Leadership Imperatives in the Arab-American University Essay
Leadership in a school of higher and advanced learning such as the Arab-American University requires collaborative and confrontational challenges with a number of issues, typical but not limited to that of any educational institution.
Such issues as cultural diversity, inclusivity, intellectual activities such as research and instruction, social involvements such as community extension services, students affairs, finance, marketing, strategic business models, organizational theories, profitability and shareholder value, political and social congruencies and differences, among others, often create deep chasms to and between the various school sectors that are ironically bound by a common purpose – quality education. This is made more demanding when Arab and American views are integrated in a single community.
What unique leadership and management model therefore would apply under such a sensitive configuration? What risk management intervention would constantly prevail? What residual risks or synergy, if any, would be evident? Leadership and management in an educational institution are perhaps among the most formal, sensitive and confrontational roles a professional can assume. Business organizations established for profit are far easier managed and led as there is that environment and mandate of compliance required of every employee based on employment contracts and agreements.
This compliance system gives the manager the elbow room to adopt an organizational approach under a theory x or y scenario. Admittedly, discipline under an entrepreneurial undertaking is demanded primarily to meet shareholder value targets and for survival secondarily. Universities are considered more complex than most organizational systems as they demand the most professional processes than any other institution. Schools are assumed to be the fount and cradle of learning, hence a strong exemplary modeling of instructors and administrators are always the subject of intensive scrutiny among other sectors.
Would this university therefore require a business-like management style or an organization leadership mix that is as fluid as the socio-cultural and political dimensions? . In an age where socio-cultural and political diversities are characterized with the widest spectra and extremes, the establishment of an Arab-American intellectual Mecca can be expected to require the most intense professional and socio-cultural leadership anywhere. This study would be interested in identifying areas of collaboration while addressing confrontational issues and risks along the process.
Similarly, the relevance of this study along multicultural settings in complex and diverse forms and in highly professional environment would transcend, even revolutionize all assumptions, hypothesis and even all forms of propositions about multicultural biases. Brief history of the Arab-American University The Arab-American University (AAU) was established in 1973 as non-sectarian, non-profit and non-government institution of higher learning. Its primary purpose is to address the educational needs of Arab-Americans starting from preschool to basic, secondary, higher education, to graduate and post-graduate levels.
Among its goals and objectives include providing full scholarships to families of indigent but intellectually capable members of the Arab-American community in a specific area with a relatively high density of Arab-American families. While the university accepts Muslim students, it also caters to students from other religious and cultural denominations and groups.. The university is primarily a combination of a business college strongly oriented towards information technology and engineering courses, both technical and baccalaureate degrees.
The university is composed of seven schools: the Schools of Business Management, Hospitality Management, Accountancy, Nursing and Midwifery, Medicine, Arts, Political and the Social Sciences, Polytechnic Institute composed of the Departments of Architecture, Computer Science, Electronic Communications Engineering, Civil and Mechanical Engineering and Fine Arts, its flagship programs includes Accountancy where it ranks among the top 50 business schools in the United States, Electronics Communications Engineering, Nursing, Hospitality Management and Mechanical Engineering.
All seven schools are verticalized with their respective graduate schools. As of the year 2008, the university boasted a population of 30,000 highly selected students and scholars from 25 states and 15 countries mostly from the Middle East and Asian countries. Its student population increases by an average of 15 per cent and expected to hit 50,000 by 2012. Presently, it maintains two campuses – the Chicago and Urbana Campuses, each with its own charter and separate sets of faculty. All courses are offered in both campuses.
For the last three years, AAU has garnered a number of academic awards, including twelve top researches awards in Accountancy, Computer Sciences, Nursing, Electronic Communications Engineering Awards. As of December 31, 2008, the school started to become consistent in its passing rate for the Accountancy, Nursing and Engineering courses all averaging about 80 per cent against the national norm of 40 per cent. For nursing, AAU has started to register a 100 per cent passing rate in the Nursing Board Examinations.
