JAMES TAYLOR AND MARIA DE LOURDES MACHADO
HIGHER EDUCATION LEADERSHIP AND MANAGEMENT:
FROM CONFLICT TO INTERDEPENDENCE THROUGH
ABSTRACT. Institutional leadership and management are two entirely diﬀerent,
yet intimately intertwined, aspects of the overall eﬀective functioning of a higher
education institution (HEI). This paper is intended to (1) deﬁne and diﬀerentiate
between the two concepts, (2) critically discuss their importance and vital interde-
pendence, (3) discuss circumstances that can create conﬂict or compatibility between
these concepts, (4) critically examine models of strategic planning and suggest a
better approach to this process, and (5) oﬀer suggestions for the improvement of
both leadership and management in the context of co-existence within a redeﬁned
strategic planning environment.
The concepts of leadership and management of higher education
institutions (HEIs) are often confused and misunderstood, and
therefore rigorously debated within the academic community.
(Bergquist 1992; Cohen & March 1983) While the intellectual rhetoric
can stimulate thought-provoking discussions and contribute in
meaningful ways to the academic dialogue and literature, it does not
always serve to promote and enhance institutional functioning. Many
areas of study in higher education suﬀer from the great divide
between empirical inquiry and real world applications. In many ways,
the continuum from theory to practice with respect to leadership and
management in HEIs is dichotomous. This disconnect undermines
our ability to formulate eﬀective strategies for understanding these
concepts in terms of how they can be made more eﬀective.
It is generally held with little disagreement that leadership is a
process for inﬂuencing decisions and guiding people, whereas man-
agement involves the implementation and administration of institu-
tional decisions and policies (Bennis & Nanus 1985; Gayle,
Bhoendradatt & White 2003; Peterson 1995). There are, however,
many other less universally agreed upon attributes of each concept
that can mitigate against their eﬀective co-existence (Cohen & March
Tertiary Education and Management (2006) 12: 137–160 Springer 2006
1983; Larsen 2003; Yammarino & Dansereau 2001). It can be argued
that leadership and management cannot be addressed as discrete and
autonomous entities. A meaningful understanding of both concepts
can only be reached when they are examined in relation to one
another. The symbiotic interdependence of leadership and manage-
ment in higher education is an important element in understanding
either concept (Clark 1998; Millett 1989; Peterson & Mets 1987).
Each depends on the other for support and to provide the institution
with the multifaceted decision-making, policy development and
administrative roles necessary to function eﬀectively. For this com-
patibility to exist, both concepts must be clearly understood by all
involved parties, and those individuals engaged must possess the
personal skills and tools necessary to implement their contributing
roles as leaders and managers. (Moore 2001; Nanus 1992).
Strategic planning has generally been considered to be one of the
tools of higher education for several decades. Over time, new models
continue to emerge (Austin 2002; Ball 2001; Cope 1987; Dooris 2003;
Goodstein et al. 1993; Hayward & Ncayiyana 2003; Keller 1993,
forthcoming: McNay 1997; Norris & Poulton 1991; Peterson 1992,
1999, 2004). However a historical examination of implementation
eﬀorts reveals more institutional failures than successes (Birnbaum
2001). While numerous models exist that attempt to distinguish
themselves from the others, it is the contention of the authors that the
models have far more commonalities than diﬀerences when one
moves past the diﬀerentiating jargon and examines their essential
elements. It is further posited that poor implementation strategies are
far more frequently the cause of problems than the particular model
utilised (Newman & Larson 1997; Rowley & Sherman 2002). There
are many acceptable methodologies for establishing priorities and
strategic direction for an institution. The greater challenge is
orchestrating policies, actions and diverse constituencies in a way that
produces desired results. Thus it is suggested that the knowledge and
skills of leaders and managers is far more important to planning
success than the particular model chosen by the HEI. Finally, a case
can be made for the position that, despite the many planning models
that emphasise it, transformational, culture-redeﬁning institutional
change is not always what an HEI should pursue. Most change in
higher education is appropriately incremental, not transformational.
It will be argued that simpliﬁed and ﬂexible planning processes,
implemented through the complimentary roles of leaders and
JAMES TAYLOR AND MARIA DE LOURDES MACHADO
managers with necessary planning expertise, may provide the most
productive higher education environment for advancement and
Management and Leadership: Conceptual Frameworks
When referring to the concept of management, contemporary dis-
course more often addresses strategic management. It seems in cur-
rent times fashionable to preface many nouns in the lexicography of
higher education with the term ‘strategic’. As a result, the term has
been grossly overused and blatantly misused in much that has been
written. Thus, for purposes of this paper, some clariﬁcation is oﬀered.
