ACADEMIC AND LEADERSHIP STYLES AND ETHICS:
IMPLICATIONS FOR CURRICULAR PLANNING

Charles H. Reynolds


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Certain chilling features on our national cultural scene need to be mentioned and characterized briefly before addressing the more specific topic indicated by the title of this presentation. This paper will first address matters related to freedom of expression and then issues related to the decreasing financial support for higher education. Other presenters will discuss gender and ethnic issues, or more particularly issues related to sexual harassment, racism, and cultural diversity. I consider these latter issues deserving of our rigorous attention and the ethical stance the academy should take toward them of utmost importance. But I take it as a basically settled conviction in most colleges and universities that we must have explicit policies and procedures that govern sexual harassment charges, and that we must explicitly condemn and challenge racist policies in all their subtle and blatant manifestations. Despite the impending California initiative, I believe there is a rather settled national conviction that we must promote cultural diversity on our campuses by our programs, admissions, and hiring policies.

With respect to freedom of expression, however, I am especially troubled that two major cultural institutions that are closely linked to higher education, the Smithsonian Museum and the Library of Congress, have recently neutered or cancelled major exhibitions because of political criticism. At the Smithsonian, the Enola Gay exhibition may as well have been cancelled and the planned exhibit on the Vietnam War was indeed cancelled. At the Library of Congress, a planned exhibit on Sigmund Freud was aborted in its late planning states and an exhibit on one aspect of slavery in the South entitled "Back of the Big House," was taken down the same day the exhibit opened.

The arts typically lead the way in signaling impending freedom or repression in a society. There was, for example, an explosion of artistic creativity in the Soviet Union in the decade of the 1960's, some twenty years before the fall of the Berlin Wall. And we know how academic and artistic expression were suppressed in Germany in the early 1930's. The signals recently received from the Smithsonian Museum and the Library of Congress may represent an impending cultural repression that could be a serious threat for academic freedom in this country. Despite moralistic pronouncements to the contrary, there is no politically correct art. And there is no politically correct academic inquiry. Free artistic expression and open academic inquiry must be tolerated and defended. And the creative conflict they generate must be accepted as part of the benefit and burden of an open conversation on a college or university campus. Freedom of expression should be limited only by procedures guaranteed to maximize freedom of expression, which is why, we accept Roberts Rules of Order or some equivalent procedure for ordering discussion and debate.

In such a time as this, we must realize why tenure is important and must not be compromised in our colleges and universities. Tenure does not exist to protect individual employment. Its purpose is to protect a form of academic polity and then to protect all faculty who have institutional rights secured by that polity. Tenure is necessary because people with power will abuse that power if it is not properly controlled and checked. In our current national cultural context, it is critical that these important distinctions be articulated and defended. Our colleges and universities must continually strive to be open and free institutions where controversial artistic performances and exhibits are tolerated and controversial ideas and positions are publicly debated.

We are wasting our time discussing other value issues if the basic intrinsic values that define our institutional nature are being compromised for any perceived instrumental values, be they political or economic in nature. I fear the Smithsonian Museum and the Library of Congress have recently bowed to both economic and political threats and their associated instrumental values.

There are also some increasing signs that de-centered economic and political forces may be capable of undermining the possibility for professions as such to continue as self- governing associations oriented to the common good in a post-industrial and global information society. Historical trends that Weber and Tawney described, documented and lamented, trends that they interpreted as money and power replacing Divinity and moral law as the root metaphors for social organization and cultural standards, have in the U.S. recently contributed to all but abolishing law and medicine as self-governing professions. Medicine and law are now frequently viewed much more as self-serving entrepreneurial associations than as professions. Some also view academic professions in a similar way. Proposals about how such de-legitimized associations can best help protect and grow the economy then become the center of political rhetoric and the new civil religion in our society.

