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Date Reviewed: August 21, 2020
In order to fulfill their missions, institutions sometimes have to change. Leaders guiding communities through such moments or eras need instructional resources, and we do them a disservice when we oversimplify the work of change leadership. “Ten Easy Solutions” do not exist, and suggesting they do causes leaders to feel discouraged, like there must be something wrong with them when they fear, falter, or fail. Change leadership is hard, sometimes even painful, but it is not impossible when approached with appreciation for complexity and a broad repertoire. Dynamic Discernment: Reason, Emotion, and Power in Change Leadership chops through the thicket of change dynamics, opening up three different pathways:
• Reason, where change leaders educate their communities and plot out concrete actions;
• Emotion, where leaders manage the reactivity that change can incite in a separate-yet-connected style of engagement; and
• Power, where leaders take seriously the ways in which grass-roots and top-down forms of authority can find common ground.
Sarah Drummond has experienced change leadership firsthand in numerous contexts, and this book uses abundant illustrations and examples, but Dynamic Discernment is best understood as a new and multidisciplinary theory of change. Although aimed at religious leaders, any who serve a mission-driven institution will find resonance. The book provides guidance for (1) recognizing the dominant dynamic at work in a community experiencing change and (2) choosing leadership practices accordingly. (From the Publisher)
A Guide for Leaders in Higher Education: Core Concepts, Competencies, and Tools
Date Reviewed: August 15, 2017
Brent Ruben, Richard De Lisi, and Ralph Gigliotti, all colleagues at Rutgers University, combine their teaching, research, and work expertise into a volume meant to be a “guide and a resource” (xviii) not only for current but also aspiring leaders, and those in less formal leadership roles on college campuses. Preceded by a pithy foreword by Doug Lederman, editor of Inside Higher Ed, the work is both frank and optimistic, a common characteristic of Brent Ruben, a practiced author in reference works for higher education leaders. The Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT) analysis that constitutes the foreword sets a tone that pervades this book: challenges abound in the current landscape of American higher education, but informed and prepared leaders can respond to these challenges and achieve excellence.
The text is divided into four parts. Part One is an overview of issues, opportunities, and challenges faced by institutions and their leaders such as institutional mission (50) and diverse stakeholders (56). Part Two presents theories and literature in response to topics related to leadership like cross-cultural communication (80), and a “comprehensive leadership megamodel” (109). Part Three adds practical tools and applied models to the theoretical discussions of common issues alternating between effectiveness on the part of individual leaders and organizational effectiveness, one example being a tool for organizational review and improvement (181). Part Four, the final chapter, concerns the development of leaders in higher education.
The authors’ prescience is on display from the outset of the work when they address the query, whither another book on leadership? Leadership, after all, is one of the more hackneyed subjects in recent decades, no less so in higher education where storied presidents, politicians, journalists, prestigious faculty, and popular commentators have all offered perspectives on the state of higher education and prescriptions for a better way forward. While Ruben, De Lisi, and Gigliotti spend a notable portion of the text describing higher education as they see it, their aim is to provide practical resources to current and future leaders, and in this they were successful.
As such a resource, contingent upon the notions of developing competency- and communication-based leadership, A Guide for Leaders in Higher Education succeeds in providing accessible and useful resources to individuals across different leadership roles. While the authors took great care to ground their writing in case studies, hypotheticals, appendices, and applied models, at times it reads more like an introduction to a higher education textbook than an instrumental guide for those currently in leadership positions. As a midpoint between textbook and reference work, it is still successful at both and provides a clear and unbiased background to issues facing current leaders. For religion faculty in discrete or informal roles at their universities, the authors provide a distinctly helpful, perhaps overlong, review of leadership techniques, tools, and competencies. For current department heads and aspiring administrators, the text will assist in becoming conversant in the topics crisscrossing campuses and systems to better respond to today’s challenges.
Dancing in the Rain: Leading with Compassion, Vitality, and Mindfulness in Education
Date Reviewed: June 23, 2017
Former dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, Jerome Murphy writes as a seasoned educator about how to best care for yourself as a teacher in the midst of daily stress. This book applies to the stress of academia as well as ministry. It is a book I would recommend to students preparing to teach and to serve in ministerial vocations. Murphy highlights the source of stress that afflicts educators: our own responses to stress. When difficult situations arise, we tend to respond in one of three self-defeating ways: ruminating on the negative, rebuking ourselves, or resisting our emotions. Murphy draws from the literature on mindfulness to point out the health benefits of becoming aware of our emotions in the moment and accepting our shortcomings.