The integrated components of strategic management form the
essential ingredients for institutional prosperity and success. In its
broadest sense, it can be deﬁned (David 1996, p. 4) as: ‘‘The art and
science of formulating, implementing and evaluating cross functional
decisions that enable an organisation to fulﬁl its objectives’’.
Strategic management is a holistic process with many components
that must eﬀectively interact and function together. These compo-
nents include (but are not necessarily limited to) institutional culture;
strategic planning; leadership; institutional research, resource allo-
cation and ﬁnancial management; personnel and human resources
management; research and scholarly activity; student and campus
support services; academic support services; internationalisation; and
external relations. Strategic management is more often involved with
the interrelationships and equilibrium between these components so
that one reinforces the others, rather than the implementation of
major change initiatives. This is not intended to minimise institu-
tional change and transformation. Culture-altering change is needed
only infrequently. However, its importance at those moments cannot
be overstated and the need for institutional leaders to be able to
implement it is critical.
One can view strategic management from both positive and neg-
ative perspectives (Mintzberg et al. 1998). It serves as a mechanism to
provide direction to an institution and at the same time has the
potential to propel an HEI on a perilous course into uncharted
waters. It helps coordinate organisational activities, but taken to
excess can create ‘groupthink’, where the choreography is overdone.
HIGHER EDUCATION LEADERSHIP AND MANAGEMENT 139
To borrow from the lexicon of Complex Adaptive Systems Theory,
replicating (attempting to perpetuate) the present status quo will force
an institution to fall behind and out of equilibrium with its external
environment, while advancing too rapidly will thrust it into chaos.
The adaptive institution must live on the edge of chaos (Waldrop
1993). This creates a delicate balance between stability and instability
that must be orchestrated by strong leadership.
Leadership is a complex process consumed by the complications of
timing, circumstances and individuals. The perfect scenario of the
right person, at the right time, in the right situation, with the right
followers is an idealised circumstance written about often in the lit-
erature, but seldom realised in the real world. Leaders and their styles
can come in many forms. Institutions can and do vary enormously in
their missions, circumstances, cultures and historical heritages.
External environmental factors can, and do change at a pace today
that can best be described as exponential. All of these intricate
variables come together in each unique institutional situation to
deﬁne the circumstances that exist. Thus, a simple formula for
leadership does not and never will exist. Our penchant for deﬁning,
categorising, compartmentalising and over simplifying such complex
interactions must give way to a more open and ﬂexible analysis of the
necessities for eﬀective leadership in a HEI. Absolute certainty is only
attained if one knows nothing or everything about the subject under
consideration. Such is not the case here.
Regardless of the circumstances, motivations and origins of the
leaders in place, their perceptions and skills will be the primary
vehicle that advances or fails to advance the institutions. It is at this
same moment in time that simple and that complicated.
Numerous scholars have attempted to deﬁne leadership for many
decades. The diﬀerent deﬁnitions reﬂect the theoretical insights of
the models that emerged across time. The time spectrum shows a
theoretical evolution that advanced from trait theories, to
behavioural theories, followed by contingency theories to transfor-
mation and transactional theories. For a cogent historical summary
of these approaches, the reader is referred to Bargh et al. (2000).
Other dominant theoretical models of leadership, such as visionary
leadership theory and leader member exchange theory (Bass 1998;
Schriesheim, Castro & Coglier 1999), oﬀer some additional context.
JAMES TAYLOR AND MARIA DE LOURDES MACHADO
Visionary leadership, which currently receives considerable
attention, has been deﬁned by Neumann and Neumann (2000) as
having the three essential ingredients of vision, focus and imple-
mentation skills. Their study of these three variables on 279 HEI
leaders identiﬁed eight leadership types in descending order from
most to least eﬀective:
The authors maintain that the truly visionary, strategic and trans-
formational leader is the Integrator, who eﬀectively integrates vision,
focus and implementation. The Net Caster lacks the proper focus
and sprays the agenda with an undisciplined array of ideas.
The Focused Visionary sees the bigger picture and focuses in on the
priorities, but lacks the expertise to implement a change agenda.
