Skip to main content
Unpublished Paper
  • Frank Cortez Flores

THE DEANSHIP: A DIMENSION OF ACADEMIC LEADERSHIP Abstract This study will investigate the role of the dean as identified in the relevant literature; its purpose is to provide an in-depth analysis of the deanship based on leadership role theory. The description in the literature of effective academic leaders is that these leaders are trustworthy, have a clear vision of their school's future, and are able to inspire a shared vision among divergent individuals and groups (Bennis and Norris, 1985). According to Dibden (1968), academic deans are concerned with the effective functioning of an educational unit, promoting scholarship among faculty, facilitating the development of academic programs that expand the intellect of students, and managing the academic budget. There are probably as many definitions of leadership in the literature as there are authors who write on the subject. Perhaps the most that one can say about leadership is that it involves a thorough understanding of the concept of motivation, the ability to function within a complex communications network, and the selection of a leadership style that produces an effective interaction of the situation, the leader, and the follower. In response to the recurrent question of whether the administrator is a manager or a leader, Zaleznik (1977) suggests that leaders are active instead of reactive; they shape ideas instead of responding to them. The net result of a leader's influence in altering moods, evoking images and expectation, and in establishing specific desires and objectives is to change the way people think about what is desirable, possible, and necessary. Leaders work to develop fresh approaches to long-standing problems and to open issues for new options. From an historical perspective, as early as the 4th century A.D., the title dean originated with the Romans and was assigned to positions related to a military grade; and later on the Romans and Anglo-Saxons incorporated the name with civil administration. In medieval times, the deacon in the church had control over the religious and educational lives of monks. Because the universities of the mid-twelfth century were closely related to church schools, several titles used by the church became part of the academic structure. Although these positions commanded different degrees of power and authority, all of the role occupants were expected to perform leadership functions (Hodges and Hodges, 1975). The variability in the role has been attested to by recognized leaders in higher education including incumbents in the position. McGannon (1973) noted that the deanship required a "Man for all Seasons" a position that assumed the responsibilities and leadership functions of an industrial executive within the framework of the traditions, values and ideas of the academy. Dill (1980) observed that deanships are "ephemeral creatures of place, time, discipline, personality, and circumstances," while Corson's frequently quoted statement (1975), "assessing the role of the dean is akin to that of drawing a bead on a moving target," lends further credence to the role's formless and perhaps indescribable character.

  • Acdemic,
  • Leadership,
  • Dean
Publication Date
Citation Information
Frank Cortez Flores. 1990. "THE DEANSHIP" The SelectedWorks of Frank Cortez Flores Available at: