26 SES 12 A, Exploring Leadership across the Globe
Covid19 in 2020 was the first pandemic to strike with virulence in modern times (Tourish, 2020). Educational organizations encountered an immediate shift in their systems and practices to address the disruptions and disjuntures that the pandemic created. Educational leadership and management, with its inherent challenges (Arar, Örücü &Wilkinson, 2021), becomes a more stressful and challenging task at times of crisis (Azorin, 2020; Coombs, 2005; Gurr&Drysdale, 2020; Harris, 2021) . Universities have also had to navigate this storm through various means such as migrating their courses online , taking different measures in their administration processes and prioritizing their responsibilities (Fernandez&Shaw, 2020). Yet, such turbulence (Gross, 2014) and crisis require a rapid response (Gurr&Drysdale, 2020) from the educational leaders through certain capabilities and skills. This unforeseen crisis has apparently had adverse implications on higher education intitutions (HEIs), whereas HE management is inherently a problematic domain (Drew, 2010). Since the pandemic started, educational researchers have contributed to the literature regarding educational leadership at different levels (Agasisti & Soncin, 2021; Gurr&Drysdale, 2020; Harris, 2021; Marinoni, van’t Land& Jensen, 2020). HE leadership had already been characterized by shifts in leadership theory and practice, a move beyond focus just on ‘the leader’ as control agent, to ‘leading’ which opens up spaces to consider more creative, shared and collaborative approaches to the field (Davis&Jones, 2014).
Some studies have explored the implications of Covid19 crises on educational leadership in HEIs; which has adverse impact on research, teaching and community engagement in HEIs (Altbach &deWit, 2020; Marinoni, van’t Land &Jensen, 2020) . As for the HEI leadership, Fernandez& Shaw (2020) proposed three best practices for academic leadership during the pandemic as connecting with people as individuals and establishing mutual trust, distributing leadership throughout the organization and communicating clearly and often with all stakeholders; while prioritizing responsibilities. The credibility of the leader is significant at times of such ambiguity and emergency , which also requires sensemaking (Spillane, 1999) and relevant crisis management skills such as communicating the complexities in simpler terms, while outlining potential plausible solutions (Agasisti & Soncin, 2021). During the emergency, university leaders should consider its structural impact on teaching and learning, research and innovation, decision-making structures, and on their own role in providing the academic community with a strong vision by adopting a “test and learn” attitude(Samoilovich, 2020) . Thus, how countries responded to this emergency in HEIs in policy and practice is important. Turkey, with a centralized higher education administration system, has 129 public and 78 private universities with over 176.000 academic staff of different ranks (HEC, 2020). As the education systems got snowed under this recent crisis, the problems are multifold including those related with leadership and management in HEIs.
Thus, as Tourish (2020) asserted, “coronavirus crisis is also a crisis of leadership theory and practice (p. 261) . Decision making, building trust and accountability, dealing with various organizational issues related with different stakeholders within uncertainty is difficult; especially with poor evidence to guide us and face unpredictable outcomes .
To understand this recent phenomenon and contribute to the emprical findings, we seek to explore how the academic staff in Turkey conceptualize the HE leadership and management processes in response to Covid19 at their universities. The guiding questions are :
How do academic staff experience the Covid-19 crisis in professional terms ?
- What are the policy and management-related challenges of pandemic for the academic staff ?
- What are the opportunities created by the pandemic for the academic staff?
- How do the higher education leaders navigate this crisis at the selected universities?
- What are the expectations of the academic staff from the HE leaders and managers?
