When the history of mankind is carefully considered, there are some aspects that come to mind. One of these is that man is a social creature and has always endeared to be in a kind of community. This necessitated the need for leadership practices so that the people can have a sense of guidance or responsibility. Just like many other aspects of the human life, leadership has been greatly affected by the technological advances. More so, the academic leadership has been greatly affected by the online programs. However, there are some online leadership programs which seem to have withstood the storm of change. This essay looks at these with the aim of indicating that it is still possible too have successful online leadership programs. The discussion is as indicated below.
Social Context and Shaping of Leadership
Since time immemorial, it cannot be denied that leadership has been one of the main pillars in man’s society. All the organized activities that man ever engaged in were mainly successful due to strong leadership. It is no wonder that individuals who demonstrated enviable leadership skills are still remembered to date, and they are celebrated all over the world for their achievements.
Campbell et al (2003) had a closer look at these issues. They came up with the conclusion that there are some social contexts which had a great impact on the aspect of leadership. For instance, it was, for along time, assumed that men were the most suitable people for leadership positions. This was mainly the issue leading to stereotyping that women have no ability to lead. It also led to the development of wrong ideals such as the patriarchal societies. Well, this is quite something to consider.
The personal attributes are also quite a factor to consider when it comes to leadership. As Campbell et al (2003) have it; there is the issue of extroversion and introversion. Well, it is mostly argues that a leader has to be a man of the people. That is, he can easily associate with people, mingle with them and know exactly what is happening in their lives. With this in mind, it was assumed that leadership is best left for the extroverts; since they can easily get along with people.
Under the online leadership development programs, this notion has come under serious scrutiny. There is no way that the people in the programs can be evaluated for their abilities in terms of social skills or the like. However, the programs still manage to churn people who can be good in the leadership context. This is an indication that there is an aspect of academic leadership that still needs to be mastered. These individuals might not have sat in a class setting together nor been drilled for proper leadership skills, yet they manage to be well set to take up the leadership positions. Well, this is a major point of interest. There is the need to know what the online programs do differently as compared to the rest of the leadership training programs. Perhaps an integration of these into the general learning system could also be a good addition to the leadership training programs already in existence. After all, everything has to be changed as the times and seasons dictate.
Critical Needs for Leadership in American Higher Education
At times, there exists the debate as to whether successful leaders are born or made. Well, regardless of the direction the argument goes, it has to be noted that even for those born with leadership abilities; they still need leadership skills training so as to be more effective as leaders. This is the reason as to why training on leadership is important.
The issue of leadership in the American higher education is quite important. This is mainly because there are quite a lot of issues that can easily lure students out of the right track as far as academics are concerned. There are quite a number of issues which seem to compete with studies for the time of the students. More often than not, the students seem to be torn between studying, going out with friends, having fun, or making proper use of their leisure time. More so, when they are on the web, there are a lot of distracters as well. There are the social sites, the adverts and online games which can be easily distracting to the students. Furthermore, these can lead to the disruption of the learning process.
This issue becomes more critical when the mode of delivery is online learning. The chances are that the students are likely to be more distracted simply because they are always on the web. Well, the need for leadership comes in that the students have to know and put their priorities right. They have to learn how to make choices which are based on integrity and which can help in living constructive lives. Well, this just explains why the need for leadership in the programs is that important.
Defining Leadership and the Expectations for Academic Leaders
Well, different leaders have different responsibilities. If put in other words, it can be argued that just like there are different job descriptions, so are different leadership expectations. Having looked at the critical need for leadership in the American higher education system, it is more apparent the reason as to why there should be well defined expectations for the academic leaders. These are as discussed in the paragraphs below.
According to Jones and Holdaway (1996), there are some issues that the academic leaders have to be well honed in. this is mainly because the students tend to learn from them. After all, it is agreeable that leading by example is the best mode of leadership. One of the factors that they have to consider is having a balance in whatever they do. This implies that they have to instill in their followers the virtue of self-discipline. As already stated, the online leadership programs are heavily based on the individual integrity. Otherwise, it is very easy to lose objectivity. In line with this, it has to be noted that the academic leaders are the individuals to enforce this in the students. Well, this might be an uphill task but is manageable all the same.
Another factor noted by Jones and Holdaway (1996) is that there is also the need for the academic leaders to understand the need for sharing of responsibilities. It is well known that in a social set-up, the best mode of action which ensures success is by having collaborative efforts. That is, every individual has a role to pay in ensuring that the whole system works effectively. For instance, in the school setting, the leadership can be divided between the deans, principals, and heads of departments and so on. The main issue in this division of labor is so as to make the management and leadership process more of a success.
