Spring 2015

201.7 min read

Namrata Verma

From the Editor…….. Volume 13, Number 1

I am pleased and saddened to present this issue of the Journal of Organizational Learning and Leadership. I am pleased because this is truly one of the strongest sets of manuscripts to be presented in the Journal, and I am saddened that it is my last in serving as Editor. The Journal has proven to be an outstanding outlet for both academic and practical commentary and research, and I am personally grateful to my friend and colleague Greg Thomas for allowing me to spend these past five years as Editor.

My gratitude to the many authors who have chosen the Journal as an outlet for their academic work, and I certainly encourage future researchers, practitioners, and scholars to continue their debates about leadership and learning in these pages.

Best wishes for the spring and summer!

Michael T. Miller


Journal of Organizational Learning and Leadership

Michael T. Miller

Current Issue

Wakonse: A Case Study in Organizational Sustainability

Organizations are built on interactions among leaders, members and the larger culture (Schein, 1990; Sessa & London, 2006). Beyond the people and communities of which they are a part, organizations carry history and face issues of both internal and external change. The combination of people, culture, organizational history and change set the stage for whether organizations can successfully learn and remain sustainable. Very little research has been done on a case study level regarding how organizations – specifically those that address higher education needs – begin, evolve, and adapt to change. This study seeks to fill that gap by looking at the specific case of Wakonse, a small teaching and learning conference held annually for the past 25 years. By focusing on a single case, we begin building the opportunity to make meaning of other organizations and why they persist (or not) and what strategies and key elements must be in place for organizations to remain viable.

Review of Literature

Higher education organizations, similar to other complex organizations, have seen the creation, restructuring and demise of institutions, educational organizations, and academic conferences (Brancato, 2003; Kezar & Eckel, 2002; Lesniaski, et al., 2001). It is likely, given current internal and external influences on higher education that higher education organizations will need to continue to evolve and adapt. Demographic changes such as an aging professoriate, decreased public support for funding higher education, and increased pressure to demonstrate effectiveness are a few examples that demonstrate challenges faced by higher education organizations. In order to survive, organizations need to exhibit both consistency and adaptability (Bassis, 1989; Kimball, 1989; Scanzoni, 2005).

Organizational learning theory focuses on the management of organizational knowledge – how it is created, kept and conveyed across the organization and into the future (Argyris & Schon, 1996; Senge, 1990). Organizational learning focuses not only on leaders and members, but also on how people serve as actors in helping the organization learn (Argyris & Schon, 1978, 1996). Additionally, this theory takes into consideration concepts such as organizational history, the impact of external factors and the constancy of change (Argyris & Schon, 1978; 1996). The purpose of this study was to use the organizational learning lens to examine Wakonse as a case study in order to determine how leadership, membership and culture impacted the conference’s sustainability.

Before exploring this particular case study, it is important to put in place a foundation of the existing literature. The learning organization is able to deal with change through human resources as well as organizational culture (Senge, 1990). This study make the case that a learning organization is more likely to be sustainable over time than one that does not engage in learning organization strategies. Just as a learning organization values the human element of the organization, so do human resources (leaders and members) contribute to organizational sustainability (Bartlett & Goshhall, 2002). The organizational culture as a means of conveying knowledge in a learning organization (Argyris & Schon, 1978; 1990) also sets the stage for organizational endurance or vulnerability (Kezar & Eckel, 2002; Schein, 1990, 1993). Finally, organizational strategies for managing constant change are parts of learning organizations (Senge, 1990) and are also necessary to ensure continuity and success (Battilana, Gilmarting, Sengul, Pache & Alexander, 2010; Boyce, 2003; Burke & Litwin, 1992; Gumport, 2000; Robertson, Roberts & Porras, 1993). In this study the organizational learning lens aligns with the participant responses to the research questions – why did Wakonse begin and why has it continued over time?

Organizational Learning Theory

There are a variety of ways in which organizations learn. Levitt and March (1988) identified history, experiences (organizational and individual), and organizational memory as learning opportunities for organizations. Clark (1972) referenced organizational sagas as ways in which organizations not only learn but track what they have learned. Within the context of higher education, organizational vision (Martin, 1999), learning as survival in a changing world (Rowley, 1998) and learning through members via faculty development (Brancato, 2003) have been explored. Wakonse uses these strategies to sustain an organization focused on the value of teaching even when faced with an increased emphasis on research over the past 25 years since the conference began.

Human Resources: Organizational Learning Through Members

Organizational learning is, in part, the result of the learning of individuals. Greenberg and Baron (2008) defined an organization as being a group of people working toward a common goal. In this case study, the individuals included Wakonse founders and long-term participants who became staff members for the organization. The common goal is enhanced teaching, learning and student engagement.

