Despite the opportunities that broadly accessible institutions (BAIs) provide, these institutions continue to face immense challenges such as budget cuts, enrollment fluctuations, and volatile legislation, especially public regional BAIs. Thus, BAIs need leaders who are capable of moving these institutions in the right direction. This paper proposes an organizational capacity building model – the Presidential Leadership Capacity Building Model (PL-CBM) – to cultivate the presidential leadership pipeline at BAIs.
Bachelor’s degree-granting colleges and universities represent a growing percentage of broadly accessible institutions (BAIs). BAIs are defined as institutions with a historic and contemporary mission of creating opportunity through postsecondary education. According to an empirical typology aimed at differentiating BAIs, Crisp and colleagues asserted that BAIs enroll about sixty percent of all postsecondary students. BAIs provide access to first-generation, working-class, non-traditional age, and racially minoritized students.
Given their history, mission, and core values, BAIs are in the best position to meet the diverse educational and workforce needs of various regions of the country. National enrollment trends show that college students are more diverse than ever before, and they are choosing different postsecondary pathways. that are more relevant to their lives. Despite the opportunities that BAIs provide, these institutions continue to face immense challenges such as budget cuts, enrollment fluctuations, and volatile legislation, especially public regional BAIs. Thus, BAIs need leaders who are capable of moving these institutions in the right direction.
This paper proposes an organizational capacity building model – the Presidential Leadership Capacity Building Model (PL-CBM) – to cultivate the presidential leadership pipeline at BAIs. The paper details the meaning and application of PL-CBM. PL-CBM serves as a blueprint for BAIs to put existing models into practice to develop emerging leaders. Four leadership “L’s” are developed to apply the model: a) Leading from Within; b) Leading from Across; c) Leveraging Your Own; and d) Learning and (Un)Learning.
The Presidential Leadership Capacity Building Model (PL-CBM) was informed by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities's (AASCU) competency model. AASCU’s competency model includes fifteen competencies, which are divided into four categories. The four categories are as follows: 1) management; 2) interpersonal; 3) personal; and 4) leadership competencies. AASCU’s model is focused on presidential leadership, which is ideal for developing PL-CBM. PL-CBM acknowledges the critical need to shift the discourse of what is acceptable and desired about college presidents. Namely, bachelor’s degree-granting institutions in particular have historically chosen candidates who possess a chief academic officer background. However, this trend has slowly shifted in recent years with an increased demand for presidents with diverse portfolios and a wide range of competencies (e.g., finance, fundraising, enrollment management, crisis response). Therefore, PL-CBM acknowledges the need to cultivate current and emerging leaders with diverse backgrounds and leadership pathways as an effort to change the discourse of who gets to lead BAIs. PL-CBM serves as a blueprint for BAIs to put existing models into practice to develop emerging leaders. Four leadership “L’s” are developed to apply the model: a) Leading from Within; b) Leading from Across; c) Leveraging Your Own; and d) Learning and (Un)Learning.
The first competency category of the AASCU model is management. Management competencies are essential to leading BAIs, especially in times of uncertainty. However, how can BAIs enable future presidents to acquire these fundamental competencies? More importantly, what support systems are in place for aspiring presidents to access these skills? To keep an asset-based approach that shifts the responsibility from the individual to systems, PL-CBM urges BAIs to prioritize opportunities within their institutions rather than expecting leaders to be solely responsible for their own career advancement while seeking external support. Such opportunities establish connections between future leaders and individuals with influence—also known as institutional agents, according to social capital research—to provide mentoring and sponsorship. This is especially important for women, LGBTQ+ people, and leaders of color as research shows that these opportunities are less available to these groups. To apply this principle into practice, BAIs should encourage institutional agents (e.g., deans, vice presidents, provosts) to first identify emerging leaders who can benefit from competency development to “turbocharge” their careers. BAI leadership must also be intentional about making room for emerging leaders to take care of their basic needs and be able to think about their professional advancement.
The second competency category of the AASCU model is interpersonal. Interpersonal competencies include formal and informal communication, being positively engaged, relationship development and maintenance, and climate creation and maintenance. However, how can BAIs provide intentional spaces for leaders to develop these key relationships and forms of engagement? Similar to leading from within, BAIs should encourage robust cross-sector collaborations that include K-12, community colleges, baccalaureate institutions, and non-profit organizations. This is particularly relevant to regional BAIs that rely heavily on cross-sector partnerships. Although we have evidence that working collaborative is beneficial for institutions, we also know that organizations—especially higher education—tend to work in silos. Cross-sector collaborations not only promote better communication between sectors but also opportunities for future leaders to engage with one another and work towards a common goal. Aligned with AASCU’s interpersonal competencies, cross-sector collaborations promote relationship development between key leaders and agents with the power to enact systemic change.
The third competency category of the AASCU model is personal characteristics. Personal characteristics include integrity, servant leader, and continuous self-development. Thus, how can BAIs develop internal models and promising practices for their leaders to acquire these personal characteristics? BAIs must be attuned to their leaders’ core beliefs, and more specifically how their values align with the institution’s mission and objectives. Because of their core values, these leaders have the ability to move the institution forward and stay true to their mission (e.g., access). It makes sense for BAIs to have leaders who can relate with the needs of their students and communities that they serve. Thus, when leveraging their own, BAIs should prioritize the development of emerging leaders from marginalized backgrounds. Research shows that women, in particular women of color, often feel discouraged from pursuing high-level leadership positions as a result of carrying the load for others and other power structures (e.g.,“ole boys club” culture). Thus, BAIs must be particularly attuned to these realities, especially as they seek to mirror their surrounding communities. The same can be said for racially minoritized leaders who continue to be underrepresented in the leadership ranks. As recent events such as the pandemic and natural disasters exacerbated these conditions even more, BAIs have the unique opportunity to lead by design and develop more equitable models and promising practices to proactively support leaders from their organizations.
The fourth and last competency category of the AASCU model is leadership competencies. Leadership competencies include problem-solving, people and team development, strategic vision, and academic leadership. That said, the last leadership “L” calls for BAIs to move forward through a critical, asset-based, and decolonial mindset for developing leadership competencies. In doing so, they must first examine their institutional practices and policies by learning and (un)learning. PL-CBM calls for BAIs to empower leaders to implement culturally-affirming leadership practices (e.g., indigenous practices) as a way to (un)learn deficit and subtractive models that prevail at our institutions. Tangibly speaking, BAIs should be critical and transformative about developing leaders through culturally-affirming practices. Namely, they should move beyond performative or “check the box” programs and initiatives that do not resonate with their students and/or local communities. In other words, BAIs should avoid the establishment of more colonial projects at the expense of historically marginalized communities.