This series of posts describes what we’ve learned about the peculiarities of leadership in academia based on our work with the CPI 260® leadership assessment. See the introduction to this series for background on this assessment.
Today we’re looking at one of the summary measures on the CPI 260® assessment: Managerial Potential. This measure includes the capacity to work well with people in general as well as qualities such as sound judgement, the ability to explain one’s motivation, and a willingness to work collaboratively and share credit. What’s your guess as to how faculty compare with leaders in the business world?
The mythology that scholarship and leadership are separate endeavors would seem to indicate that faculty wouldn’t rate highly as managers. For those who buy into this mythology, that’s often the preferred outcome. “Leave the managing to others – I’ve got more important things to do!”
Faculty Leaders vs. Business Leaders
By now, though, we’re seeing that the qualities of leadership are intrinsically embedded in the work of faculty. Faculty in general – not just those in formal leadership roles – have leadership profiles that are similar to or stronger than business leaders as measured by the CPI 260® assessment. Furthermore, if we look at the definition of Managerial Potential above we see many skills that must be developed to be a successful researcher, teacher, and scholar.
The scores themselves bear this out. Average faculty scores on Managerial Potential are higher than average business leader scores. Faculty learn the skills of managing people in order to succeed at their job. Does that mean that all faculty are good at this? Of course not – average scores never tell us about everyone. (The point here is scores are higher than business leaders, and not all business leaders are superstars on managing people.)
But faculty definitely have something going on. In the data we’ve been looking at, the Managing Potential scores are higher for faculty and the variance is lower. Faculty on the whole present as good managers.
Capacity to Manage
Of even greater significance is one other comparison: when looking at all 21 scores* associated with leadership, Managerial Potential is the highest score in both academia and in business – higher even that Achievement via Independence for faculty. Faculty not only have significant capacity to manage people, this is (on average) the strongest leadership capacity they have.
There is some face validity to this finding. In almost all departments across thousands of institutions, the role of head or chair is inhabited by faculty who receive little-to-no leadership training or support during their tenure. In some disciplines faculty rotate through this role every three years. Somehow, this has worked well enough for higher education to be one of the most stable and successful industries in history.
Again, does it always work? No – and much of the fallout can be quite damaging, especially to those who are on the margins, different, or particularly vulnerable to the mistakes of leaders. We are glad to be among the loudest calling for better leadership development for academic administrators. And yet we understand that the considerable resistance we see to taking the time or investing the money in leadership development is rooted in a core truth; faculty bring a lot to the leadership table (whether they realize it or not). Leadership development in academia must take this into account to make the effort worth anyone’s time.