Those lacking vision but possessing the other components are termed
Focused Performers. A lack of vision and implementation skills
results in the designation as a Prioritiser. With only an undisciplined
vision, one is categorised as a Dreamer. The inability to demonstrate
vision or focus, leaving only implementation skills, is termed an
Implementer. Finally, the leader devoid of vision, focus or imple-
mentation expertise is classiﬁed as a Maintainer. Their ﬁndings
provide evidence in support of their hierarchy of leadership styles
and eﬀectiveness. From Integrator to Maintainer, the data showed a
continual decline in institutional eﬀectiveness from one leadership
style to the next. These ﬁndings would suggest that institutions in
search of a new leader should weigh these factors as important to
their future prosperity.
An eﬀective leader must possess the uncanny ability to view situ-
ations and challenges from multiple, and sometimes contradictory
perspectives in order to encompass the full array of options for
decision-making and policy development. Rothenburg (1979) coined
the term ‘‘Janus thinking’’ to explain this phenomenon in a study of
the creative achievements of famous people from the arts and
sciences. The term is based on the Roman god, Janus, who was
HIGHER EDUCATION LEADERSHIP AND MANAGEMENT 141
portrayed as having two faces looking in diﬀerent directions at the
same time. Thus, Janus thinking is characterised by two contradic-
tory thoughts, both accepted as true, occurring simultaneously.
Rothenburg posits that creative individuals can accommodate the
simultaneous operation of these illogical and antithetical alternatives
and as a result, conceive integrated and creative outcomes. While
logic would dictate that two opposites must be dichotomous and
mutually exclusive, Janus thinking suggests this ﬂexibility of thought
provides the necessary backdrop for the creativity and problem-
solving ability visionary leaders must possess. While Janusian
thinking in individuals and Janusian characteristics in institutions
may seem on the surface to be irrational, they are a part of the
complex recipe for visionary leadership. Continuity and change,
specialisation and generalisation, pro-activity and reactivity, and
other seemingly contradictory elements are part and parcel of the
adaptive HEI and of the visionary leader’s repertoire.
The literature also reinforces the point that leadership cannot be
static in an emergent and unpredictable environment, and suggests
that leadership functions must involve eﬀorts to ensure team moti-
vation, commitment, and a positive interpersonal climate within the
context of change and uncertainty (Klein et al. 2001; Kozlowski et al.
Relationships and synergy
Leadership and management are not the same things. Not every
leader manages well, and not every manager has leadership capabil-
ities. However, the concepts are suﬃciently intertwined that an
understanding of their relationship to one another is important.
Management is often seen as a relatively structured process for
achieving organisational objectives within the parameters of pre-
scribed roles. Leadership is more often viewed as an interpersonal
process of inspiring and motivating followers with a focus on long-
term institutional aspirations and changes. As stated by Taﬃnder
(1995, p. 37), ‘‘Management is complex, fragmented, its activities
brief, opportunistic, predominantly verbal; leadership is more so.
Management reacts. Leadership transforms. It makes a diﬀerence’’.
Watson (1983) originated his 7-S organisational framework as a
means of diﬀerentiating management and leadership (See Table I
JAMES TAYLOR AND MARIA DE LOURDES MACHADO
Watson’s position was that managers focused on what he referred
to as the ‘hard’ Ss, while leaders emphasised the ‘soft’ Ss. This
thinking should, perhaps, be carried further. It is suggested here that
while management is mostly identiﬁed with strategy, structure and
systems, leadership is the eﬀective utilisation of all seven factors. This
depiction contradicts the position that leadership is a sub-set of
management. As Figure 1 illustrates, however, leadership can be
subsumed under the broader perspective of strategic management.
As stated by Adair (1986, p. 123), ‘‘…you can be appointed a
manager but you are not a leader until your appointment is ratiﬁed in
the hearts and minds of those who work for you’’.
The leader–manager operates within a complex and dynamic
environment. The leadership component requires a focus on the
external environment as well as the internal workings of the institu-
tion. McGregor (1987) identiﬁed four main variables that deﬁne the
leadership relationship that are representative of many such depic-
tions: (1) characteristics of the leader, (2) attitudes and needs of the
followers, (3) the nature of the organisation, and (4) the social, eco-
nomic and political environment. This internal/external focus is
essential for eﬀective institutional planning. Bensimon (1989) and
Bolman and Deal (1997) suggest leaders with a ‘multi-framed’ per-
spective are more eﬀective. Just as organisations have multiple real-
ities, so must leader–managers have multiple approaches. They
identify four perspectives (or frames) that can be utilised individually
or in combination. The structural frame focuses actions on reasoned,
logical and technically correct approaches. The human resource
frame centres on empowerment and utilisation of institutional per-
sonnel to assist in meeting the administrative agenda. The symbolic
frame embraces the rituals, traditions, values and legacy of the
Watson’s 7-S organisational framework
Source: Watson, C. (1983). ‘‘Leadership, Management
and the Seven Keys,’’ Business Horizons, p. 10.