Leadership. The leader of an organization sets goals and vision for the organizational work (Battalina et al., 2010). This study examines the role of organizational leaders – the three founders – and how they created and have sustained Wakonse. While some research on leadership has focused on what leaders do (Sessa and London, 2006), other research focuses on who these leaders are. Competencies identified as necessary for effective leadership in higher education include: academic credibility, university experience, the ability to crate and execute a vision, and people, communication and negotiation skills (Bryman 2007; Spendlove, 2007). In this case study, the founders of Wakonse exemplify these leadership skills – not in a single person, but in the unique team that has worked to keep the conference relevant throughout the past 25 year

Membership. While leaders are important, there is no organization without members. Who are Wakonse’s participants? Why do they attend? The answers to these questions are linked to the philosophy and goals of the organization. Vogt and Murrell (1990) wrote, “Giving high priority to both the worth of individuals and their value in terms of contributions to the organization requires a close examination of the organization’s values” (p. 47). Additional research has reiterated that in order to recruit, retain and develop talent in higher education, an understanding of the needs of organizational members is crucial (Mclawhon & Cutright, 2012; Michel & Michel, 2012; Trower, 2012). Carnevale (2003) wrote that organizations and their members are social systems that “must collaborate for mutual gain” (p. 123). This study explored how Wakonse as an organization connected with participants to the benefit of both the conference and the individuals.

Organizational Culture

Organizational culture exists in higher education (Light, Cox & Calkins, 2009; Meyer, et al., 2007; Middlehurst, 1999). Schein (1993) defined organizational culture as “the sum total of what a given group has learned as a group” (p. 705). With that in mind, new members are taught or must learn the culture of their organizations. Researchers found that the gradual process of learning new culture and unlearning previous cultures is how participants generate identities as members within organizations (Klausner & Groves, 2002; Tierney, 1997). With that in mind, participants were asked about their experiences related to the culture of Wakonse. They reflected not only on how they learned the culture, but what things are planned and intentionally organized to bring new members into the Wakonse culture.

Community. The community within an organization contributes to organizational culture or lack thereof (Tierney & Bensimon, 1996). Research shows that a lack of connection or a sense of isolation can lead to marginalization of faculty and staff (Aguirre, 1987; Gray & Conway, 2007; Tierney & Bensimon, 1996).

This is particularly important as staffing patterns on campuses change. A current example is the increased use of adjunct faculty in higher education (Feldman & Turnley, 2004; Forbes, Hindley & White, 2010; Kirk & Spector, 2009). Some studies estimate as many as 50% of undergraduate courses are taught by adjunct faculty (Feldman & Turnley, 2004). The use of organizational learning to identify the needs of these members can prove useful not only in recruiting and retaining adjunct faculty, but to more successfully integrating them into institutional culture. In the case of Wakonse, the integration of new members into the institutional culture of the conference is essential. The conference is built on a need identified by the participants of this study for community in an otherwise isolated culture of academic work.

Organizational Change

The human beings and culture in an organization set the stage for how organizational learning will take place. Organizational learning is central to navigating change and sustaining organizations (Boyce, 2003). Additionally, learning and change can also be sources of fear (Kofman & Senge, 1993). Navigating change is also challenging because cultural transitions are often incremental and a result of internal and external mandates (Abelson, 1995; Hamel & Merz, 2005; Kyle, 2005; Sindelar & Rosenberg, 2000). While change is difficult, it does not need to be negative. Adaptation to meet changing goals, needs and members is progress. Duderstadt (1999) suggested, “Change equates to hope and is an opportunity to be strategic in order to control our destiny” (p. 39).

Similarly, change is central to organizational development and sustainability (Abelson, 1995; Hamel & Merz, 2005; Kyle, 2005; Sindelar & Rosenberg, 2000). Organizations persist because they meet needs by adjusting to change or fail because they do not adapt (Deming, 1994; Gumport, 2000; Henkel, 2000; Hirsch & Weber, 2001; Kogan & Hanney, 2000). Wakonse has used human resources, organizational culture and organizational learning in order to adapt to keep the conference relevant to faculty and staff in higher education.

Finally, the study of an organizational culture must be situated in the context of the organization’s history. This study builds on the work of past research dealing with institutional life histories in higher education (Light, Cox & Calkins, 2009; Meyer, et. al, 2007; Middlehurst, 1999). The role of the history of Wakonse in charting the future of the conference is also explored in this study.

Research Methods

The purpose of this study was to answer two questions: Why was Wakonse created and why has Wakonse continued for 25 years? Through interviews with founders and long-time participants, these questions were explored. The result of this case study was the finding that Wakonse is a learning organization and uses learning organization strategies in order to stay viable.

This study utilized a qualitative case study as it’s primary method. As Merriam (2009), described, unique aspects of the case study approach include: particularistic, descriptive and heuristic was (Merriam, 2009). In other words it focused on the particular case (Wakonse conference), included a thick and rich description based on interviews and observations related to the specific case, and serves to expand on the knowledge of organizational learning as a result (Maxwell, 2005). Wakonse was considered an instrumental case study in that the case (i.e. Wakonse) was examined to provide insight into another phenomenon (i.e. organizational sustainability) (Merriam, 2009).

Qualitative Case Study

Context: Wakonse Conference on College Teaching and Learning. The context for this case study is the Wakonse Conference on College Teaching and Learning. For six days over Memorial Day weekend, approximately 125 faculty, staff and students gather at Camp Miniwanca on Lake Michigan. Faculty from the University of Missouri organize the conference. These faculty comprise the Wakonse staff who recruit through their own connections and those of previous attendees at a variety of institutions to bring new participants to the conference. The goal is to connect individuals with a passion for undergraduate education to share strategies and to reinforce the value of teaching, learning and student engagement.

Since 1988, Wakonse has been held at a children’s summer camp on the shores of Lake Michigan. The Wakonse culture is structured to build community. Meals are eaten in a communal dining hall. Technology (cell phone reception and computer access) is limited and there are no televisions. Participants have a roommate with whom they share small rooms and each floor has a community bathroom.

One participant said, This setting allows participants to disengage from daily pressures and instead to think about themselves and their personal and professional futures.” These conditions are an intentional part of the conference designed to encourage human connections and the development of community without the distractions of technology or luxurious accommodations.

The conference integrates sessions led by participants. In addition, however, dialogue groups are utilized to explore issues related to teaching, learning and student engagement in more depth. There is also scheduled time for reflection and goal-setting.

Finally, there are other activities to encourage engagement and connection in a less formal way. Social activities include horseback riding, hiking, golf and a high ropes course. Participants are given free time in the evening to have conversations with others, go into the small town nearby, participate in board game nights, or engage in solitary activities such as hiking or sitting on the beach. There are events such as an ecumenical church service, a Polar Bear Plunge into Lake Michigan and a Chautauqua (talent show). The conference concludes with a slide show that includes photos of every attendee.

The setting and structure of this conference are intentionally designed to encourage community building and to stimulate self-reflection. From the accommodations to the small- and large-group activities to the closing slide show where participants see themselves as a part of the Wakonse experience, participants are made to a feel a sense of belonging and fellowship with like-minded professionals in higher education. Wakonse has been developed as a safe place for faculty and staff to share their passion, successes and challenges related to student learning, teaching and engagement.


The participants in this study consisted of the three Wakonse founders who have led the conference since its inception. In addition, another six participants who have attended for at least four years and eventually became Wakonse staff members. There were four men and five women who participated in the study.

Data Collection

Interviews. Data was collected through individual, semi-structured interviews (Maxwell, 2005). The first question for the founders was, “Why and how did Wakonse begin?” The first question for each of the non-founder participants was, “How did you get involved with Wakonse?” Questions related conference sustainability (leadership, community activities, and vision) and why participants valued the experience were explored.

The interviews lasted between 60 and 90 minutes. Each interview was recorded and transcribed. Themes were identified and both transcripts and preliminary results were shared with the participants for feedback and clarification.

Observations. In addition to the interviews, observations were conducted at Wakonse for two years. The first year observations were more limited and the intent was to experience the conference and develop an understanding of the goals and activities as strategies for developing a community dedicated to student learning and engagement. In the second year, more intentional observation was made focused on how the conference is structured. Additionally, the intentionality behind the location, the activities and how the Wakonse culture has been developed to support individual participation and cultivate community among participants was observed. The context for the event was explored along with opportunities to engage with other participants. Extensive note-taking and reflexive journaling were used to make meaning of the experience (Brown & Strega, 2005; Denzin & Lincoln, 2005; Merriam, 2009).

Data Analysis

Themes were identified through coding (Levine, 1985). As themes emerged, the frequency of themes was noted (Miles & Huberman, 1994). Categories were limited, as not everything discovered was relevant to the specifics of this study.

Trustworthiness. Validity threats (Maxwell, 2005; Miles & Huberman, 1994) in the study were addressed through acknowledging researcher bias (the researcher’s positive Wakonse experience), reflective journaling and memo writing to insure data was collected consistently and the study could be replicated. Finally, member checks were conducted throughout the study.


As a result of this study, several themes related to organizational sustainability emerged. Organizations learn based on the engagement of leaders and members, through an understanding and incorporation of organizational history and through responses to external factors and change (Argyris & Schon, 1978, 1996; each of these themes aligns with the framework for this study – organizational learning. Organizational learning focuses not only on leaders and members but also on how people serve as actors in helping the organization learn and convey organizational knowledge (Argyris & Schon, 1978, 1996).

The conference originated based on the founders’ vision that there was a need in higher education for community built on a shared passion for teaching and learning. That vision became the foundation for Wakonse. The conference organization has continued because of a combination of the involvement of the founder-leaders, holistic attention to conference attendees and a sense of participant community.