Information sharing is also another factor that the academic leaders have to put into consideration. Well, it is well known that most human institutions are based on the social contexts where team work is very essential. Under such circumstances, it has to be appreciated that unless people work in unity as a team, there would be no chance of success. Well, this is the reason as to why the academic leaders have to master the various information related skills. For instance, they should be good at communicating effectively, whether through written or spoken means. More so, the online leadership programs have it that the communication has to be through the virtual platform where face to face interactions might be a little limited. As such, the leaders need to have mastered some of the means of communication which are technologically advanced. Only then can they stand a chance at being successful in whatever they do.
Well, based on the above argument, it can be said that the academic leaders have a major task at their hands. They have to guide the students through example; hence they have to live what they teach. Furthermore, they need to be always ahead of the pack when it comes to communication skills. However, it has to be agreed that all is not lost for them. There are programs which have made it through; which indicate that many others can as well.
Theoretical and Conceptual Foundations for Understanding Leadership
According to Cherry (2013), some theories and concepts have been put in place in order to better understand leadership. One of them is by looking at the different types of leadership. There are eight main theories which come into play when the issue of leadership has to be considered. On of these is the great man theory. This have it that great leaders are born but not made. As such, the theory can be taken to literally mean that for one to be an effective leader there is no need for much training and education. Rather, the leadership skills are inherent. Well, critiques against the theory have it that even for the greatest of leaders, there is still the need to understand more about how the society functions and works. Some of these can only be learnt in an academic setting.
Another theory that can be used to understand leadership is the trait theory. This has it that there are some characteristics that a leader should have. As such, when looking for a leader, it is important to look at the exact characteristics possessed by the individuals. More often than not, the characters might be inborn but can also be molded as an individual grows up. The contingent theories also come into play which has it that the environment tends to define the best kind of leadership that is compatible with the environment. In this case, this theory can apply as it can try to map the academic environment with the most suitable form of leadership.
Situational theories also come into play and they have it that the leader acts depending on the situation. Based on this argument, Cheery (2013) has it that the situation can lead to either democratic leadership or authoritarian leadership. It all depends on the situation faced. Behavioral theories can also be used in understanding leadership, but these are based on the actions of the leader rather than the mental characteristics. Participative theories tend to incorporate all the members of the society where everyone has an input as to what method of leadership can be considered to be the best. The individuals are involved in the decision making process.
There are also the management theories. These are heavily based on the relationships between the leader and the follower. They have it that the leader has to be good in interpersonal skills and should be in a position to guide and instruct the followers. These emphasize the need for moral integrity and ethical considerations. Lastly, there are the relationship theories which have it that the leaders have to be on the ground motivating and inspiring people to go on and pursue their goals despite the challenges they might face on the way to doing so. Well, this indicates that the leaders have a major role to play.
Looking at the above theories and concepts, it is quite apparent that leadership is not a very smooth affair. On the superficial, it might appear like a very simple context. However, when deeply looked into, it is apparent that the leaders need to master quite a lot. This makes the leadership in the higher institutions is quite paramount. These institutions are charged with producing responsible members of the society. This can only be attained if they have gone through a system which enforces good leadership.
Alternative Concepts of Leadership
On top of the theories, there are also other concepts on leadership which need to be well understood. This has to do with the main types of leadership that are currently identified. The connection is that in relation to the theories, there are some styles of leadership which come up. These are realized as the leaders implement the various theories of leadership. There are five main types of leadership that can be identified (Johnson and Media, 2013).
Laissez-Faire is one of the leadership styles that have been identified. This is heavily related to the German scholar Karl Marx who looked at the relationships between individuals. This is related wit the fact that people need to have healthy relationships with each other. There is no absolute leader but everyone has the responsibility to make sure that they carry out their duties and responsibilities in the best way possible (Johnson and Media, 2013). This enforces the need for responsibilities and integrity in individual activities.
Johnson and Media (2013) further indicate that autocracy is also another leadership style that can be put in place. This is a style which allows those with the positions of power to make decisions without consulting the rest. Due to this aspect, there is a greater possibility that this kind of leadership can easily lead to dictatorship. Under such a system, the followers tend to have little or no power of control over what happens to them. Well, this might not be very good for academic leaders. They have to make sure that they consider the inputs of others as well.
Contrary to the aristocracy is the participative leadership where the leaders make sure that they consult the subjects before making any decisions. This is a precursor for the democratic rule. It is more favorable since it encompasses the will of the people. This is what Johnson and Media (2013) describe as what the people need and what they believe in comes in handy when considering this type of leadership.
