HE 597B:

Leadership in Higher Education

        Instructor Dr. Tara Lynn Fulton
Office Number 570-893-2310
E-mail address Tfulton@lhup.edu


Course Overview

This course serves as an introduction to the academic of leadership on college campuses.  As a graduate level class, it assumes some general exposure either to the theoretical concepts and/or the actual practice of leadership.  The course is designed to blend these perspectives.  It is not intended for leadership development; students will have opportunities to apply what they are learning, but the focus of the course is not on skill development per se.  On the other hand, it does not limit itself to pure research in the study of leadership.  Leadership is viewed as an art (especially a performing art), a philosophy, a social science, and a lifestyle as well as a science.

Emphasis is given to manifestations of leadership in the higher education setting, which by nature will draw on business, political, sociological, and psychological constructs and approaches.  Leadership is closely tied to administration/management, governance, and organizational theory; we will not delve into distinctions nor attempt to duplicate courses in those areas, although we will in fact intersect all three of those domains.  The course is limited in scope to institutional level leadership and to the US; however, students are welcome to choose professional level or state/federal level or international leadership for their individual projects.

A few comments about the conduct of this course ... The intention of this course is to create a community of learners in which we all contribute and learn from one another.  Students are responsible for their own learning, and will be treated as such.  It is important that everyone be prepared for discussions and activities each week.  Outside of class students are expected to negotiate with the instructor to tailor assignments to their individual interests and needs.  The course is designed flexibly, so that the pace and order of components can be adjusted to meet class needs.

Course Goals

1.  To develop an understanding of the processes, practices and purposes of leadership in higher education institutions;

2. To span historical foundations and au currant issues;

3. To consider various ways in which leadership is defined, the expectations those definitions create, and the ways in which leaders do and do not meet their own and others’ expectations;

4. To explore ways in which leadership behavior is dependent upon and adjusts to various internal, external, and personal circumstances;

5. To provide links between the theory and practice of higher education leadership;

6. To train students in the basics of information retrieval in the field, and to provide practice in utilizing information to construct one’s own ideas;

7. To tap pluralist and diverse perspectives on higher education leadership;

8. To encourage personal reflection on students’ own leadership style tendencies and skill development needs;

9. To expose students to some of the core texts/studies, literature reviews, and classic pieces of literature in the field;

10. To explore ways in which higher education situations create unique challenges to leadership and how leadership differs at different levels and in different types of institutions;

11. To learn to take multiple perspectives in examining both the theory and practice of leadership.

Course Outline

Session            Date                 Topic

1.                     July 1               Introduction; Definitions of leadership; Leaders vs. managers;

Leader roles and responsibilities

2.                     July 3               Theoretical models, typologies and taxonomies

3.                     July 6               Figureheads, tyrants, delegaters, coaches, and country club leaders:

Leadership style inventories and depictions of leadership


4.                     July 8               The unique context of higher education;

Environmental, cultural, historical and organizational, task,  and follower influences

5.                     July 10             Information sources for the study of leadership

6.                     July 13             Differences between levels of leadership:

Governing boards, presidents, vice presidents, deans, department chairs and administrative managers

7.                     July 15             Auspicious beginnings and graceful exits:

Assuming and leaving leadership positions;

                                                Leader success and failure.

8.                     July 17             Selection, evaluation, and development of leaders

9.                     July 20             Diversity: Leadership by/of particular groups and in

particular types of institutions

10.                   July 22             Catch up time;

                                                Presentations on biography assignment

11.                   July 24             Research methodologies and theoretical frameworks

12.                   July 27             Leadership ethics ;

Individual and group project presentations

13.                   July 29             Postmodern leadership:

The future of leadership in higher education

14.                   July 31             How well does research inform practice?



Favorite depictions      

Quotes, anecdotes, Dilbert cartoons, song lyrics, images from TV or film... Please find a collection of four or five that you find especially meaningful and come to Session 3 prepared to share them with the group.  

You should also hand in a list of what you came prepared to share, but you do not need to reproduce the actual texts (e.g. just say “ quote from Warren Bennis’ book on leadership in times of change” or “story of my bosses’ first major challenge as a leader”).  These may be on leadership in any setting.

