What I learned during that time that has been indispensable in higher education is the necessity to give everyone a voice. To do that, however, is much easier said than done. I would describe my administrative style as an affiliative* collaboration directed toward common goals and objectives. Key attributes are
- Close listening and open dialogues
- Empathy and Encouragement
- Command decisions
Close listening is exactly what one would expect, that is, listening closely to everyone and creating an environment where everyone feels as though they can speak. Having a culture where everyone feels that meetings (group and one-on-one) are spaces where true, open dialogues can take place are a key facet in getting things done. Creating a space where open dialogue is welcome then makes it easier to closely listen to concerns and aspirations. All conversations and meetings need to end with some sort of action, even if that means simply saying there is little to nothing that can be done.
Empathy is a key aspect of effective leadership and administration that is, unfortunately, often times missing in today’s environment. While some may say that affective dimensions are not necessary in leadership, I feel the opposite is true. We have to acknowledge that we are working with people who have lives and struggles and joys and feelings. We need to be aware of our humanity as much as possible in our day-to-day interactions. Closely related is the need for encouragement. In any organization, it is essential to identify the strengths and weaknesses and encourage ways to maximize the strengths, while offsetting and improving the weaknesses. An example of this would be annual or semi-annual brief meetings with all those who teach in the program to find out they need to be successful not only in their teaching but also in their scholarly or professional development, and then finding some way to provide something toward those goals.
In the original conception of the affiliative leadership style, one drawback was that the leader would often fail to make important decisions or to address problems when they came up. In my administrative style, it is necessary to address problems, issues, concerns—no matter what they are—head on and make the best decisions as quickly as possible. This notion of command decisions is essential in ensuring that the goals and objectives of the program are met. Command decisions only happen, however, after listening and dialogues have occurred (even if it is in an abbreviated manner).
* Affiliative is a term from the work of Daniel Goleman’s leadership that works (2000) and his six different types of leaders (2002). However, the way I am deploying the term is a bit different from his classification scheme, particularly in his types of leaders.