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SAGE Musings: Leading in Place

Pamela Eddy, College of William and Mary
published Mar 20, 2017

It is often easy to think that change happens because someone else is doing the leading, after all, what power do faculty members have? The answer is—more than you think. Mid-level leadership is gaining more traction as a way to help organizations change (http://www.chronicle.com/article/Leading-From-the-Middle/238503). Clearly, the SAGE 2YC project is based on this premise, with faculty named as Change Agents. Wergin (2007) edited a book that covers a range of topics regarding leading in place within academia: (http://www.wiley.com/WileyCDA/WileyTitle/productCd-1933371188.html). Increasingly, top-level leaders realize the need to have everyone on board to help colleges change. So, what can you do to develop your own leadership voice?

  1. Self-Reflection. It is important for you to first understand your own preferences in leading others and how you are most effective. Increasingly, the view of leadership is changing from a singular person at the top barking out orders to networked leadership. You need to figure out your place here (see https://hbr.org/2012/07/how-leaders-become-self-aware).
  2. Change Focus. John Kotter argues that for change to begin, a sense of urgency is first required. Take a step back and think what you see that needs to change and determine what is the urgency to do this (see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U5802FBaMSI).
  3. Creating a Network. One of the beauties of leading from the middle is the connections you have both up, down, and across the organization and outside. Creating a robust network helps increase your social capital, which can allow you to influence change to a great extent. You can do and say things that top-level leaders cannot (see http://www.forbes.com/sites/bonniemarcus/2014/10/20/your-network-is-your-net-worth-7-ways-to-build-social-capital/#6df42a4c6ecc).
  4. Framing the Story. A big part of getting others to follow you as a leader and to get things done is by telling a compelling story about the need to move and change now. Think of this like walking around with a blank picture frame. What you choose to frame creates the view for others. The adage of seeing the glass as half-full or half-empty is all about the framing (see http://customerthink.com/essential_elements_when_framing_organizational_change/).

Knowing more about leadership and working with people can provide you with great leverage in advocating for your change projects and for accomplishing your goals. You have more power at your disposal than you may think! (See https://tomprof.stanford.edu/posting/1242.) Constant self-reflection, nurturing networks, and telling the story to get others to act all are key factors that contribute to your leadership development.

Consider the following prompts as a start to thinking about your own leadership for change:

  • What do you consider your leadership strengths?
  • What do you see that you want to change?
  • How are you framing that story for your colleagues? For your students? For others in your network?
  • How will you know if you are successful with your change?
  • What can help further your leadership development?


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