HIGHER EDUCATION LEADERSHIP AND MANAGEMENT 143
institution as a guiding force in decision-making. The political frame
gains importance when confronting competitiveness, ﬁnancial
resources and rapid change.
Their ﬁndings generally support the idea that leader–manager
eﬀectiveness has a positive predictive relationship with an increase in
the number of frames one utilises. The authors also note that the
more experienced a leader–manager was, the more frames he or she
tended to employ. However, it was found to be very rare for an
individual to incorporate all four frames simultaneously into their
leadership–management style. Most individuals studied emphasised
the human resource frame in the majority of situations, where
Internal and External Institution Context
Figure 1. The elements of a strategically managed HEI.
JAMES TAYLOR AND MARIA DE LOURDES MACHADO
collaborative rather than heroic leadership was called for (Bensimon
& Neumann 1993). The second most used frame was structural. In
combination, these two frames create a skilful alignment of constit-
uencies and structure that can produce eﬀective and empowering
leadership success (Fisher, Tack, & Wheeler 1988). These ﬁndings are
consistent with the comments by Birnbaum (1992), who deﬁnes
‘‘exemplary presidents’’ as able to be inﬂuential managers both of the
institution and of its interpretation by others in the organisation.
Strategic management creates an environment with consistency, but
can also strangle creativity that thrives on inconsistency. With strategic
thinking and eﬀective leadership, the negatives can be minimised.
Strategic thinking is more than merely alternative nomenclature for
other terms. Mintzberg (1994) diﬀerentiates strategic thinking and
strategic planning by suggesting that the latter involves pre-identiﬁed
strategies used to create action plans, whereas strategic thinking
involves an intuitive synthesis and creativity that puts the institution in
a broader perspective. Stacey (1992, 286) refers to strategic thinking as
a process of ‘‘…designing actions on the basis of new learning’’.
As stated elsewhere, the authors hold the position that planning
implementation, rather than the model being implemented, is at the
core of failed attempts. Processes that become too data-intensive,
bureaucratic and inﬂexible actually stiﬂe strategic thinking. One can
also suggest a dichotomy wherein strategic planning is data-driven
information processing and strategic thinking is creative imagination.
In some ways, the processes of strategic planning and strategic
thinking appear contradictory and incompatible. However, examined
more closely, the tensions created by these contrasting elements of
institutional strategic management are important. Strategic planning
creates alignment and structure. However, carried to extremes or
without checks and balances, it can become highly inﬂexible and ‘‘lock-
step’’. On the other hand, strategic thinking is a divergent process that
serves to disrupt alignment. Thus, it helps to maintain institutional
ﬂexibility and adaptability. As Heracleous (1998, 482) states, ‘‘Its all
about being able to go up and down the ladder of abstraction, and
being able to see both the big picture and the operational implications,
which are signs of outstanding leaders and strategists’’.
Thus strategic thinking, far from being incompatible with or an
alternative to strategic planning, is a necessary part of overall stra-
tegic management, and a necessary ability for eﬀective leadership. It
is all about the integration of assessment, culture and values,
HIGHER EDUCATION LEADERSHIP AND MANAGEMENT 145
priorities, resources, planning and leadership. All of these essential
elements of strategic management weave a tapestry that creates an
institutional environment that can support an eﬀective planning
process (See Figure 1).
As cited in Tabatoni and Barblan (1998, pp. 16–17), ‘‘…a uni-
versity is a fully established organisation…exactly like a business, a
body of public administration,…a museum, a research center, the
army…or a charitable organisation. Indeed, once there is a structured
group, there is (strategic) management because…managing means
leading a collective action, and enabling it to materialise’’.
Even if perhaps over zealous and generalised, this statement begs
the question, How can a social, cultural and educational institution
with the magnitude and importance of higher education in some
instances justify being the undying defender of the status quo and the
last bastion of intractable resistance to change? The status quo is
ephemeral and illusive. Even when an institution attempts to main-
tain its present state, others pass it by, thus leaving it behind and less
well positioned than it previously was. The entire concept of main-
taining the status quo is a ruthless myth that tradition-laden institu-
tions of higher education must shed themselves of if they hope to
cope, let alone prosper, in the future that lies ahead.