The participant responses to the research questions about how the conference originated and why it has continued centered on people – founders and participants – and community. The results here are divided into three sections. The first focuses on conference founders and leadership in terms of both how the conference originated and decisions made to keep the conference going for 25 years. The second section also focuses on people, in this case, the participants. In addition to the tradition conference session experiences, this conference developed dialogue groups and other activities meant to focus on the whole person rather than the academic or professional person who is attending. Finally, those interviewed identified the need and search for a community with common goals and passions as a key element to the continuation of Wakonse.


The founders had personal connections to the conference site (a summer camp in Michigan). Each of them brought a particular expertise to the roles they played at the conference. Joe serves as the coordinator and helped to institutionalize funding for Wakonse at his institution. At the conference, he welcomes and connects with each participant. Bill is the source of Wakonse wisdom and conference historian. Finally, Barb is the spirit of Wakonse. She acquired the initial grant funding and named the conference (Wakonse means mentoring someone to his or her vision).

During interviews, participants identified the role each founder played in Wakonse’s evolution. One participant said “I would be willing to bet that Joe touches base with almost every person at the conference.” Of Bill another person shared, “He’s the quintessential professor and his philosophy is, ‘The profession of the professor is to profess.’” A participant described Barb saying, “Her place was probably to be the outspoken woman.” It took all three of these personalities – the leader to organize, the wise professor to represent the power of teaching, and the energetic, creative vocal supporter – in order for Wakonse to connect with and inspire attendees from a variety of disciplines and fields in higher education.

Participant Experiences

Participants focused on the role of dialogue groups, conference sessions and the holistic attention paid to individuals as key elements of the Wakonse experience and why the conference has continued for a quarter of a century. They said that the stage is set for these unique experiences by the location of the conference. One participant shared that the setting itself lends to human connection, as there is not much else to do at the camp. Another added, that the camp setting was a location where “people can voice their fears, their anxieties, their things that they feel like they don’t do well, things that frustrate them about students or whatever…”

Dialogue groups. The dialogue groups are the places intentionally cultivated to be safe spaces for this kind of risk-taking. Each participant is assigned to a dialogue group of eight or nine people. Attending these meetings is the only requirement of Wakonse. These meetings happen daily and are focused discussions on topics identified by each group based on its needs. Dialogue might center on tenure, family, creative ways to engage students, syllabi writing, or whatever else the group decides.

Participants described the dialogue group as “integral” and “the hub” of Wakonse. One participant said, “I can’t really place enough importance on the whole dialogue group thing… And it’s not important because it’s a rule, but because so much happens there.” Another participant shared that participating in this groups is essential, saying, “The requirement to be active is definitely one of the rituals that goes on at camp.”

Another reason the dialogue groups are essential to the continuation of Wakonse is the easy connection made between these groups and the teaching experience of the attendees. Participants shared that creating a safe space for people to share and take risks in dialogue groups mirrors creating a safe space for students to share and take risks in the classroom. This connection between the conference and the campus experience – between Wakonse and the work done by conference attendees creates a sense of purpose and a pragmatic use for these dialogue group experiences. Participants shared that coming together from different institutions in this safe space was a unique experience. Two of the founders and one participant stressed the idea that there are few places for these conversations – interdisciplinary conversations about the value of good teaching – to take place.

Conference sessions. While the learning from conference sessions may be a more common outcome of conference attendance elsewhere, this is only a part of the session experience for Wakonse attendees. One participant shared that from the beginning attendees are told by one of the founders that “Teaching matters, and you matter.” Rather than bringing in outside experts, conference sessions are facilitated based on participant skills and backgrounds. Attendees submit topics of interest or expertise. When they arrive, they find out what sessions they will be co- facilitating. The expectation is that the sessions are conversations rather than presentations. This is uncomfortable for some at first, but it is central to the Wakonse experience. One participant said, “To me the most important feature of the conference is that foundational philosophy that faculty learn best from each other. Particularly that they learn best about teaching from each other.”

Holistic attention to attendees. Beyond sessions and teaching and the job of being a faculty or staff member in higher education, there is a focus at the conference on the whole person beyond his or her job. The role of the “best self” at Wakonse is central to why it has continued as an organization. One of the founders said this holistic approach was a part of the original Wakonse planning discussions.

[Wakonse] would have something intellectual. It would have something social. It would have something physical. There would be some sort of spiritual thing to it… The idea of how you put all these things together in your life is important. Another participant added, “[Wakonse is about] focus on the whole person – the beauty of the place and people… opportunity for rest away from the work of home and work. It’s just completely different from the rest of the year, in every way.

