Book by Bolman, Lee G. and Gallos, Joan V
Review by Kelley Meidl
College of Pharmacy & Health Sciences
Higher education is a deeply personal and complex discipline for those who care genuinely about its success. Many administrators, faculty and staff happen upon a career in higher education by chance – what starts out as a job becomes a passion. Others have a desire to work in a college or university for many years and see an upper-level administrative position as the ultimate goal. Reframing Academic Leadership is for people like these – people who strive to be leaders and make a difference in this multifarious field.
Reframing Academic Leadership is nicely organized and easy to read – it is practical and coherent without much of the fluff often found in professional or personal development-centered books. Each chapter provides an overview of topics to be covered, details those topics, and concludes with a summary. The authors do a good job laying out information in a format that makes sense and is easy to follow. The content does not necessarily build upon itself; however it is clear and concise. Situational examples of academic leaders in common but difficult situations are used to set up the dilemma at the beginning of the chapter. This tactic works well, drawing readers in by relating the fictional circumstance to one of their own. Although this method encourages reader interest, there is not a clear conclusion to the academic leader’s peril. It would be helpful to see how the authors suggest using their methods to resolve the challenge.
The authors present topics which can be sensitive but are vitally important to succeeding in higher education. These topics include building institutional clarity, leading difficult people and managing your boss, among many more. The authors do not glorify the field of higher education, choosing instead to be forthcoming about many of the challenges leaders face including difficult faculty, demanding presidents, and decreasing budgets. While good information is given, it is not particularly groundbreaking, providing much of the same advice as a Good to Great-style book with an academic twist (Collins 2001).
Leaders are encouraged to be truthful and transparent, bring solutions to the table instead of problems, and lead with soul. In chapter six, titled “Fostering a Caring and Productive Campus: Leader as Servant Catalyst, and Coach,” the authors take a human resource view on academic leadership. A table is provided which compares the academic institution to an extended family stating the basic leadership task is to “facilitate the alignment between individual and organizational needs” (p. 93). Yes, but in organizations such as those found in academia, it is incredibly difficult to align faculty, staff, and administration for a common and achievable goal. Leaders must be up to the challenge. Each set of players has an agenda and their leaders face constant resistance. The authors realize this and encourage administrators to lead by example, setting the stage for an effective team.
However, this book is an excellent reference for anyone wanting to succeed in higher education leadership. Reframing Academic Leadership is written for academic administrators, but is a wonderful guide on how to navigate the politics, personalities, and pressures that come along with any sort of leadership role in an academic institution. The last chapter, titled “Feeding the Soul,” comes as a surprise and lends a comforting and compassionate hand to self preservation in a field which can be emotionally draining to those fully invested.
This would be a great book to give those new to the field or those facing challenges as their career progresses. Overall, Reframing Academic Leadership achieved what it sets out to do – to help institutional leaders reframe their leadership style to achieve the respect and results needed to succeed.
Collins, Jim (2001). Good to Great. New York, NY: HarperCollins.
Reframing Academic Leadership. (2011) Book by Bolman, Lee G. and Gallos, Joan V. Review by Kelley Meidl. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. 254pp. $40.00. ISBN: 978-0-7879-8806-7