"It's the economy, stupid" has become more than a background "war room" winning political slogan. A contribution to "the economy" has become a new measurement standard by which almost all public and private institutions are to an increasing degree evaluated. But that, my friends, as Weber and Tawney foresaw, is potentially a prescription for human and cultural disaster. And we could now add, a prescription for ecological and social disaster. There are human, religious, family,ecological, ethnic, gender, political, aesthetic, and academic values other than economic values. And these other values must at times trump economic values. Hence the question I want to put before us is the following: Can we in the academy give a moral lead to our culture and society? Can we articulate in a meaningful and convincing way why intrinsic academic (and other) values should and must at times trump instrumental economic values? If not, the academic profession would deserve its obituary. Our colleges and universities simply would become various types of trade schools, differing primarily by which social classes they would admit and which aspects of the economy they would serve. I leave it to your own imagination as to how far down that road some colleges and universities are already.

It would be too self-serving however, for us to see our problems and challenges as coming only or even primarily from powerful forces outside the academy. Colleges and universities in this country are by and large self-governing institutions. Much of our destiny depends on our own values and therefore on what kinds of institutions and profession we want to support and build. We can go the way of free-agent superstars with no institutional or team loyalty, or we can work out together what it means to be a self- governing profession in our time and place. There are indeed external constraints and pressures that we must negotiate. Just as health care, corporations, and many branches of government have had to come to terms with down-sizing, cost controls, and new efficiency and productivity standards, so must we. But we need not sell our academic soul for instrumental economic or political values as we do so. It remains an open question whether we will go the way of the medical and legal professions, or whether we will cooperate and find ways to maintain our professional academic identity. To be sure, there are pockets of professionals still struggling to survive in medicine and law. Perhaps these remnants will find a way to reestablish their professional and vocational identity. But their challenge is indeed enormous.

There is no way that higher education could long be exempt from forces that have led to difficult and at times painful transformations in other major institutions in our society. Most of higher education in California, as well as Michigan State, Northwestern, Northeastern, Virginia Tech, and too many private colleges to mention, have been struggling with restructuring and efficiency measures for most of this decade. Even Stanford has financial challenges as it attempts to come to terms with faculty replacements and decreasing federal support. Moreover, as we all know from the increasing number. of requests we receive soliciting support for deserving charities and various not-for-profit institutions, the competition for charitable contributions is becoming so fierce as to make otherwise generous people at times cynical and mean-spirited.

UTK is just beginning to experience the first of what will probably be several years of increasing financial austerity. The character and values of faculty and administrators at UTK will soon be tested in ways we can now only dimly foresee. For example, will we find ways to maintain our commitments to graduate study and research, to cultural diversity, to need-based as well as merit-based student scholarships, even as Federal, State and private funding is reduced for these objectives? What are we willing to do more (the first proposal from administrators will be for faculty to teach more students, and from faculty to have fewer administrators) or to do less (the first proposals from administrators will be to reduce support for faculty professional travel and secretarial assistance, and from faculty to reduce administrative support budgets) to maintain our value commitments?

We will likely all end up doing more of some things with reduced financial support and less of other things with almost no budgetary support. I hope this picture is too bleak. It will be for some colleges and universities. But I do not think it will be for most. Many if not most colleges and universities can no longer forestall downsizing and cost containment by raising tuition and fees. These cost increases, which have outpaced health care since 1980 in the U.S., and have also increased approximately twice the rate of median family income and of inflation during this time period, have probable approached their upper limit. This has led many colleges and universities to promise new students that their tuition and fee increases will not exceed the rate of inflation for a four-year period. And so it is with this chilling background that I propose we take up issues related to values and leadership in higher education.

Leadership Styles and Ethical Action Guides

The literature on organizational and institutional leadership has exploded in the last three decades. So has the literature on management theory and on institutional culture. Some of this literature is of a popular nature and some is based on very careful and informed sociological and psychological theory and research. The popular best seller entitled The Leadership Secrets of Attila The Hun provides an excellent synopsis of this literature. And while my own views have been much informed by this research literature on leadership, the particular typology on ethics and leadership that I propose here cannot be found in any single volume. Indeed, this proposed typology grows primarily out of my reading of Max Weber and out of my own observations and experiences from work that David Smith and I did while consulting with over twenty institutions a few years back in a national project of The Society for Values in Higher Education. Those institutions ranged in size from small liberal arts colleges to large research universities. They also represented an almost equal number of public and private institutions.

