• July 13th, 2020

Opinion - Leadership and management in higher education - are they two sides of the same coin?

Some people in leadership and management positions in higher education institutions often grapple with what these two concepts and practices entail. Questions that often intrigue most leaders and managers are: “Is a leader necessarily a manager? Equally, is a manager also a leader?  Leadership and management as concepts of tertiary education management have succeeded in throwing some leaders and managers into sixes and sevens, with others realizing what the practices entail when their terms of office are drawing to the end, and others leaving their posts without any clue at all. 

The latter group might appear an exaggeration, but experience has proved that true, there are some leaders and managers who spend their whole terms of office without fully grasping what management and leadership are. 

The confusion that these practices have brought to some leaders and managers is real. It is compounded by different sets of views on leadership and management. Two schools of thought exist concerning the relationship between leadership and management in higher education circles. One thought is that leadership and management are different practices, while the other thought is that leadership is the same as management. Scholars in management and leadership offer huge evidence to convince their legions of readers.  While there seems to be a dichotomy between leadership and management, one can provide enough evidence and argumentation to show that leadership and management are the same. This is the stance this article takes.  My argument is based on what I have experienced over the years of both leadership and management in higher education, and on the available literature on these topics.  I have come to realise that the features or characteristics of management and leadership overlap, and that when one practices leadership, management is inclusive and vice-versa. In most cases, the term management is the one that is used in academic units.  In this case, management subsumes leadership. According to Azhad et al. (2017), “… leading and managing are the same and developing the skills of a leader and a manager are really the same way of developing individuals who can adapt to change and become a source of strategic advantage.” 

These scholars correctly argue that leadership and management are inseparable; the Siamese twins’ analogy explains this relationship better.
It is not an overstatement to say that the success of higher education institutions depends on management and leadership styles.  For instance, to guarantee academic freedom, which is the mainstay of higher education, democratic management and leadership score more results as they allow academics to operate in a democratic sphere. So, academic units or centres where this type of management and leadership flourishes tend to record more academic outputs than in autocratic settings. Effective and result-oriented teams are a result of effective management and leadership. 

When the unit leader or manager leads by example, the subordinates will do likewise or perform even better. 
The manager must take the lead and show the way.  When the leader manages programmes and projects initiated by the unit well, the results are pleasing; the results are there for everyone to see.

 The emphasis here is on leadership and management that are practical; leadership and management that motivate colleagues to produce results. In the words of John Adams: “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”  These are not leadership and management in theory; the types that are myopic and self-centred.  The types that demotivate and condemn instead of motivating and encouraging subordinates.  The types of leadership and management that are synonymous with witch-hunting and fault-finding. The leadership and management that are anachronistic to the 21st century. This is the wrong type that believes that the leader or the manager knows everything, the dictatorial and autocratic types of leadership and management. 

In some circles, such kind of leaders and managers are described as neurotic because of their phobia and lack of confidence.  Neurotic management and leadership styles spell disaster for organisations as they are counter-productive and vindictive.  On this topic, Motamedi (2006) aptly stated that “the neurotic styles tend to undermine and obliterate the effectiveness of their organisations and people and lead to reckless results.” Leaders and managers at higher education institutions must always bear in mind that these institutions are sensitive and volatile. The institutions have the highest concentration of brains.  Leaders and managers must use styles that make it easy for academics to effortlessly engage in research, teaching and community service. Leaders and managers must create conducive environments that promote academic freedom and the creation of knowledge. Leadership and management styles that sideline academics in decision making and policy formulation and implementation should be discouraged during the early stages of their manifestation.  Forging strong ties between management and academics is the only way that higher education institutions will be able to fulfil their mandate. 

Higher education institutions must desist from divisive politics that ruin relations and in turn the performance of academics and in turn students. 
In conclusion, I have tended to dwell more on the similarities between leadership and management than their contrast because the two concepts overlap.  It is advantageous to treat the two concepts as the same as this brings about a holistic approach to the management of higher education institutions.
 Such an approach promotes management and leadership styles that bring harmony and high productivity in higher education institutions. 

Staff Reporter
2020-05-29 10:01:44 | 1 months ago

Be the first to post a comment...