The last two types of leadership are very common and they tend to act quite differently from each other. Nevertheless, they are used quite often in the leadership field. There is the transactional leadership. This is where the leaders as well as the teams already have pre-determined goals and objectives. As such, the leaders are charged with making sure that the teams help in the attainment of the goals. The system is characterized by having rewards for accomplishments and punishments for failure to deliver. In a way, this kind of leadership can be quite intimidating.
Transformational leadership, on the other hand, is directly opposite to the transactional leadership. This has it that the attainment of the goals is highly based on the effective communication between the leaders and their teams. This kind of leadership is quite participatory as all the individuals are involved in the making of decisions and management of the organization. The leaders are seen as part of the team rather than big brothers in the team.
Based on these types of leadership, the online leadership programs have to be implemented in such a manner that they tend to deliver the best results. As a matter of fact, they should help the leadership students to know the different types of leadership as well as the theories that apply. Only then can they be said to be successful at creating leaders. This is mainly because they can help in churning individuals who understand the different theories and styles of leadership and how best to apply each. This can help in managing different situations and the leadership programs can be said to be successful.
Equity Issues in Leadership
As earlier mentioned in this essay, it had been assumed for a very long time that women cannot take up positions of power. Well, this changed with the rise of feminism which proved that women can equally be strong and can handle various situations in the society. However, as noted by Murphy (2006), there are other forms of inequalities that have also been addressed through the leadership programs and the educational advancement.
One of the inequalities that have been addressed has to do with gender. The current leadership programs have proven that women are equally talented and can take up leadership roles. This is the reason as to why they are also enrolled into these programs. Racial issues have also been addressed quite aggressively. It has to be noted that for quite a long time, the Caucasians had dominated the leadership roles with little of the other races being noticed. The glass ceiling could not give them a chance to be noticed or allowed to progress thus far. Well, the academic programs have proven that anyone has the ability to lead; given the right resources and support to do so.
It is quiet amazing that many people believe that age determines the ability of one to lead. This is the reason as to why the age limit has to be put for individuals who want to take up the leading positions. Well, this cannot be disputed since the leader has to be an individual who is well experienced and has settled down. Therefore, age is taken as an important factor when it comes to leadership. Lastly, the issue of class does not feature strongly as one of the factors to be considered when talking of leadership. After all, all that is needed is the ability to lead, not the class to which one belongs. Based on this argument, the leadership programs accommodate all individuals who have the urge and the willingness to develop their leadership skills.
The Problem of Power
Looking back at the history of making, it is agreeable that there are quite a number of problems which are associated with power. For instance, both world wars arose due to the need and greed for power; some individuals felt that they needed to be on top of the others. They had to go to any lengths to make sure that they achieved their goals. In the long run, they caused serious disruptions in the order of the world, leading to war.
Well, the issue that comes to mind when such issues are mentioned is the fact that the leaders need to know the limits of their power and the extent to which they can practice it. If they do not consider the effects that their actions have on the rest of the population, then it is highly likely that other people are likely to suffer for the actions of the leader. This should not be the case. Occupying a position of power should not make the leader’s head to swell.
Another problem associated with power has to do with the misuse of authority. Some leaders tend to be so egocentric that they do not consider the needs of other people. As such, they engage in some activities which compromise the situation for everyone. Acts such as nepotism, corruption, embezzlement and vandalism are just some of the white collar crimes that the leaders engage in. Well, this should be avoided at all costs. After all, the leaders are charged with the role of protecting the society rather than to suppressing it. This is one of the things that the leadership programs ought to impart in their students (Murphy, 2006).
Spiritual and Ethical Dimensions of Leadership
So far, the discussion has indicated that there are some problems associated with power. These are the red-flags that need to be looked out for when the issue of leadership is considered. According to Murphy (2006), individuals occupying positions of power should make sure that they act in the right way so as to make sure that they do not compromise the position they have in the society. They should act in a manner to preserve and maintain the values that are deep rooted in the society. Well, this is, at times, more easily said than done. The leaders find it hard to comply with it.
In order to enforce it, there is the need to look at the religious and ethical backgrounds associated with leadership. This is mainly because these are the guiding principles for most of the societies. The online leadership programs should also aim at imposing these principles in the students as this can lead to the development of integral, morally upright leadership regimes wherever the students venture.
