Higher Education: Leadership and Communication

As defined by Fairhurst (2005) in his article “Reframing the Art of Framing”, framing involves defining a subject’s content in a way that an outsider could comprehend the matter fully. It involves passing of interpretation from one person to another. In leadership, framing involves conveyance of understanding from a leader to a follower. This process utilizes the aspects of thought, forethought, and language (Fairhurst, 2005). A leader will first comprehend a model in his mental faculties. After this, he will convey interpretation to followers through language they can understand easily. Forethought involves exercising control over the communication process in a manner that will not distort information. Shortcomings in communication skills may make the process of framing difficult for the parties involved. One of the sources of weakness and failure in institutions of higher learning is abstractness and vague communication. Logic has to be transmitted together with information. Quality of communication is also influenced by a leadership style applied in an institution.

Fairhurst’s (2005) article expresses some fundamental realities in the field of communication. For an organization to work smoothly, information has to flow from one source to another. Therefore, channels of communication are the engines of an institution. Without this, leaders cannot offer directives to followers, and followers cannot express their thoughts and opinions.

As dynamics of higher education change, so does the need to run institutions with renewed vigor. A concept of distributed leadership is fast taking root in the education sector. There are, however, some concerns regarding the distribution of power and accountability in these institutions (Bolden, Petrov, & Gosling, 2009). Traditionally, power flows from one source down to subordinates or lower echelons of influence. This new concept borders on division of power and responsibility to foster efficiency. With this type of leadership, communication is determined by the nature of information. It can be formal, strategic, opportunistic, or cultural information. There is a perception that distributed leadership might not work efficiently in the education system because such institutions are not run with the goal of profit making. Although the justification is correct, these institutions encompass more than one goal. Goals of HEIs include improvement of performance, diversification of curricula, among others. Leadership can also be distributed on the basis of experience.

The concept of distributed leadership is a breakthrough in the field of leadership. For a long time, a centralized system of leadership has been running in many institutions of higher education. With the failure rate in some of these institutions, change was necessary to streamline performance. Adapting a new mechanism of working is crucial in order to bring change, hopefully positive. Institutions should hence look into decentralizing their leadership structure. It will also reduce the risk of a policy failure since different policies will be formulated by different power centers. In this way, if one policy backfires, institutions will still have other policies to fall back on, hence reducing failure.

An expression that leaders are born is a misguidance. A person cannot be born with all the necessary preparations that enable him to become a good leader. Before a person takes on a complex responsibility of leadership, he has to be trained with various challenges that might appear on his way. According to the article “Preparing for Leadership” by Wolverton, Ackerman, and Holt (2007), only about 60 out of 2000 of departmental heads in universities and colleges received any form of training before they ventured into work. These statistics are appalling, especially considering that departmental heads are a main link between students and top officials in institutions. They represent a link through which information flows. Without adequate preparations, these heads are likely to mess their offices and underperform in tasks assigned to them.

Preparation is necessary for any action that a person takes. It is even more crucial when a person is undertaking a demanding task such as a leadership role. Institutions of higher learning should hence work towards providing the necessary level of preparedness to departmental heads in order to ensure quality performance.

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