised support and intellectual stimulation. The key element of the transformational leader could be defined as collaboration with followers that is accomplished by raising the level of motivation and morality in the workplace (Burns (1978); Howell and Avolio (1993); Vinzant and Crothers (1998); Bass and Riggio (2006); Northhouse (2016) classic work on transformational leadership presents a compelling and important moral interpretation of leadership. Unlike transactional leadership, transformational leadership requires the leader to understand and support the needs of team members, seeking higher level needs and engaging team members in totality.
This study looks at leadership from the perspective of the executive, middle and lower management of the academia and the councils of public institutions of higher learning in Namibia and how a particular leadership style or combination of styles can drive a successful organisational transformation process. It is evident from the literature review that the transformation leadership style is the most appropriate style for a successful organisational transformation process. According to the challenges outlined in the problem statement in the previous chapter, the difficulties experienced by institutions of higher learning globally and the literature reviewed in this chapter show a lack of an appropriate leadership style at public institutions of higher learning in Namibia. The definition offered for academic leadership for this study will be vested in all those people appointed to offer or oversee teaching and research at institutions of higher learning. These appointments can be in executive, middle and lower management of the academia in the numerous academic departments.