This quote exemplifies Wakonse as a learning organization. Kofman and Senge (1993) described the learning organization as “based on transcendent human values of love, wonder, humility, and compassion” (p. 27), practices for conversation and action, and the ability to see work as a part of one’s larger life experience. The founders set the stage for participants to attend to their whole selves at the beginning of each conference when Joe says, “We need you to go to dialogue group, but if you need to skip other sessions to sit on the beach or hike in the woods or read a book or even take a nap, you should do that instead.” The message is clear that each person is encouraged, given autonomy and given time and space to do what he or she needs. One participant put it this way:

[Wakonse] addresses you emotionally, socially, physically… along with the whole cognitive arena that we’re in so much. You’re still in your head, but it gets you out of your head and into those other human needs… It’s that holistic approach. That ability to breathe and to address and take care of yourself that has kept it going.

Participants across the board shared that this was a unique experience they had. They also said that because of their experiences, they encouraged others to attend which helped to sustain the conference over time. Despite the fact that very few attend the conference more than once, those interviewed shared that new attendees are recruited by past Wakonse fellows and encouraged to take this reflective time to attend to themselves holistically.


The human resources – the leaders and the attendees – come together to form a community that is Wakonse. The organizational culture of Wakonse is based on a strong sense of intentionally developed community beginning with the accommodations and limited access to technology and going through the wisdom from within structure of the sessions and the small, focused safe environment of the dialogue group. Community has been a central idea in Wakonse’s development and a key element of its sustainability. Participants said Wakonse community threaded together through a shared passion for teaching and learning, a holistic attention to individuals, and activities that build deeper connections among participants.

Shared passion for teaching and learning. Beyond the logistics of the experience, the common passion of attendees helps to forge community among those who attend. Wakonse is a place where those inspired by teaching and learning connect around student engagement. According to one founder,

What comes to the fore is their basic curiosity – their love of learning –, which is what got them into academia to begin with. So now you have this powerful community that’s made up of people who realize they have so much to learn from one another. And that’s explosive. In a good way. It’s like fusion.

Participants shared that they had gone without a community that shared their values so coming together with like-minded people inspired them in new ways. When asked why the conference has continued, participants described Wakonse as a place – sometimes the first or only place – where individuals realized they were not alone in their pursuit of excellence related to student engagement. One participant said,

I think it’s important to build community around the issues related to teaching and learning and student engagement. We’re all often isolated with those issues… Sometimes it’s easier to connect with people away from [one’s home campus] with people you don’t know as well. You know it’s this community of people who have persevered – probably because we have like interests.

The value of a community of faculty and staff with a shared passion related to teaching and learning is essential to the continuation of Wakonse. Participants in this study said that they had not found any other place – individual campuses, other conferences, workshops, etc. – where learning and teaching is valued and rewarded in the ways that it is at Wakonse.


Theory to Practice Implications

While this study focused on a single conference, there are implications for how the information here can be applied other organizations as they engage in the processes of navigating change in order to persist and remain relevant. There are three key questions related to organizational development units should ask themselves in order to strengthen the work they do, enhance their communities and the experiences of their members, and remain relevant and sustainable over time.

1. Organizational Leadership: What are the strengths of the unit leaders?

2. Organizational Membership and Culture: What are the roles of organizational members and how is a sense of belonging (or community) cultivated?

3. Organizational Learning and Change: How do organizations evolve, grow and adapt to change?

Organizational leadership. The founders had individual and complementary strengths creating a foundation for Wakonse. Joe had the leadership persona and the connections at the home institution. Bill conveyed wisdom as the master teacher. Barb had an enthusiasm and the writing talent to secure grants for conference.

The “what leaders do” in this case worked in support of the organization. Other organizations should be encouraged to take the time to understand their leader(s) and make sure that there are not gaps in leadership that could negatively impact the organization. This leadership review is not a one-time event, but should be ongoing – particularly in times of change or leadership transition.

This study helps us build on past literature about the role of leaders organizations (Bryman, 2007; Lesniaski, et al., 2001; Spendlove, 2007;Weir & Thomas, 2008). This research connects organizational development and learning with higher education. As higher education adapts to changing needs and demands, using organizational learning to assess leadership effectiveness can be helpful in adapting to anticipated and unexpected change.

Organizational membership. Next, the role of participants is essential. Participants as session leaders and dialogue group members help develop the Wakonse culture. Having members see themselves as the core of the organization – “experts from within” as study participants referred to them – is not only empowering to individuals, but provides buy-in and organizational support on a broader scale. Wakonse attendees see themselves as a part of Wakonse rather than apart from the organization.

So, how are new participants recruited? How do they learn about organizational community and culture? This study shows how individuals come to know themselves as members of the Wakonse organization in a relatively short period of time (six days). They participate in sessions and intimate dialogue as well as literally seeing themselves in photos and during events at the close of the conference. In fact, they identify enough with the experience that they are able to return to their campuses and encourage others to participate in the Wakonse experience.