Diversity presentation

For Session 9 we will form groups, and each group will prepare a 10-15 minute presentation for the class.  Since that session’s topic is “leadership by/of particular groups and in particular types of institutions,” your group might choose one of the following:

Your group should answer the following types of questions for the class.

1.     How is leadership different for this group?

2.     What are this group’s unique issues?

3.     Does leadership in this setting require different skills, traits, qualifications?

4.     Does this group have publications, listservs, conferences, or other vehicles by which they maintain contact with one another?

5.     Are there books, articles, websites, or other materials you recommend to the class for better understanding of this group?

6.     Are particular frames of methodologies especially helpful in looking at this group of leaders?

Research theory/method facilitation

In Session 11 we will look at various theories and methods used to study leadership.  Groups or individuals will select particular theories or methods and be prepared to explain the theory/method and then facilitate discussion about it for five to ten minutes.  Visuals and examples are always helpful in explaining when particular theories or methods are most appropriate.

Individual or group project

The topic on this is wide open, but must be negotiated with the instructor by Session 5.  You may focus in on a topic already covered in class, or you may pursue topics not explicitly covered in class.  Examples of interesting topics we do not have much time for in class are:

Examples of topics many students find of interest are:

Likewise the format that your project takes is wide open.  You may do a standard paper, or a literature review.  You may do some kind of miniature quantitative or qualitative research study.  You may create a multimedia unit or website on the topic to be used in a course like this one.  You might put together a portfolio of items or list of readings if you were doing leadership development in a particular higher education context.  Your own creativity is the limit -- with the stipulation that it be approved by the instructor by Session 5.       

You must have some kind of an outline, including a core list of references to the instructor by Session 9.  The project is due by Session 11.  At Session 12 each individual or group will have about 15 minutes to present their project to the rest of the class.  Students who are not satisfied with their initial grade are encouraged to resubmit the project by Session 15.

Concluding activity

How much does the literature on leadership really tell us?  How well does research inform practice?  What roles do classic works, research studies, personal testimonials, newsy items, literature reviews, colloquially written pieces, editorials, and other types of materials add to our understanding of leadership in higher education?  What are avenues for future research and evolution of the field?  These will be the themes for our last class session.

We will have two debates at Session 14.  The topics will be:

Are leadership typologies and taxonomies useful in understanding the actual practice of leadership in contemporary higher education settings?

Is there sufficient literature available to predict how an individual leader is likely to respond to a particular issue/situation under particular circumstances?

In each case, one group will argue a “yes” answer and the other group will argue a “no” answer to the question.  Each group member may choose to play a role (e.g. a higher education faculty member, a higher education consultant, a leadership development expert), or your group can just bring multiple perspectives in as you see fit.   We will form groups at Session 10.

Each group will have fifteen minutes to prepare a statement or present their argument, and must then be ready to engage in rounds of response and open debate on the topic.  No written product is necessary, but you must be prepared to document your assertions and to contradict likely arguments by your opponents.



One of the best ways to study leadership is through case studies of individuals.  Each of you will choose one leader in the field of higher education and write about a three-to-five page report on the individual’s accomplishments, leadership style and philosophy, situational factors, and career influences.  You may choose an historical figure or a contemporary leader.   You may gather this information from published works or from interviews.     

Good case studies tell a story as well as analyzing and documenting.  Think about how the individual probably experienced his/her own leadership as well as how those around the individual portrayed him/her.   Was there drama in this story?  Why did you find this person compelling enough to study?

The write-up and a brief presentation are both due at Session 10.


Individual or group project               30%

Class participation                            15%

Biography                                            10%

Concluding activity                                    15%

Diversity presentation                             15%

Research method facilitation                   10%

Favorite depictions                                5%

Six criteria are used to grade each assignment:

Students should note in the grading policy that no one activity or project makes or breaks your grade in this class.  You should balance the energy you devote to projects, since you have something due every couple of weeks.  You can easily focus your efforts on the assignments you find most valuable; in fact if you approach the instructor before Session 5, you may negotiate the percentage weight of individual projects on your grade.


Coursepack available at the Student Bookstore downtown.

Some materials will be made available on reserve at Pattee.

Supplementary reading materials may be borrowed from the instructor upon request.





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