The balance of this paper examines strategic planning, reports on
some ﬁndings and oﬀers an approach that the authors believe more
accurately reﬂects the volatility of the times we are confronting in
Strategic Planning: From Platitudes to Reality
Voices of strategic planning
Much of the prescriptive literature strongly advocates strategic plan-
ning as the key to superior institutional and system performance. This
is a process that focuses on strategic and operational goals, objectives
and strategies based on organisational policies, programs and actions
designed to achieve the institution’s aims and desired results. It is
argued that it is an extremely important tool for organisational
eﬀectiveness (Keller 1983; Peterson 1999, 2004; van Vught 1988). This
literature would support the contention that institutions that correctly
implement strategic plans are more likely to be successful.
There are a number of criticisms levelled at the use of strategic
planning in higher education, many of which are similar to those
JAMES TAYLOR AND MARIA DE LOURDES MACHADO
mentioned by practitioners and researchers in the business sector.
Authors like Young (1981), Meredith (1985), and Schmidtlein and
Milton (1990), refer to and argue against some of those criticisms.
Mintzberg (1994) has said that strategic planning can play roles such
as providing analysis to managers, helping translate intended strat-
egies into realised ones, and providing a control device, but that it is
not eﬀective for the development of strategy. In higher education,
much of the criticism of strategic planning derives from the belief that
a model arising from military roots and grounded in organisational
success as deﬁned by proﬁtability could not translate to the higher
education arena where goals may be ambiguous, long-term in
reaching fruition and not easily measured, where the organisation is
loosely coupled, institutional leaders lack control over major pro-
cesses, internal and external constraints exist, and resources are
inﬂexible and insuﬃcient (Baldridge 1983; Birnbaum, 1988; Sch-
Taylor and Miroiu (2002) identify four main reasons why planning
•Pressures and incentives to change are weak,
•Change capacity is inadequate (too many projects) and capa-
bility is weak (insuﬃcient skills),
•Cultural resistance is too high, and
•Sponsorship and leadership are wrong (good ideas put forth by
the wrong person).
The authors would inject from personal observation in multiple
countries another all too pervasive reason for failure. Many HEIs
pursue a planning process for the wrong reasons. Some engage in the
process because the literature would suggest to do otherwise is a
reﬂection of weak leadership and lack of vision. Others initiate
planning to create a fac¸ ade that will support ulterior motives with
various constituent groups; e.g., the public, government funding
bodies, donors and governing boards. In many of these instances, the
goal is merely to produce an impressive document, rather than to
realise meaningful outcomes. When this pseudo-goal is reached (the
document is produced), the process is truncated. Interestingly, a great
many of these public relations documents end up being voluminous,
tedious and thus, ultimately unread by their intended audiences.
Fortuitously and without conscious intent, this can work in favour of
the institution. If their lofty proclamations are not thoughtfully
examined by others, the HEI will not be held accountable for the lack
HIGHER EDUCATION LEADERSHIP AND MANAGEMENT 147
of outcomes. Usually, about the time some begin to wonder what, if
anything has been accomplished (the typical 5-year planning cycle), a
new document emerges with a diﬀerent set of goals and aspirations
and the ‘‘process’’ starts anew. As long as the HEI can continue to
recycle the process by replacing the old goals that were not addressed
with a new set of goals, it will always be in the advantageous position
of stating it is ‘‘pre-mature’’ to judge accomplishments.
The authors suggest there are three most often seen fundamental
problems in the successful implementation of strategic planning in
HEIs. It is further asserted that these problems are trans-cultural and
universal. One is to engage in planning for the wrong reasons. This
was discussed above and will not be addressed here. The second is to
create a bureaucratic, rigid and cumbersome data-intensive process.
The third is to exclude some of the relevant (and often ignored)
people who should participate in the process.
Planning is complex enough without creating further complexity
and confusion. In an eﬀort to be scholarly and comprehensive, aca-
demic planning groups tend to establish a virtual labyrinth of con-
voluted documents, mechanisms, data summaries and procedures.
The ultimate outcome is frustration by most and abandoned support
by some. In an eﬀort to create proportional representation across the
constituent groups within the HEI, professors are usually most
numerous in the planning group. It can then become an academic
exercise rather than one designed to serve the overall vision of the
institution. We suggest a set of critical components, or key elements,
that we believe can produce a successful planning process. We also
put these factors in perspective with a focus on simplicity and eﬃ-
ciency, rather than the too typical plethora of superﬂuous glut seen in
many institutional planning documents.
