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Developing & Selecting Leaders for the 21st Century

By Dale F. Campbell and Lynn H. Leverty

On addressing the changing nature of leadership, University of Florida President John Lombardi said: “If we knew all there is to know about leadership it would be contained all in one book. Instead we move from one best-seller to the next finding out all we can about this elusive topic.” Lombardi made his comments to his school’s Higher Education Administration doctoral program.

This lack of a coherent knowledge base presents a major challenge for graduate leadership programs if they are truly meeting the students’ needs for professional preparation. David Pierce, president of the American Association of Community Colleges, has stated that an important contribution could be made to community colleges if it were possible to identify the knowledge, skills, abilities, and competencies community college presidents need to be successful in the next century.

In 1995, the 21st Century Education Leader Project was launched. The project, which was developed by the Institute of Higher Education at the University of Florida in cooperation with Saville and Holdsworth, Ltd., is an effort to move “beyond Jell-O to substance” and identify the attributes of a 21st century community college leader. The project provides a work profile for community college presidents of the 21st century, which can be used in leadership development and selection. After one year, preliminary results of the project are encouraging.

Leaders of the Colorado community college system, including presidents, vice presidents of instruction, and system staff, have assisted in pilot testing this profile and developing baseline norms for each position. The Association of Community College Trustees has worked with a pilot community college to incorporate the profile into the college’s presidential search process. Results are also being analyzed in an effort to modify the graduate curriculum of the community college leadership program at the, University of Florida. The purpose this article is to review the process of the development of the profile and share some of the preliminary results and plans for further development.

Leaders for a New Century
Each generation of community college leaders has faced new leadership challenges. Early graduates of the Kellogg leadership programs were called upon to be builders and creators of community colleges. In the early 1980s, community colleges began being regarded nationally as an in-place delivery system for workforce development as a result of the downturn in the economy. What followed was an emphasis on job training.

In the 1990s, many colleges have been forced to do more with less as governments nationally downsize. The 21st century will bring further challenges for community college leaders as colleges rely more on technology to serve students with on-demand learning.

In response to the need for active leadership, the 1996 Community College Futures Assembly (whose theme was “Building Learning Communities”) was used to convene a panel of experts to construct a work profile for the community college president for the 21st century. Fourteen leaders in community college education (see Figure 1) were invited to participate. Care was taken to ensure the participants represented the wide spectrum of community colleges in the United States. Panel members included trustees, presidents, chief instructional officers, business officers, and faculty. Les Krieger, a consultant with Saville and Holdsworth, Ltd., worked with the panel to construct the job objectives and tasks for community college presidents, which were in turn broken into specific general activities. Participants then ranked not only the priority of tasks, but the proportionate amount of time that a president should spend on each activity. The key tasks and activities identified by the panel are shown in Figure 2.

Once the composite was assembled, the expert panel was reconvened in Atlanta in April 1996 at the AACC annual convention. There the panel members were asked to review the material for merit before the project progressed any further. All participants endorsed the project. Viewed alone, the tasks identified by the panel differ little from the general tasks outlined in most leadership literature. However, when individual assessment scores on the occupational personality questionnaire are matched to the leadership profile, the initial results are impressive. Following the meeting of the panel, Jerry Wartgow, president of the Colorado Community College and Occupational Education System, saw sufficient potential in the project to suggest that Colorado be the first state to pilot the profile.

Occupational Personality Questionnaire
The 21st Century Education Leader Project is based not only on the profile developed in Orlando, but also on the occupational personality questionnaire originally developed in 1984 in the United Kingdom by Saville and Holdsworth, Ltd. The development of the OPQ was supported by 53 organizations in the public and private sector, which contributed approximately $3.5 million to offset the expenses of developing and testing the OPQ. These organizations were interested in a more effective way of developing, selecting, and evaluating their own organizational personnel. Research has shown that predictive validity of the OPQ measuring job performance ranges from 0.29 to 0.38 when a job analysis is conducted, as was done in constructing the 21st Century Educational Leader Profile.

The OPQ, which was introduced in the United States in 1989, has been adapted for use in more than 20 countries and is used by more than 1,000 companies worldwide in the areas of staff selection, development, and evaluation.

Community colleges in Kentucky, Texas, and Florida have utilized the OPQ primarily in their business and industry training centers to serve small businesses. Florida Community College at Jacksonville was the first community college to utilize the OPQ with its professional staff in its Women and Minority Leadership Program. However, until this project started, no one had utilized the process to develop a work profile for our own profession. The 21st Century Educational Leadership Project was created to fill that gap.

The OPQ provides an objective assessment of an individual’s preferred work style in the areas of relationships with others, thinking styles, and feelings and emotions. After an individual has taken the OPQ, the SHL Human Resource Management System matches the OPQ to the University of Florida Institute of Higher Education’s 21st Century Educational Leader Profile. An Attribute Based Person-Job Match Report is generated, which compares the candidate to attributes that are ranked as essential, important, and other.

The community college leader panel identified the following attributes as essential: utilizing data/logic, critical evaluation of ideas, and the enjoyment of forward planning in decision making. An important attribute for the CEO is also a preference for a nontraditional work culture. Additional information is also available that provides information about team types, leadership and subordinate styles, and selling/influencing styles.

Overall match on personality attributes for Colorado community college presidents using aggregate scores with the 21st Century Educational Leader Profile is shown in Figure 3. Aggregate scores for the leadership styles for the Colorado community college presidents are shown in Figure 4. The current Colorado leader is very similar to the profile envisioned for the 21st century community college president. In addition to use within the state, The Institute of Higher Education is also using the Colorado data to assist in establishing baseline norms nationally for leadership positions in community colleges.

Aggregate scores for vice presidents and current doctoral students are not as close a match as the Colorado presidents to the 21st Century Educational Leader Profile. This, of course, provides fertile ground for further research. These results will also be of assistance in advising and constructing a student’s graduate education program of study and for formulating professional development plans for anyone aspiring to be a community college president.

Future Development
Other key community college leadership positions are being profiled to establish a baseline for further study. The Institute cooperated this past fall with the Community College Business Officers, an affiliate council of AACC, in developing baseline data for the chief business officer. Presidents from the Continuous Quality Improvement Network and the Board of the National Council of Instructional Administrators have been invited as cosponsors of the 1997 Community College Futures Assembly to help develop a profile of their respective positions.

Once the 21st Century Educational Leader Project has been fully developed, attention will be given to other areas of the public sector that have an equal need for leadership development and evaluation. Preliminary results show that the project will make an important contribution to the profession in moving “beyond Jell-O to substance” in developing and selecting leaders for the next century.

Dale F. Campbell is professor and director, Community College Leadership Consortium, University of Florida, which sponsors the Community College Futures Assembly.

Lynn H. Leverty is associate director of the Askew Institute on Politics and Society, and head of the Field Committee of the Public Administration Program, University of Florida.

Posted with permission from the February/March 1997 Community College Journal, Volume 67, No. 4

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