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Improving Higher Education’s Role in Diversity and Social Equity Through Relational Leadership in the New Era

Tue, October 26, 02:15 to 03:45 CEST (02:15 to 03:45 CEST), Online, Online Room 2

Short Description

Higher education has been one of the integral industries challenged over the course of a prior year amidst unprecedented socio-environmental impacts. This presentation challenges current leadership models engaged in higher education and their practices towards diversity and social equity through the lens of integrated perspective regarding critical concepts of application potentials and relational leadership’s applicability to diversity, inclusion, and social equity in higher education. The following investigation explores the changing dynamics of the relationship-based leadership paradigm, transcollegial leadership model, and the potentials for a deeper introspect in advancing higher education leadership in a new era and call for change.

Detailed Abstract

The potentiating circumstances of 2020 and the pandemic have highlighted the lack of diversity and equality in most US systems, especially higher education, which drives the need for further understanding for improving leadership. Higher education leadership, for the purposes of this presentation, demonstrates an urgent imperative to address the current issues of equity and balance in America. This research presentation considers the prospect of an integrated perspective of critical concepts of relational leadership applied to diversity, inclusion, and social equity in higher education; exploring the changing dynamics of the relationship-based leadership paradigm, transcollegial leadership, and the potentials for a deeper introspect in higher education leadership moving forward after the events of 2020 and in a new era of leadership. As a result, a new paradigm has developed to assess methodologies aiding colleges and universities as they face ever-changing and socially turbulent environments (Burns & Mooney, 2018). Institutional leaders must aim to improve equity, in higher education of marginalized populations, including African Americans, Native Americans, Hispanic students, different genders, and students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, as a way to balance and educate a society in need of healing.

From this research, a comprehensive survey of the literature revealed studies that suggested assorted models of leadership related to addressing diversity however, a thorough examination of various dyadic models of leadership and the societal perspectives of relational leadership on diversity lacks significant analysis (Branson & Marra, 2019). Studies theorized by Burns and Mooney (2018) illustrated possible underlying mechanisms of relationships associated with higher education leadership traits and styles. Transcollegial leadership, a newly emerging form of philosophy of leadership, has evinced a prospective x-factor in the fight for improving the higher education landscape. Traditional observations of leaders in higher education environments often use a top-down hierarchical structure often perceived as an agitating mechanism that intensifies negative working conditions in organizations. Thompson and Matkin (2020) emphasized leadership from academia, business, government, and social groups becomes a critical element in advocating for change and addressing equity issues in higher education.

Research on diversity, equity, and inclusion, as a result, has unveiled a tremendous need for higher education institutions to reassert and prioritize agendas. Important research questions propelling this investigation include:

• Has there been any saturation of inquiry regarding the success or failure of traditional and current applications of leadership in addressing equity and balance within higher education?
• To date, what models have proven the potential for success in higher education leadership as a means for achieving some valence in the areas of diversity and equity?
• Can Relational Leadership and Transcollegial Leadership become the tools for leadership regarding successful revisioning and balancing required for implementing greater equity and diversity in higher education?

Scholars and researchers have elicited various perspectives and philosophies to justify traditional leadership for learning approaches as depicted by Bossert et al., (1982); and Bridges (1977). Further research noted school leaders who work within an open system that involves constituents and the community tend to display a margin of more effective leadership as compared to leadership directly shaped by and responsive to the constraints and opportunities of the organization and the environment (Bossert et al., (1982); Bridges (1977). Sherman (1991) expressed a foundational proposition that depicts the modeling concepts and properties of Action Leadership. Researchers Cunliffe and Eriksen (2011) reported how leaders relate to other human beings by closely considering shared lived experiences. The concept of relationship-oriented behavior is not a new idea in terms of leadership of organizations, however, the term “relational leadership” brought forward for this inquiry is a contemporary idea (Brower et al., 2000).

One plausible consideration this research underscores is the collaborative relation-based approach to transcollegial leadership versus a traditional top-down approach. Integrating seminal theories of interpersonal trust and relational leadership is imperative in exploring perspectives. The possible assumption is that relational leadership dictates a way of engaging with others through their “interactions.” The importance of authenticity for a community or university leader should denote a high level of ethical responsibility as well. Relational leadership thus involves cultural sensitivity, situational awareness, and understanding of systemic inequality. Initial improvements needed within higher-education policies should also take in the processes and results obtained through extensive examination of diversity efforts that currently exist.

The importance of relational leadership styles in higher education is paramount. Cox and Hassard (2018) asserted the significance of leaders moving away from the measurement of leadership to focus on the diversity evolution of equity through behaviors, traits, and group actions. Acknowledgment of the inherently interdependent nature of people in life conceived by (Cunliffe & Eriksen, 2011) highlight relational leadership revolves around building and supporting effective relationships. McCauley and Palus (2020) propose that when leadership has a practice of “…ignoring equity, diversity, and inclusion issues”, others view the overarching process as disregarding them individually (P. 10).

Goleman et al., (2004) revealed that human mechanisms are at the heart of all interactions in relational leadership. Goleman et al., (2004) discoursed incorporating emotional intelligence (EI) within a construct of the incorporation of introspective activities, self-governing behaviors, and intracultural literacy, which enables leaders in a higher education model to create positive interactions in diverse settings within the organization. The summation of this research advocates for improving equity issues in higher education by integrating seminal theories of interpersonal trust and relational leadership can become the fulcrum to enhancing explored perspectives necessary for a comprehensive strategy. Doing so may change the course of outcomes in a new era that is in urgent need of greater relational possibilities in leadership.