Brief overview of strategic planning models
There are a number of strategic planning models that are considered
relevant in today’s higher education culture. While it could be argued
that they are overly conceptual and with somewhat limited applica-
bility to institutional practice, they serve as a foundation that can
guide further advancements. There are ﬁve dominant models, with
perhaps one of the most respected coming from the public and non-
proﬁt sector. They are each brieﬂy discussed below. The reader
should take notice of the commonalities, irrespective of the nomen-
clature used, between these models.
JAMES TAYLOR AND MARIA DE LOURDES MACHADO
Bryson and Alston (1996) have been among the leaders in con-
temporary strategic planning. Their concentration has been on the
public sector, however their model has been accepted in the arena of
higher education as well. They advocate an eight-step process of:
•Initiating and agreeing on a planning process
•Clarifying mission, values, mandates and expectations
•Assessing the external environment
•Assessing the internal environment
•Identifying strategic issues
•Formulating management strategies
•Establishing an institutional vision
•Implementing the plan
Kaufman and Herman (1991) divide planning into four clusters:
scoping, data collection, planning implementation and evaluation.
The somewhat unique aspect of this model is the concept of scoping,
which suggests the HEI must properly deﬁne the level of planning that
is intended (micro, macro or mega level). Ultimately, however, this
deﬁning attribute collapses when the authors state that essentially the
planning process would remain the same under all three possibilities.
Norris and Poulton (1991) introduce a ﬁve-step model that has
similarities to and probably adaptations from the Bryson and Alston
model. This model suggests:
•Plan the planning process
•Creating the mission and assessing stakeholder values
•Internal and external environmental assessments
•Creating the institutional vision
•Tactical planning and implementation
Hunt, Oosting, Stevens Loudon, and Migliore (1997), while pro-
posing a model only for private HEIs, address the same central
components. One emphasis is developing assumptions based on
environmental scanning eﬀorts. This focus recognises that no matter
how thorough the environmental scanning process, there will always
be irresolvable issues that will require assumptive action. The model
also recognises the hierarchy within an eﬀective planning structure
that addresses the process from a strategic, operational and tactical
perspective, but unlike Norris and Poulton, do not suggest the pro-
cess is uniform at all levels.
Peterson (1999) developed a contextual model of planning that
gave emphasis to the emergence of the post-secondary knowledge
HIGHER EDUCATION LEADERSHIP AND MANAGEMENT 149
industry where macro-level change needs to be anticipated and con-
fronted by HEIs. This model is particularly timely in current times,
and suggests strategies for redeﬁning, redesigning and reforming
institutional roles, mission, vision, academic functions and relation-
ships with other organisations within the higher education arena. It is
a credible model for today’s reality, but suﬀers the same problems of
translation from the theoretical and conceptual to the practical and
Austin (2002) introduced a new set of terminologies to describe
what could be stated much more simply. He suggests the planning
•Triadic, meaning it addresses the individual, the department and
the HEI as a whole
•Heterarchical and managed through an emergent structure
•Strategic in the sense that it is a continuous process of data
analysis, culture and the exercise of leadership
The model has merit in its emphasis on the role of the individual, the
leader and the allocation of resources, but is somewhat convoluted in
Each model provides unique insights and approaches to the
institutional planning process, yet each also has many common
denominators. The student of higher education planning needs to
assume an eclectic approach to the process. First, many worthwhile
strategies can be found in multiple models. Second, every institution
is unique and must have a model that ﬁts its circumstances. Third, an
eclectic merger of the best components of all possible options is
always a desirable approach to take.
From these models, a set of common denominators appear in one
form or another that the authors would agree constitute essential
components of a strategic planning process. They are listed succinctly
in Table II below.
Some research ﬁndings
Some empirical studies do, however, exist that attempt to examine the
extent to which strategic planning processes function in an eﬀective
and comprehensive manner. Conway, Mackay, and Yorke (1994) did
a content analysis of 83 mission statements from institutions in the
United Kingdom. Rather predictable ﬁndings resulted. Most state-
ments were idealised platitudes with little institution-speciﬁc text.
JAMES TAYLOR AND MARIA DE LOURDES MACHADO
Many were so similar as to be interchangeable. They also reported
that only about half of the statements had a focus and perspective
that was congruent with the changing internal and external envi-
ronments of higher education. Lumby (1999) reviewed the planning
documents of 53 HEIs in the UK. It was found that 24 HEIs had
partial plans and 29 had full plans. The author took note of the
inconsistent use of terminology within the plans and, in fact, referred
to it as a ‘‘semantic mineﬁeld’’.