All colleges and schools in the university are headed by a Dean of the College and are assisted by a Vice Dean with a pool of Academic Chairs for each of the courses or majors within the college. A Faculty secretary is the administrative officer of each college or school and must be a holder of a doctor’s degree in any of the courses in the college where he or she is assigned. The faculty secretary is the point person of every college but maintains a built-in six units of academic load in addition to his full-time administrative work.
The university boasts of complete state of the art facilities for all of its laboratory classes including its basic education department. Its library is one of the most complete, up-to-date libraries in the world with the most comprehensive collection of traditional and electronic materials. During the last five years, the university has been the recipient of awards for excellence in community involvement and extension services. Its research center laboratory enjoys an endowment fund from where it trains and maintains its pool of researchers from the ranks of the faculty.
Leadership Efficiency and Effectiveness and the primary key concepts adopted in the university Just like any school of advanced learning, the university is a complex organization that adheres to the mission, vision, goals and objectives it has demanded from itself and its academic and non-academic employees the highest standards of professionalism, responsiveness, community involvement, strong, visible and dynamic research-orientations and the disciplinary but compassionate relationship maintained with the students of all levels.
To be effective and efficient, the university periodically asserted its need to formalize and communicate its strategic, tactical and operational plan in the same other successful organizations do. (Robbins, 2003). Looking ahead and beyond the current situations in the industry, (in this case the education sector) brings uncertainties and risks into the open and allows the organization a clear means of managing, confronting and even avoiding those uncertainties and risks. (Shaw,2003).
The university makes sure that it conducts its strategic planning session annually before the onset of the succeeding year in time for translating the strategic level into the tactical component as well as operationalizing the tactical level. (Anthony & Govindarajan, 2001). Similarly, AAU never fails to conduct an evaluation and assessment of its preset plans as means of determining where it is and what constraining and enabling factors it is experiencing. (Atkinson et al, 2003).
This evaluation additionally renders the university an effective means of addressing change (Koller as cited by Robbins, 2003). These planning and change management processes articulates AAUs assertion of leadership under inherent socio-cultural complexities through clear visioning and communication initiatives to all its stakeholders that for many years, have been encouraged to actively participate in the planning sessions. This has greatly contributed to the overwhelming atmosphere of professionalism in the university.
The senior administrators of AAU may not have formal training on complexity management, but their organizational leadership styles enable the attainment of an enviable cohesiveness as a team with a common purpose of being; that of addressing ignorance and mediocrity where they are needed. AAU’s uniqueness stems from its capability to harness its management with the leadership character to instill regulatory and policy compliance without having to assert authority and power in between (House cited by Robbins, 2003).
It is surprising that even under intense pressure to compete and manage the scarce resources provided endowment; the AAU is able to integrate the sensitive and complex balance scorecard approach in its strategic decision making. (Kaplan & Norton, 2004). The university attributes this success factor on its priority for choosing its leaders under the trait theory that focuses on the personal qualities along charisma, exemplary modeling, attitude, enthusiasm and even personal traits common to both cultures as courage and determination.
(Robbins,2003). Despite rigorous studies on identifying leadership traits for its management, supervisory and staff positions, the university correlates traits such as drive and ambition, integrity which includes honesty and sincerity, competence along knowledge and skills and even sense of sacrifice. (Robbins,2003). The university however, continues to experience a dearth of this type of managers with the leadership dimension due to the expansion and establishment of similar institutions outside of the United States.
Thus, aware of this constraint, AAU emphasizes its executive and management development training programs to prepare the transition of its key people towards the great demand for exemplary modeling (DelaTorre, 2006); that is, managers and leaders who took initiatives to address the personal needs of the employees as means of making them more productive in the process. (Robbins, 2003). The university seldom experiences the risks of the groupthink factor (Shafritz & Ott on Janis,1992) as it respects the need for all decision makers to be extremely knowledgeable and skilled in the decision making processes.