As an alternative to the cycles of rumination, rebuke, and resistance, Murphy offers a list of instructions that help educators focus on their own values, summarized by the acronym “MY DANCE.” Each letter represents a phrase discussed in the following chapters. “Minding your values” advocates understanding our own life goals and naming our best version of ourselves. Knowing who we want to be helps us evaluate whether our actions are in line with our values. The next chapter, “Yield to now,” captures the importance of in-the-moment mindfulness, trying to stay present to ourselves and others, and includes exercises for practicing mindfulness. “Disentangle from upsets” also highlights the role of mindfulness in preventing us from being consumed by our stress. The chapter titled “Allow unease” instructs readers to attend to the discomfort of negative feelings. “Nourish yourself” emphasizes intentional self-care and practices of gratitude, while “Cherish self-compassion” takes self-care to a deeper level. The last element of the acronym is “Express Feelings Wisely.”
In each of these chapters, Murphy brings in personal anecdotes from years of administration and leading workshops for teachers and school principals. He intersperses these lessons with some of his own personal struggles, such as his wife’s diagnosis with Alzheimer’s disease. In these glimpses of personal sharing, the reader gets a sense of how these practices of self-care have been imperative for someone who has transitioned from being a dean of a Harvard graduate school to a full-time caregiver for his wife of nearly fifty years as she slowly loses her ability to recognize him.
This book draws our attention to the humanity of all educators: we are not simply vessels of information or mediums of higher learning. Each person has his or her own struggles in living daily life, on top of the demands of our teaching vocations. Attending lovingly to our limitations and caring for ourselves in the midst of these struggles is crucial if we are to be effective as teachers and healthy individuals. I recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn how to better care for themselves in the midst of life’s demands.
Theological school deans are not just theological leaders for their institution, they must be EDUCATIONAL leaders. That is, they must implement sound educational practices related to curriculum, instruction, supervision, assessment, and administration. There is a variety of ways to assess the effectiveness of the curriculum, and there are several levels ...
Leadership Case Studies in Education
Date Reviewed: May 13, 2016
Northouse and Lee adopt the definition of leadership put forth by Northouse in his influential textbook Leadership Theory and Practice: “Leadership is a process whereby an individual influences a group of individuals to achieve a common goal” (2). The co-authors state that the common goal of educators is “to create a safe place where students can effectively learn and grow” and so it follows that leadership – the process of influence – is central to the educators’ vocation (2). During the past one hundred and fifty years, researchers have offered multiple approaches to understand precisely how leadership works, and Lee and Northouse succinctly summarize various approaches and provide case studies based on actual situations in education to help readers to apply the theoretical concepts. Following their introduction, each of the remaining fifteen chapters in Leadership Case Studies in Education presents one theory for understanding leadership along with two case studies, one focused on K-12 and one in higher education.
The first half of the book generally parallels developments in leadership research in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, beginning with theories that hone in on the leader’s characteristics or actions (trait, skills, and behavior) and moving to theories that explain group processes (situational, path-goal, and leader-member exchange). Chapters eight through ten examine more recent descriptions of th e qualities of a leader presenting transformational, authentic, and service leadership theories. These are followed by chapters on adaptive leadership, psychodynamic approach to understanding leadership, ethics, and team leadership. The book concludes with case studies that highlight the significance of gender and culture.
The sixteen higher education case studies cover a range of leadership positions. Three of the case studies feature a university president; six present situations faced by administrators or staff working outside of academic affairs; one is about a student leader; and six focus on faculty. A set of six questions concludes each case study. The first three directly address the case study, while the second set connects the case study to Northouse’s text.
Northouse and Lee wrote Leadership Case Studies in Education as a companion text to Northouse’s Leadership Theory and Practice. The case study text offers compact summaries of each leadership theory, which are intended to serve primarily as review of the more thorough presentation and assessment in the main text. For example, in Theory and Practice, Northouse devotes thirteen pages to leader-member exchange theory, describing early and later studies, explaining how the theory works, presenting its strengths and limitations, and suggesting possible application. Case Studies condenses this to less than three pages.
Northouse and Lee write that their intended audience is “undergraduate and graduate classes in education and educational leadership,” (ix) so it is not surprising that its usefulness to this audience may be limited. The case studies draw on real-life situations but are missing discussion and analysis. This may be a useful companion textbook for classes in educational leadership, but without the corresponding textbook Leadership Case Studies in Education misses an opportunity to influence readers outside the classroom in the common goal of improving education.