Organizational culture. How is institutional culture communicated not only from the organization to members but from one member to another? This study shows that participants themselves are the primary means of spreading organizational culture and knowledge. Participants led sessions, set agendas for dialogue groups, and participate in social activities. In terms of higher education organizations, how is institutional culture communicated between members? Opportunities for this to happen can take place not only in departmental and committee meetings, but also in other activities such as professional learning communities, mentoring and recruitment of new faculty and staff.

It is crucial to remember that the development of individual members has implications for development of the organization. Faculty development activities have been shown to connect members across disciplines and increase the scope of projects undertaken by faculty (Camblin & Steger, 2000). In the case of this study, bringing together faculty not only from different disciplines, but from different institutions not only enhanced the experience for individual members, but inspired faculty to connect more broadly on their home campuses. The founders discussed how time is set-aside for participants to discuss how they will “Take Wakonse home” to their institutions. During this time they share how they will integrate what they have learned into their own work, share what they have learned with others, and strive to create communities dedicated to teaching and learning at their institutions.

Throughout the interview process, participants emphasized the importance of community at Wakonse. This idea went beyond shared interests and included both the conference curriculum and optional activities. The additional activities helped participants engage and connect on a personal level beyond their identities within higher education.

Wakonse has persisted because it meets unique needs of faculty and staff not found in other communities. The Wakonse community is built on passions around student engagement that are not perceived as being valued and rewarded at some participants’ home institutions. Wakonse fills a void and provides support and inspiration for excellence in teaching and learning combined with a perceived genuine sense of care about each individual.

Organizational learning and change. Finally, how did Wakonse learn in its first 25 years? In this case study, the founder of the organization identified a gap in the experience of faculty and staff in higher education. As there was no space for a community – particularly in research institutions – for communities dedicated to outstanding teaching and learning, Wakonse sought to create those communities. In addition, the conference has learned how to best serve the needs of its members through the development of a conference focused on the holistic individual and the idea that one teaches with his or her entire self and the holistic experience of being engaged in the learning process.

One example of an organizational change made to meet the needs of Wakonse and its attendees is the introduction of undergraduate students to Wakonse. Originally, students were not present at the conference. The conference mythology holds that the founders were sitting on a deck overlooking Lake Michigan when they worked at this same camp as faculty for a k-12 student summer experience. One of them said, “This would be a lot more fun without the kids.” And that, according to the founders, was one of the catalysts for creating Wakonse.

Over time Wakonse leaders and staff realized that a conference about teaching and learning was not complete without students. Therefore, a key evolution of the conference was incorporating students. This also linked learning with teaching. As one participant described it,

Historically, what was happening nationally was important because by the 90s there was this real change from the philosophy of looking at not teaching, but learning… It was a change a change for universities to even be talking about what was happening in the classroom.

Wakonse has adapted to other needs and trends, as well. The introduction of technology has been an important part of the conference. Barb shared that Wakonse was where she learned about e- mail. More recent sessions have discussed the use of clickers and social media in terms of building connections – particularly in large lectures.

The organization’s structure has also changed. One participant shared that in the early days of Wakonse, there were no activities scheduled for the free time. Participants were left to figure out how they wanted to spend that time. Leaders began to introduce optional activities for participants to enhance community. This has evolved so that now there are menus of choices including shopping trips, golf outings, high ropes activities, and hikes.


As a case study, this research is intentionally narrowly focused. It relies on the insights of the conference founders and staff who believe in the positive aspects of the experience. The conference has made adjustments to continuously attend to the needs of participants, but has not undergone major changes in leadership, structure, mission or logistics since it was created. Organizations dealing with more significant changes such as those mentioned here might have additional considerations they need to factor into their negotiation of challenges and change.

Additionally, while not all of the long-term participants were interviewed, a sample of six individuals from four different institutions was used. Finally, the conference is housed a specific institution. It is not a department, an academic college or a student affairs unit, however it is a long-standing program with faculty and staff committed to its work and continuation. Therefore, parallels can be drawn between this conference and other higher education units.


Despite the limitations outlined above, there are implications that can be useful throughout higher education and other organizations. Similarly, it has implications for a variety of higher education settings. Given the scale, as has been mentioned, it translates most easily to reviewing an academic department or student affairs unit. Considering the organizational development of a smaller piece of the higher education puzzle can help the unit prepare for change and continue to grow and be successful and relevant in higher education. Similarly, as a microcosm of the larger institution, there may be useful information which colleges and universities can use as they navigate change and plan for the future.

An important limitation of this study is that Wakonse has not faced leadership transition. As people retire or no longer participate, Wakonse will transition. Developing a sustainability plan will be essential to Wakonse’s continuation. A review of this conference in another ten years will provide significant information about how the organization managed larger changes than ones it has already faced.

Implications for Practice

This study suggests four implication areas for higher education organizations – leadership, members, culture and change. Addressing these areas will position institutions for success. Failing to consider them will have negative repercussions.