A phenomenological approach in the realm of qualitative research was employed as it allowed the illumination of phenomena through the perspectives of those involved (Gill, 2014). Data from semi-structured interviews with 10 academic staff (one from each university) in 5 public and 5 private universities in Turkey was analysed through content analysis (Marshall&Rossmann, 2012). Convenience sampling was utilized to reach the participants due to the limitations of pandemic quarantine rules. Among the participants, 2 of them are research assistants, 4 of them are assistant professors, 2 are associate professprs and 2 are full professors. In terms of gender, the there were 8 female and 2 males. Interview questions addressed their views on the pandemic, its challenges and opportunities for both personal , Professional and organizational domains at their institution, their views on how the management and leadership altered during the crisis, the impact of HE policy at university level and their expectations from the university leaders in their institutions. The interviewees were informed of the purpose and method of the research and expressed their consent for the interviews. Interviews were conducted through Zoom video streams online and recorded with their consent. Transcriptions underwent four stages of analysis suggested by Marshall and Rossman (2012) including ‘organizing the data’, ‘generating categories, themes and patterns’, ‘testing any emergent hypothesis’ and ‘searching for alternative explanations’, to identify central themes in the data, searching for recurrent perceptions, trajectories, experiences and attitudes. First, the collected data were sorted inductively to thematize the coded data (Miles & Huberman, 1994). Next, patterns were determined to reach a brief understanding (Marshall & Rossman, 2012). We employed structured analysis and intercoder reliability for validity and reliability. By fully providing details of the systematic data collection, being as transparent as possible ans relying on detailed thick descriptons, the credibility and authenticity of the data is enhanced. Moreover, the positionality of researchers as academic staff will be explicated during the session as we continuously reflected on our own assumptions and preconceptions and how these could have impact on the interview questions, discourse and our contact with the participants.
Data analysis still continues; yet the initial findings revealed some contradictory patterns across public and private universities concerning the phenomenon. In relation to our research questions, data yielded 3 main themes with opposing patterns within. These are Pros and Cons of the Pandemic for academic staff (personal vs. organizational challenges); Survival of the fittest in Turbulent times (personal coping strategies vs.organizational demands), HEI Leaders’ navigation of Crisis and Response to it (Experience vs. Inexperience, Trust vs. Distrust; Autonomy vs Limitations; Support vs. Threat) . Across all the themes, the main findings hint to the pattern that the ambiguity of decisions and frequent decision changes at policy level have led to distrust, anxiety and stark forms of leadership across different management levels at the universities, while this created tensions and ambiguity among the academic staff. Hence, engaging in adaptive leadership (Goode, McGennisken & Rutherford, 2021; Marshall, Roache &Moody-Marshall, 2020) is essential as the first resort, based on the initial findings. Findings will be explicated in detail by comparing to the evidence from international and European contexts. As this study is a preliminary attempt to explore the leadership phenomenon in HEIs during the Covid19 qualitatively, we do not attempt to make generalizations; however, we believe it would spark discussions with international collegues during the presentation session.
Altbach, P. G., & de Wit, H. (2020). Postpandemic outlook for higher education is bleakest for the poorest.International Higher Education, 102 Specıal Issue, 3-5. Azorin, C. (2020), “Beyond COVID-19 Supernova. Is another education coming?”, Journal of Professional Capital and Community. doi: 10.1108/JPCC-05-2020-0019. Drew, G. (2010). Issues and challenges in higher education leadership: Engaging for change. The Australian educational researcher, 37(3), 57-76. Fernandez, A. A., & Shaw, G. P. (2020). Academic leadership in a time of crisis: The coronavirus and COVID‐19. Journal of Leadership Studies, 14(1), 39-45. Gurr, D., & Drysdale, L. (2020). Leadership for challenging times. International Studies in Educational Administration, 48(1), 24-30. Goode, H., McGennisken, R., & Rutherford, E. (2021). An Adaptive Leadership Response to Unprecedented Change. CCEAM, 36. Hargreaves, A. (2020), “What’s next for schools after coronavirus? Here are 5 big issues and opportunities”, The Conversation, available at: https://theconversation.com/whatsnext-for-schools -after-coronavirus-here-are-5-big-issues and-opportunities-135004 Harris, A. (2020). COVID-19–school leadership in crisis?. Journal of Professional Capital and Community, 5(3/4),321-326. Marioni, G., Van’t land, H., & Jensen, T. (2020). The Impact ofcovid-19 on higher education around the world: IAU Global Survey Report. https://www.iau-aiu.net/IMG/pdf/iau_covid-19_regional_perspectives_on_the_impact_of_covid-19_on_he_july_2020_.pdf Marshall, C., & Rossman, G. (2012). Designing qualitative research (2nd edition). Thousand Oaks, Cal.: Sage Publications. Marshall, J., Roache, D., & Moody-Marshall, R. (2020). Crisis leadership: A critical examination of educational leadership in higher education in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. CCEAM, 30. Samoilovich, D. (2020). Leadership in the Time of COVID-19: Reflections of Latin American Higher Education Leaders. International Higher Education, 102, 32-34.
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