Chief academic officers in public community colleges: An analysis of leadership attributes



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Texas Tech University


Foremost among the challenges facing public community colleges in the United States is a predicted shortage of leaders. Chief Academic Officers not only hold a crucial position of leadership but are also prime candidates for future presidencies. Very little research has been conducted regarding community college chief academic officers and specifically, the study of leader attributes has received minimal attention despite previous research outside the realm of education documenting the positive relationship between attributes and behavior.

This study compared chief academic officers' perceptions of their leadership attributes to the perceptions of their immediate subordinates. The purpose of this study was to determine the perceptions of both public community college chief academic officers and their subordinates specifically related to thirty-seven validated, categorical leader attributes shown to affect desirable leader performance and overall leadership effectiveness. Specifically, the study will: (1) demonstrate whether or not there is a statistically significant mean difference between CAO's perceptions of their individual leadership attributes and the perceptions of their immediate subordinates related to each of the thirty-seven leader attributes, the total scale of the leader attribute inventory, management skills scale of the LAI, personal characteristics of the LAI, and the social skills scale of the LAI, and (2) determine the overall leadership effectiveness of chief academic officers in the United States as measured by their immediate subordinates' responses to effectiveness measurement items on the companion instrument to the Observer-Rating LAI, the leader effectiveness index.

This researcher concluded that while there were statistically significant mean differences in perceptions related to six of 37 leader attributes there was general agreement between the CAOs and their immediate subordinates related to the leader attribute inventory in it's totality as well as three sub-scales: management skills, personal characteristics, and social skills and characteristics. Additionally, immediate subordinates rated their CAOs leadership effectiveness as being effective to very effective on all of seven effectiveness measures.

There were two populations for this study. The first included chief academic officers of single and multi-campus public community colleges in the United States whose colleges are members of the American Association of Community Colleges. The second population included individuals who hold an academic position and report directly to the chief academic officer. A stratified sampling process was used to maximize the potential for a national representative sample utilizing the six accreditation regions.

The results of this study may be beneficial to current and aspiring chief academic officers in that k will provide an increased knowledge base which may be used to improve leader behavior. Educational institutions may find this research valuable in considering leadership development programs. Selection committees and governing boards may find this information useful as they consider selecting chief academic officers and meeting future institutional leadership needs.



Community college administrators, Administration, Evaluation, Leadership, United States, Community colleges