Anderson et al. (1999) examined institutional strategic plans at 12
institutions in Australia. On the positive side, they found that dif-
ferent plans addressed social, ﬁnancial and political contexts, inclu-
ded a discussion of technological advances; were available on a
website; and used incentives to get rank and ﬁle participation. On the
negative side, plans were shown to not have clear and deﬁning
characteristics; were not communicated suﬃciently to the members of
the institutional community; and (most damning) were not explicitly
linked to institutional resources.
In Norway, Larsen and Langfeldt (2003) noted the ﬁrst evidence
of institutional strategic planning around 1990. The process was
noted as having a positive impact on the clariﬁcation of goals at the
departmental level. More than 70% of the academic personnel see
strategic planning as a key function at the departmental level.
Empirical research on strategic planning in Portuguese higher
education is only now taking place and is extremely limited. Recent
ﬁndings have been reported by Machado, Farhangmehr and Taylor
(2004). From interview and survey data gathered in a national study
of HEIs throughout Portugal, with a sample that included the HEIs
representing 74.8% of all students enrolled in the higher education
system, general ﬁndings were that
Key elements of successful planning
•Flexibility and simplicity
HIGHER EDUCATION LEADERSHIP AND MANAGEMENT 151
•Public institutions attempted to engage in planning more than
•While 48 HEIs claimed to be using strategic planning, just 24
were found to be using the deﬁning criteria, and
•Only 6 of all the documents received for review from these 24
HEIs were actually planning documents.
It should be noted that 24 HEIs engaged in planning conﬂicted with
the fact that 48 institutions (78.7%) reported they were doing so. It
was not possible to determine if these self-reports were intentionally
inﬂated or a reﬂection of limited understanding of what constitutes
strategic planning. Most probably, it was a combination of both
factors. (For further analyses of strategic planning in Portuguese
higher education, the reader is referred to Machado and Taylor
(2004); Machado, Taylor and Farhangmehr (2004); Machado, Taylor
and Wilkinson (2003).)
Preserving the past; replicating the present (roadblocks to planning)
As suggested earlier, higher education too often attempts to maintain
a stable equilibrium and resist necessary change and adaptation. In
nature, geological and biological evolutionary events are sporadic
and non-continuous. While the processes that promote and encour-
age adjustments are in constant operation, they produce only spo-
radic changes. Consider the continual shifting of tectonic plates
resting on the Earth’s molten core that only rarely create a major
event, or the 130 million year domination of the dinosaurs that was
abruptly ended by an asteroid. These are events that produce major
change and cause shifts in the equilibrium of existing (and, in the case
of humans, possibly complacent) systems. Within the domain of
human organisations, there is a cultural tendency to resist change in
spite of continual environmental advancement. An analogy might be
Ager (1973) explaining the life of a soldier as one fraught with
extended periods of boredom infrequently interspersed with brief
moments of terror. This can be illustrated with respect to higher
education and the external environment in Figure 2 below.
While the environment is in a state of constant and exponential
change over time, the HEI is often seen as maintaining (replicating)
the status quo. Thus, over time, the HEI gets farther out of equilib-
rium with the external reality it must interact with. In time, this
disconnect reaches a point where institutional change becomes
JAMES TAYLOR AND MARIA DE LOURDES MACHADO
inevitable and unavoidable. At this point, a crisis management mode
of response is generated. In some cases, it is only partially eﬀective
and fails to fully align the HEI with its environment. Over extended
time, these change deﬁciencies grow until another ‘‘moment of ter-
ror’’ is called for. However, inevitably, the disconnect continues to
widen until the possibility of an equilibrium-disrupting situation
becomes a reality.
Consider as one potential example, the increase in alternate pro-
viders of higher educational oﬀerings. While a small segment at this
time, they are growing faster than any other. As Lanham (2003, 1)
We are not talking about Yale versus Harvard, we are talking about Yale versus
The author also cites an unnamed venture-capital investment report
that suggests higher education is one of the most fertile markets for
investors in many years. The report emphasises higher education’s
large size, unhappy customers, minimal technology utilisation and high
strategic importance. It concludes by noting existing management’s
complacency after years of monopoly. In time, this may create a truly
equilibrium-shifting scenario that will reap serious negative conse-
quences on the market competitiveness of traditional institutions.
Higher education institutions are among the oldest institutions in the
world, and are a mainstay in the development and support of eco-
nomic, social and cultural development for countries everywhere.