No particular leadership style and its concomitant ethical orientation could be associated primarily with any particular type or size of institution. Each leadership type could be found on large and small and on private and public campuses. David and I then "tested" this typology in in-depth interviews with educational leaders whom we thought matched a particular type of leadership style and ethical orientation. These interviews both enriched and to a degree "confirmed" this typology and classification. Even so, I consider what follows largely a heuristic typology on leadership and ethics. It helps us to reflect on a range of educational leadership styles and ethical orientations.

But no educational leader we interviewed could be classified as using only of the styles or ethical orientations. The typology can help us see and describe a preponderant orientation, but any successful educational leader has more than one possible leadership style that can be utilized in different times and places. Moreoverr the successful leaders we interviewed tended to have staff associates with different and complementary leadership styles of their own. These five ideal type leadership styles can be characterized as: (1) the clinical expert, (2) the campus shepherd, (3) the engaged reformed, (4) the conscientious role model, and (5) the creative entrepreneur. Each type has a preponderant ethical orientation. Similarities to the first four types can be found in Max Weber's writings. But not the fifth.

(1) The Clinical Expert. This type of leader has (or is in the process of developing) explicit rules and policies for every type of decision. Rules and procedures determine what should be done, what should not be done, and what is permitted. Everything has to be organized and tidy. This leader is your ideal bureaucrat. Every office in the organization has an explicit set of policies and procedural rules. Decisions are the application of appropriate rules and procedures to the issue at hand. Priority rules are in place to determine who makes what decisions. Obedience to rules is the basis for rewards. Disobedience to rules results in swift censure and punishment. Everyone in a line position in the organization is trained to know when to make a decision and when to refer an issue to someone higher in the organization for a decision. Authority is related to rank in the hierarchy. There is as little flexibility in decision making as possible. This type of bureaucratic institution represents Weber's "iron cage of modernity." Rules, not institutional agents, are the explanation for a decision. A caricature of Kant's deontological ethical theory represents the concomitant ethical style for this type of leader. The moral rules determine what is the right thing to do (or not do) in a particular situation. Every moral agent is to act in exactly the same way in a similar situation. Every rule is absolute. Nothing is relative. All moral agents are identical.

A bureaucratic style of leadership requires social and cultural stability. It is too rule-bound to address unanticipated and novel situations. It almost forced General Motors, the world's largest corporation, into bankruptcy. It permitted members of the state bureaucracy in Germany to take orders from Hitler, and to carry them out. It is based on the reception of Roman Law in Germany. And the Roman Empire lost its power not for the moralistic reasons so frequently mentioned, but because the Empire was too rigid to adapt to changing social and cultural forces. Its spiritual successor is now experiencing the same demise. Many people obviously long for the certainty and security of firm order which this style of leadership and its concomitant ethical rules provide. In debates about an academic curriculum, faculty and administrators with this value and leadership orientation want their version of a classical canon restored.

(2) The Campus Shepherd. Rituals and stories center the normative culture tor th1s style of leadership. What is right or wrong fits the leadership style of the campus leader. Respect for the authority of the leader is grounded in tradition. The good telling of good old stories, and the revision of these stories for new situations, characterize this style of leadership. The shepherd knows the flock by name. Members of the academic community have a familial relationship to their leader and to one another. Community is an important value. Shared bonds and aspirations for the future are embodied in the person of the leader. Mutual trust is expected. Loyalty is unquestioned because one who is disloyal is shunned and despised.

This type of leadership has the trappings of royalty. The word of the leader settles disputes and charts the institutional direction. To associate with the leader is to have some of the leader's power. No one else in the organization has a secure base of power because institutional power is conferred by the leader. And everyone knows that what is conferred can be withdrawn if the leader so chooses. This style of leadership has affinities with Weber's notion of traditional authority. What is right or wrong, good or bad, is what fits, or does not fit, with the way things have customarily been done. This leader is ruthless when betrayed. Everyone is either a loyalist or a dissenter. The loyalist are rewarded and the dissenters and swiftly punished. This is a common leadership style on many campuses in this country, both large and small. Naturally, the good curriculum is the one that fits the history of the institution as interpreted by the campus shepherd. Debate about the curriculum is primarily a historical debate. A story told by the campus leader can obtain approval for a new (that is, a slightly revised) curriculum. Change is incremental.

