Use of anticipatory leadership for change: An instrumental case study of community college leadership at a multi-campus community college district

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2015-05

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Abstract

The purpose of this study was to explore the experiences and perceptions of community college leaders regarding the use of anticipatory leadership to lead institutions through changes necessitated by external and internal environments. Of specific interest was how the leaders use anticipatory leadership in their current roles to address change and problem solving, as well as their perceptions of the role of anticipatory leadership for leading community colleges in the 21st century. Community colleges play a prominent role in the American higher education landscape. Over the years, the mission of community colleges has become very complex. Mission complexity poses challenges for the practice of leadership. Along with mission complexity, there are various other challenges arising from both external and internal environments. Two of the most prominent challenges facing community college are heightened demand for student success and scarcity of leaders because of the trend in retirements of current leadership. To address these challenges, a leadership model that anticipates the future, uses available data to learn predictive patterns and proactively positions the institution ahead of the impending crisis is needed. Anticipatory leadership incorporates predictive data to lead organizations into the future. There is limited research on anticipatory leadership as part of a leadership model in the higher education settings. This qualitative study using the constructive paradigm incorporated an instrumental case study research design to explore the perceptions of community college leaders on the use of anticipatory leadership model to lead change in community colleges. The participants for this study were selected purposively. Data collection included semi-structured interviews, observations, field notes, and reflective journals. Data analysis included the use of constant-comparative method using axial coding protocol. Steps such as credibility, transferability, dependability and confirmability were used to assure the trustworthiness of the study. A combination of strategies that is applicable to each of the above steps were used including triangulation, member checking, researcher engagement, researcher integrity, purposeful selection of small sample size, use of rich thick description, and reflective summarizing. The results of the study indicate that community college leaders support use of anticipatory leadership as an effective leadership style for adapting to changes when there is leader engagement, leader currency in higher education environments, and the leader is willing to take calculated risks and communicate effectively. Other results from the study included effectiveness of anticipatory leadership to solve problems, identify gaps in the system, predict emerging trends, reduce the need for reactionary management, and anticipatory leadership as an effective way to lead community colleges in the 21st century when used as part of a balanced leadership model. The results of this study suggest several implications and recommendations for higher education practice. Implications include inefficient leadership leading community colleges to irrelevancy and mission failure, lack of anticipatory leadership practice resulting in institutional inability to adapt to changes, lack of leader currency in the field and failure to take calculated risks resulting in institutional inefficiency, and increased frequency of reactionary management indicate ineffective problem solving. The recommendations to the practice of higher education include embracing anticipatory leadership for adapting to changes, fostering a culture of anticipatory leadership aimed at problem solving, providing strategies and resources for leader currency and engagement, providing professional development to equip leaders to take calculated risks and communicate effectively, and instituting a process to monitor the use of reactionary management for evaluating inefficiencies in problem solving.

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Keywords

Leadership, Community Colleges, Anticipatory Leadership

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