Align leadership planning with culture. Leadership planning should not happen only when there is leadership change (Battilana, et al., 2010). Organizations need to cultivate leaders on an ongoing basis. Preparing others to take on leadership roles makes an organization sustainable over time. So far Wakonse has done this by cultivating “expertise from within.” Nearly everyone who attends helps lead a session. The idea that everyone leads is essential to empowering conference attendees and strengthening their connection to the organization.

Some participants move into additional leadership roles both informal (leading social activities or initiating conversation over meals) and formal (dialogue group leaders, staff to coordinate conference logistics). It is important that colleges and universities use similar models.

Empowering faculty and staff to see themselves as leaders creates a pool of future leaders from which the institution can draw during times of transition.

Engage with organizational members to inspire, develop and retain them.

Similarly, institutions must create a sense of belonging for faculty and staff. Wakonse does this through dialogue, self-reflection and community developed through shared space and social opportunities. Other units of higher education – departments, colleges, student affairs units, etc. – can enhance belonging among members through dialogue, showing respect for members as individuals, and providing opportunities for connection.

Re-examine organizational culture on an ongoing basis. While culture can be ambiguous and slow to change, it is important to understand the interconnectivity of leadership and membership and culture – people influence culture and as people change, so does culture shift. A reexamination of organizational culture affords the opportunity for organizational learning. If organizations – including colleges and universities – are not examining what has been learned, they are losing touch with their own institutional cultures.

At the end of each Wakonse, participants from individual institutions me discuss how they will build on the Wakonse experience on their home campuses. This results in strategic planning, but also provides feedback to Wakonse. What campuses are planning to do constitutes one lens through which to view what is learned and how the organization functioned in a given year.

Institutions need to engage in the same sorts of reflection in order to stay in touch with their culture. How are faculty feeling about class sizes or student engagement? What is the level of connection of adjuncts to a campus? How are students describing their experiences?

There are practical implications not just philosophical ones to the reflective process. Reflection is central to Wakonse. While some of it is individualized and personal, there are other opportunities – in dialogue groups, in sessions and in the institutional meetings at the end of the conference – where larger meaning-making can be done. Institutions would be well-served to adopt some of these strategies to better understand who they are and how that compares with how colleges and universities (or departments and units) describe themselves.

Anticipate change and plan for change at all times. Battilana et al., (2010) suggested that, “one of the defining challenges for leaders is to take their organizations into the future by implementing planned organizational changes” (p. 422). Anticipating and planning for change is a strong theme in this study. The major transition coming up for Wakonse has to do with leadership. While there have been some discussions, no intentional sustainability planning has been done for either the leadership or the Wakonse conference. The success of Wakonse in this area remains to be seen.

A broader example of change planning in higher education that mirrors what Wakonse is facing is transition as the professoriate ages. According to the Association of American Colleges and University (2001), faculty turnover slowed after the 1993 elimination of the mandatory retirement age. The result has been a pool of faculty in leadership positions and classrooms for extended periods of time. That is now being followed by a period of tremendous change.


In closing, this study informs organizations in a number of ways. This study used a business- based model (organizational learning) to examine a Wakonse, a teaching and learning conference, as a specific case study. This study found that the role of leaders, members, culture and change are central to the sustainability and sustainability of a higher education organization or unit. Ultimately, the study also shows how this case parallels higher education regarding change. In the case of the conference, change in the activities offered at the conference are much more welcome than changes in the leadership. There is not only resistance to the change, but a fear to engage in conversations about leadership transitions or sustainability.


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Michelle L. Boettcher, Ann Gansemer-Topf

Current Issue

The Dark and the Light: Two Faces of Transformational Leadership

Two men: one is humble and the other is not. One recently called for all churches to join in unity and pray for peace around the world. The other is responsible for the brutal murders of over 5,500 men, women, and children since June as well as the kidnapping of over 450 women to be sold or given away as sex slaves. One was elected to his leadership position, the other appointed himself taking advantage of a void of leadership. One resides over a worldwide church numbering an estimated 1.2 billion Roman Catholics. The other leads 31,500 fighters with an unknown number of supporters. One says “war is not to be waged in the name of God” while the other threatens to conquer the former in the name of God (Grant, 2014).

Despite these differences, the men share many commonalities. They are two of today’s most famous world leaders; Pope Francis of the Catholic Church and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, self- proclaimed Caliph of the Islamic State (IS). Not only do these two men both lead religious organizations, they derive their authority from a higher power. In both cases, God provides them with guidance; one through the Bible and the other through the Quran. Both men have dedicated followers who share many of their beliefs.