The faculty are essentially powerless. Yet many believe they have power because of their perceived close relationship with the campus leader. This leader however has very few close friends and tends to be very lonely, especially when no longer in power. Moreover, this type of leader delegates power reluctantly and tends to have weak associates in what appear to be powerful positions. Institutional policies and rules, of which there are not too many, can be enforced or set aside at the discretion of the leader. This leader can grant pardons or insist on ruthless punishment. It is a leadership style that made Electronic Data Systems a highly successful company. But it is also a leadership style that meant that Ross Perot could never succeed as part of the management team of General Motors.

(3) The Engaged Reformer. This campus leader does not simply have a mission but is on a mission. The past is viewed as what got the institution into its current mess and the present and future demand radical changes. This leader appeals to the past primarily to find resources for changing the present. A new future is required. A new model of institutional identity is needed. This person has a sense of the greater good that only a transformation of the present reality can realize. Right policies and procedures are those that may make the new future a reality. The right is defined by the future good. Nothing is fixed or stable except for this leader's vision of the future and its radically different possibilities.

The ethical philosophy of this leader has affinities with classical utilitarianism. Community is a future dream and not a present possibility. Too much must be changed before true community can be realized. Unlike the campus shepherd who cannot stand or tolerate conflict, this leader sees conflict as necessary and essential for a new order to emerge. This type of leader also has affinities with Weber's notion of the ethical prophet who demands that all things be new, a new heaven as well as a new earth. Dead bones have to be raised to life. There is not time for the slow or the faint of heart. The times are changing and educational institutions must change or become like museums of antiquity. We have yet to even conceive of what the appropriate curriculum should be, much less have one in place.

Engaged reformers believe a new curricular vision is needed. And people have to free their imagination even to glimpse what it should be. They call us to be bold in experiments. Anything that has not yet been tried should at least be attempted. Maybe the children can give the new model for which these visionaries are searching. Has anyone dared to ask children what a college curriculum should be? Why not? Their minds have not been cluttered by going to college and by thinking that they already know what a college should teach. The engaged reformer would at least be willing to ask children and see if they could imagine a new curricular model. Or go ask the college dropouts. Ask Steve Jobs who made Apple Computer a different kind of company, the Harvard non-graduate who had life after Apple and recently developed a break-through technology for making Toy Story. This genius still thinks like a child. What would he say a college curriculum should be? Engaged reformers cannot stay long in one place. They do their job and move on. They wear out their welcome even in their own company. But as Weber saw, prophets provide breakthroughs to new possibilities. There are few engaged reformers in leadership positions in higher education. John Maguire was an exception when he was in the SUNY system. But he too had to move on.

(4) The Conscientious Role Model. This leader models behavior for an institution. What is right or wrong, good or bad, is embodied in a personal example. The person, not the office, provides the authority for leadership. The campus shepherd cultivates the authority of office, but not the conscientious role model. These leaders tend to be extremely cautious. They cannot afford to make any mistakes in public. They carefully review exactly what they will say and how they will say it. Life is a stage and they have to act well. Appearance is everything. It is less important what they say than how they say what they do. It is less what they do than how they do it. These leaders live under intense self-scrutiny. They are extremely disciplined. They take any institutional criticism as personal criticism. After all, the institution is a reflection of their persona. They must always wear the same mask. One conscientious role model that David Smith and I interviewed lamented the need to develop institutional policy statements on sexual harassment and affirmative action. For this person, a policy represented a failure of personal leadership style. This president wanted to deal with everyone in the institution on a personal level and saw policy statements as an intrusion on a preferred leadership style. This leader thought that with a few other good people any challenge could be met. Associates and co-leaders were chosen primarily on the basis of their reputation for good character. Unfortunately, a dean at the institution was charged with sexual harassment by a student. The president attempted to intervene and resolve the conflict. That effort failed. Later a court found on behalf of the student. The dean had to be fired, which was very hard for this leader to do. The president and the university were also found guilty of attempting to cover up a crime. Tha failure soon ended this president's administrative career.