According to Bezy and Makolandra (2009), there are some concepts which are associated with spiritual and ethical considerations when it comes to leadership. Integrity is at the top of the table. The argument based on integrity has it that the actions of an individual should correlate with the beliefs and the values that the individual holds. As such, the leadership programs should aim at making sure that they impart the good values and virtues in the leadership students. Only then can they be said to be successful since the individuals will apply these values in whatever they do. This, in turn, leads to successful leadership.
Another factor that come sin handy has to do with the community. As it is well known, there can be no leader where there is no community. As such, the leaders need to know that they owe their responsibility to the society. This is enforced in the spiritual as well as the ethical considerations where an individual has to do unto others as he would like others to do unto him. In other words, the programs should impart the sense of responsibilities to the leaders. This sense of responsibility can make them appreciate the fact that they need to respect and value their societies.
The programs also need to define the meaning and value of leadership. Looking at the religious and ethical teachings, a leader is an individual who would be willing to go to any length, as long as it is upright and socially acceptable, so as to protect and lead the subjects more effectively. Well, this is the same idea that needs to be reinforced in the leadership programs. The leaders should be made to understand that they are not supposed to take advantage of the community. Rather, the community should be considered lucky to have the leaders. In other words, the programs should act as a motivation and inspirations for the leaders to do what is right for the society.
Well, this might be hard to achieve in the current online educational programs. However, it has to be noted that everything can be achieved as long as there is the will and the determination to do so. The programs should be tailored towards making sure that these goals are attained and deeply instilled in the leaders; only then can real change be seen in the society and the value of education in leadership enforced.
Current Issues and Research in Academic leadership
Well, a lot has been said about leadership and the different leadership styles. However, it has to be noted that just as the world keeps on changing, so does other issues. One of the issues that have been affected by these changes is the leadership field. This has been affected in various ways, as indicated in the paragraphs below.
The first issue has to do with the mode of delivery of the leadership training. According to Campbell et al (1996), there are myriad changes which has have been observed in the educational delivery methods. For instance, there has been the boom in online learning as opposed to the traditional learning systems. This makes it quite hard to transmit some o these aspects, specifically the ones that need hands on experience. As such, there is the need to come up with a system which can assess whether the individuals actually gain the information given and can apply it in real life situations. This can be hard to prove or assess when all the assessment is done online.
Another issue has to do with the definition of leadership. For quite some time, leadership has been based on the overall management of individuals and resources in an organization. However, recent developments have seen the rise of what is refereed to as strategic management. This is quite different since it is more intensive and more comprehensive. Well, the leaders have to master much more than they already are exposed to. This can be quiet a challenge.
There are also the various types of leadership as has been described earlier. In a way, it becomes quite difficult for the leaders to choose and decide which method can be best for them. Well, this leads to a kind of confusion where an individual knows too much but cannot make a choice as to which method is best to apply. Rather than have such confusion, the programs should be designed in such a manner that they equip the individuals with the exact information that they need in order to be successful leaders.
Looking at the above areas, it can be said that leadership is more than can be seen or said. There is the need to look further at the exact details associated with leadership and management. Not only do the leaders have to be well trained, they also have to be well informed on what methods of leadership they need to apply in different circumstances. In short, it can be argued that the role of leadership training programs should not only be based on producing theoretical leaders; rather, they should focus on producing leaders who can actually practice what they have learnt. Therefore, there is the need to come up with strategies which help in linking training and practice as far as leadership is concerned.
Improving Leadership through Action-Reflection
According to Hainsworth (2012), action-reflection is an effective management tool. This is mainly because it allows an individual to plan or think of an idea while implementing it. Not only does it lead to effectiveness in planning, but also helps an individual to learn from previous mistakes through the reflection. As such, it can be argued that it is a process which leads to the attainment of further understanding, besides adding value to the daily activities. In this case, it can be said that action-reflection strategies are effective in designing proper leadership strategies. The leader can learn from his mistakes, and make amendments so as to make sure that similar mistakes do not arise in the future. In other words, it can be a kind of self-training on leadership.
Furthermore, the reflection process helps in thinking through situations. As such, when a leader engages in reflection-action during the leadership process, it is more likely that the decisions made would have greater integrity and more thoughtful insights. There is more knowledge which is gained through the reflection, which ultimately leads to the challenging of the conventional theories and concepts regarding leadership. In other words, the process helps the leader to think of other ways of doing things, rather than just relying on what was derived or discovered by others. This brings in a sense of creativity and understanding what one does. A leader starts engaging in activities which are self-motivated rather than just doing it the usual way. It encourages flexibility and dynamic minds, which can be a good indication that the leader can bring about positive change in whichever area being managed.
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