Being a part of its strategic objectives, the annual development programs encourage AAU employees to be continuously motivated, through the behavioral theory approach, effectively deciding as a team in addressing organizational objectives. This motivational drive expands the employees horizons and capabilities towards job satisfaction and sustainable learning and growth of its human capital (Kaplan & Norton, 2003). As a result, AAU has achieved in just 25 years what other universities tried to accomplish in a century and under the most challenging multicultural scenarios.
On one hand, the leadership and management mix being adopted in the university guarantees and assure empowerment of units and people towards autonomy and self-regulation. This is granted after intensive training on decision making and university processes that includes appreciation and utilization of marketing researches and theories in support of policy formulation and implementation. The immense authorities and power given especially to the respective heads of offices, primarily the Deans of Colleges and Schools, are always tempered with management control systems to guide all decisions towards achievement of goals every inch of the way.
The resultant good governance, control and transparency outcomes of this empowerment initiatives unburdens the senior management with operational concerns, thus allowing this level a clear focus on the strategic direction of the university and strengthening its social and political influence through good governance and risk management processes (Shaw,2003) On the other hand, the administrative efficiency has been excellently adopted through specialization and responsibility accounting that enables units to address issues at every level strengthening the span of control while focusing tasks towards a specific class of clients, concerns and even the university campus designated purposely for the educational services. (Shafrits & Ott on Simon, 1992).
The leadership styles and practices exercised by the AAU stakeholder group are creating new levels of efficiency and effectiveness in the hierarchy and creating precedents as well as new theories to emerge in the realm of university value-based (Koller, 1994) management and organizational leadership. These new learning and growth perspectives have revolutionized the balanced scorecard (Horngren et al, 2000) and stakeholder principles (DelaTorre, 2006) with an exemplary mix of leadership innovations. Despite the control risks that mix might be spawned by the staff turnovers experienced during the last few years, the university has maintained a loyalty index of more than ten years among its people. This is a sustainability plus factor in human resource management of the school. Other key principles and concepts adopted
In the area of instruction, research and extension services for example, excellence in the classroom is primarily driven by a strongly motivated select members of the faculty pool whose training and development focus is based on aligning the needs of the teachers with the needs of the university. This congruency theory in objectives (DelaTorre, 2006) allows for mutual and beneficial relationship between faculty providers and students. The intervention theory (Shafrits & Ott on Argyris, 1992) in organizations demands a strong psychotherapy approach (Rogers & Roethlisberger, 2000) to communications. The theory presupposes the presence of a special relationship between people to enable openness and transparency among constituents.
Teachers display this practice in terms of open and complementary student advising and counseling sessions not only as part of the intervention process but a critical part of the formation process in education. Students need and demand attention in the form of interventions especially in difficult and complex scenarios they find themselves in the process of earning a degree. Thus this psychotherapy theory helps in providing a strong motivational environment in the classroom opens avenues for students to be creative and enthusiastic about their career plans. Secondarily, this special attention given to student clientele becomes a strong promotional and marketing tool for the university in attracting students even from those school already established.
The need for any intensive advertising and marketing efforts to project the identity of the schools are addressed by the students themselves who become informal marketing and testimonial proofs of quality education. This has expanded the market of the university even to those non-Arab-Americans who appreciate the philosophy that the school articulates and manifests through its graduates. Managing and leading a university in the current socio-economic environment becomes problematic even under the various principles of organization (Shafritz and Ott on Cohen and March, 1992). These anarchic ambiguities of purpose, power, experience and success can render even the most competent university president to fail in some circumstances in due time. Thus the management and organizational leadership mix is both critical and mandatory.
This allows the president to grab the appropriate management and leadership tool at a given situation and scenario and exert and even allow certain precedent-setting decisions to effect changes with the least minimum resistance or optimum cooperation. Thus, inability along this line runs the risk of getting confused with his leadership character or manager authority or some hybrid in between. For AAU, the consultation process with the constituents and stakeholders becomes the medium by which decision critical to every office head’s functions are articulated. This explores the best idea possible while addressing and dissipating potential resistance to any innovations and measures not easily understood or appreciated.
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