This leadership style has some remote affinities with Weber's notion of an exemplary prophet. It also has some distant affinities with a virtue theory of ethics. I use the adjectives "remote" and "distant" in this context because this type of leader represents a very pious and individualistic notion of what it is to be a good leader. Naturally, this type of leader views the good curriculum as one that will produce good people. If this type of leader's vision of a good person were not so self-righteous, there would be a better case to be made for this curricular vision. Unfortunately, I think, this style of leadership is fairly prevalent on many college and university campuses. Many faculty are selected for leadership positions because they have developed a reputation for being good people. Attila, on the other hand, was a rather despicable person but an effective leader. There is probably no greater leadership burden than to be anointed a role model.

(5) The Creative Entrepreneur. Similar to the engaged reformer, the entrepreneur is a change agent. However, this is about where the similarities between these two leadership styles end. The entrepreneur focuses on locating a comparative leadership advantage in relation to what are perceived as other competitive institutions. This leader will play hard-ball with others or be extremely cooperative as the situation requires. This is your strategic thinker and planner. The goal is to beat the competition and improve one's own institution's prospects by doing so. If the institutions must strengthen certain activities or programs at the expense of others reduce its size, re-tool its personnel, redefine its misssion, locate major operations elsewhere, change its management structure, reinvest in new operations, or shed even long-standing parts of its program and operations, the entrepreneur is ready to listen and consider all such proposals.

Past identity is not considered a guide for the future. Nothing about current operations is fixed and guaranteed continuation. Everything is subject to change, transformation, and even abolition, except for the institution itself. Every office and program is designated for termination, enhancement, or simple continuation. Dynamic change is considered part of the on-going adaptation the institution must undergo if it is to be strong and viable in its competitive sphere of operations. The entrepreneur views management as a change team. Persons and units of the institution that successfully adant to new challenges are rewarded. Those persons and units that fail to adapt are replaced or discontinued. Stability is for those who successfully execute the strategic plan the leader believes will give the institution a comparative advantage over its rivals.

The underlying ethical stance here is that of social Darwinianism: social life is conflict-ridden and only those institutions strong enough to adapt to new challenges will survive and prosper. Others will slowly wither away and die a slow death, perhaps over centuries, unless some challenge in their environment awakens them to new life and new adaptive possibilities. The entrepreneur is confident that most institutions can be awakened to new life if they have the will and requisite leadership to make the required adaptations. Entrepreneures believe institution suffer bad times primarily because of poor management and leadership. Stagnation is seen as the root of most failure.

This type of academic leader is more and more prominent. Many do not have the traditional Ph.D. They frequently come to academic institutions with some early experience in the business world and with degrees in management, engineering, law, computer science, or accounting. They typically have appointments as financial managers, fund-raisers, strategic planners, university attorney's, etc., before becoming the president of a college or university. These leaders have the same questions for curricular structures as they have for all orther aspects of the institution: What curriculum needs to be in place to establish a comparative advantate over competitive institutions?

Nothing about the curriculum has a priviliged position once this question is the curricular question. Liberal arts colleges have been know to abolish music, philosophy, classics, and sociology in order to establish a new degree in business management or marketing.

In many colleges and universities, faculty have similar fears about their future employment prospects that workers in many other aspects of our economy now experience. The entrepreneur does not attempt to diminish these anxieties, but instead tries to use them to motivate institutional change. Frequently those changes are explicitly intended to serve the political and economic instrumental values mentioned.

Conclusion

This is not the place to compare these different types of leadership styles and their related ethical and curricular implications. I simply want to mention that there is no eveidence that any gender or racial orientation is more related to any of the five styles. White males predominate in administrative positions in higher education in the U.S. and are also most commonly found in each of these five types. I would only mention that women and minorities appear to be less prevalent to type four.

This presentation concludes with a question and with an assertion. If it is indeed the case that type five leadership is becoming more and more prevalent, and if this type of leadership has a minimal commitment to intrinsic academic values, how can faculty in our colleges and universities restrain this new type of academic leadership from undermining the academic integrity of higher education? I cannot take up a possible answer to this question at this time. But I believe that extensive faculty participatio answer to this question at this time. But in college and campus strategic-planning and campus governance has never been more important than it is today.


Copyright Charles H. Reynolds

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