Throughout time, academic institutions have sought to respond to the
Environment Growing Degree
Change f Disequilibrium
Figure 2. The relationship between environmental and higher educational change.
HIGHER EDUCATION LEADERSHIP AND MANAGEMENT 153
demands of endlessly changing and evolving environmental condi-
tions of society. Conversely, they are also among the most stable
institutions to have existed during the past 500 years. As stated in the
World Declaration on Higher Education for the Twenty-First Century:
Vision and Action (1998, p. 2), ‘‘higher education has given ample
proof of its viability over the centuries and of its ability to change and
to induce change and progress in society […]’’. However today higher
education is confronted with formidable challenges and must elevate
its eﬀorts toward some of the most radical changes and renewals it has
ever been required to undertake. These institutions are the object of
great public and private investment and therefore have great expec-
tations thrust upon them. The institutions of higher education, as
complex social systems, need to interpret the vital needs of contem-
porary society, to be ‘‘innovative’’ (van Vught 2000, p. 350) as well as
to develop the internal structures to meet their new missions.
The higher education sector worldwide is being challenged with
issues it has never confronted before. Recent challenges for HEIs
include changing demographics, reduced per capita funding,
increased scrutiny from the public, and internationalisation. Addi-
tional challenges include the Bologna Declaration and the European
Higher Education Area, a mixed proﬁle in the student population, the
emergence of new post-secondary institutions, new competitors, the
invasion of market forces in higher education, the global knowledge
economy, a technology-driven society, turbulent environments,
E-colleges and increasing external demands.
All social institutions have to be prepared for the changes and
challenges of a highly competitive and ever increasing global envi-
ronment that is in a constant state of ﬂux. Institutions of higher
education are not exempt from this overwhelming trend. Addressing
these changes and challenges has meant ﬁnding ways to align or-
ganisational capacities with environmental demands and opportuni-
ties, as well as a big responsibility for governance and management at
the institutional level. Therefore, the global economy of today
demands the development of management capabilities, innovative
strategies and competitive advantages within the higher education
enterprise As the highly respected scholar, Burton Clark (2003,
p. 115), pointed out, ‘‘developing capacities for change becomes the
heart of successful on-going performance’’.
Some educators have suggested that perhaps the values of the
academic culture should not encompass such a concept as strategic
JAMES TAYLOR AND MARIA DE LOURDES MACHADO
planning (Birnbaum 2001). While it is recognised that higher edu-
cation institutions are historically collegial organisations, it is also
recognised that the collegial system needs to support accountability
and institutional responsibility, or even be more managerial in order
to face the challenges of the future. Although it is acknowledge that
HEIs are unique, there is also growing acceptance that general
management principles and tools need to be adopted to commit to
continuous improvement. Strategic management and strategic plan-
ning are important concepts that HEIs should pursue in the future.
All of the above suggests that increasing organisational complexity
does and will continue to demand higher levels of individual and
institutional performance. The contemporary workplace is evolving
rapidly and the challenges for higher education to prepare future
entrants are staggering. The apparent absence of signiﬁcant change
has brought the criticism that HEIs are not as eﬀective as they could
be. The assumption here is that those who work in HEIs, in order to
respond to new demands, need to rethink the organisational structure
and institutional management model within which they are operating.
We cannot meet the increased demands of the 21st century without
The higher education enterprise must shed its defense of the status
quo and develop a far more adaptive, proactive and ﬂexible approach
to strategic management. It must also recognise that the growing
complexity of the institution necessitates that the leadership delegate
more responsibilities and empower more individuals. This in turn
means leadership must recognise the need to employ the best and
brightest minds possible and to accept the realisation that no one
individual can be the ﬁnal authority on every aspect of institutional
operations. Any number of people within an organisation can be
found that possess a strategic perspective. The complexities of today’s
HEI demand that the designated leader call upon these individuals to
contribute to the collective process of distributed leadership. As
noted by van Vught (1988), HEIs must take personal responsibility
for their policies, not as autonomous units, but as integrated or-
ganisations with a clear identity and strong leadership buttressed by
The further reality the authors see that must be acknowledged and
confronted is that the complexities of modern leadership demand far
more than most new appointees to leadership posts possess. Rather
than an indictment of those pursuing leadership positions, it is a
HIGHER EDUCATION LEADERSHIP AND MANAGEMENT 155
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well-intentioned individuals are thrust into leadership roles without
the necessary skills. This is, of course, quite understandable. Where
would a professor gain a working knowledge of institutional budget
management or human resource management, as examples? The time
is right in Europe and elsewhere for formal professional development
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