Though both Pope Francis and al-Baghdadi display attributes of more than one leadership style, the paper proposes that both can be considered transformational leaders notwithstanding their completely contradictory ideologies. Although several leadership theorists suggest leaders who values are considered evil by Western society cannot be transformational leaders, this paper refutes that notion in the case of al-Baghdadi. The background of both men and the theory of transformational leadership will first be examined. Then the leadership of Pope Francis and Abu Bakr al Baghdadi will be assessed against a model of transformational leadership developed by Bernard Bass and Ronald Riggio.

Background and Rise to Power

Jorge Bergoglio was born to Italian immigrants in Buenos Aries in 1936. One of five children, his father worked for the railroad and his mother was dedicated to raising their children. Originally schooled as a chemical technician, he choose the path of the priesthood and rose through the ranks of the Catholic Church (Moynihan, 2013, p. 16). Ordained a priest in 1969, within four years he became father provincial. He served for many years as a Jesuit teacher and in 1992, Pope John Paul II named him auxiliary bishop of Buenos Aires. In 1998, after the death of his predecessor, Bergoglio became the Archbishop of Buenos Aires (Lanser, 2014, p. 100). His role in the church continued to expand as he took on additional duties in both Rome and Argentina resulting in Pope John Paul II appointing him as a cardinal in 2001 (Lanser, 2014, p. 100). When Pope Benedict made the unprecedented decision to step down, Cardinal Bergoglio’s fellow cardinals elected him to lead the entire Catholic Church. Bergoglio chose the name of Francis because of his admiration for the simplicity of Saint Francis and for his great love of the poor (Moynihan, 2013, p.11).

As much as one man appears an open book, the other maintains a much lower profile. Born in 1971 in Samarra, Iraq, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi grew up in a middle to upper class religious family and majored in Islamic Studies. He earned a doctorate from Baghdad University in the late 1990s and is thought to have held a religious position in the Sunni Community when Iraq was invaded by the United States in 2003 (Sekulow, 2014, p. 22). He helped start a resistance movement but was captured and imprisoned in a U.S.-run camp from 2005 to 2009. It was when he left this prison that he spoke the following widely-publicized words to the American prison commander; “I will see you guys in New York” (Staklebeck, 2014). Upon his release, al-Baghdadi joined the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI). Following the deaths of two of his predecessors, he took over as the Emir, or leader, in 2010 (Sekulow, 2014, p.22). In 2013, he renamed the organization the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). In July, 2014 al-Baghdadi declared the land he had conquered as the new Caliphate and pronounced himself Caliph Ibrahim (Gupta, 2014). Once again, he changed the name of the organization to the Islamic State (IS). In his first televised speech, he warned all Muslims “the establishment of a Caliphate is an obligation” and called on them to “obey” him as long as he obeys God (Gupta, 2014). His stated goal is to take the Caliphate to Rome.

Leadership czar Peter Northouse (2012) defines leadership as “a process whereby an individual influences a group of individuals to achieve a common goal” (p. 5). Leadership can be either assigned, as in the case of Pope Francis, or emergent like Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s rise to power. Leaders achieve their influences normally either through positional power which automatically comes with their title in a formal system or personal power which followers give to leaders they believe in (Northouse, 2012, p. 5).

Pope Francis rose through the ranks of a structured, bureaucratic organization while al-Baghdadi took advantage of a vacuum of power created by war and the violent deaths of his predecessors. Upon election as pope, Pope Francis became the caretaker of the world’s largest church. Given this tremendous positional power to which he was elected, one of Pope Francis very first requests was for people to pray for him (Moynihan, 2013, p. 12). Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, on the other hand, bestowed his positional power upon himself by declaring himself “Caliph Ibrahim.”

Although these two men achieved their position and power very differently; there are parallels between their leadership abilities and their ultimate goals for their organizations.

What’s in a Name?

Both of these men have taken different names upon coming into their new leadership position. The names, or title in the case of al-Baghdadi, provide key insights into what each man stands for. Cardinal Bergoglio choose to be called “Francis” after St. Francis of Assisi – the first of 266 men elected pope to select it. Vatican expert Robert Moynihan (2013) reported the selection of Francis was the first clue provided into Bergoglio’s character (p. 10). It signaled the new pope would break new ground in “great simplicity, and out of deep love for the poor of this world” (Moynihan, 2013, p. 10). Along with his disdain of hierarchical perks and his great desire to reach out to those suffering, Pope Francis has made his vision clear; to evangelize the world and transform the church.

In July, al-Baghdadi declared conquered parts of Syria and Iraq to be the new Caliphate and then reported he would be the Caliph or leader of the world’s 2 billion Muslims (Carter, 2014). He declared his new name to be Caliph Ibrahim. By taking this unprecedented step, al-Baghdadi has done something Osama bin Laden was not able to do – establish the Caliphate on occupied ground. Despite an outcry from other radical and peaceful Muslim groups, this declaration has encouraged others to follow him. In a video, the self-proclaimed Caliph said “God created us to worship him and spread his religion, and ordered us to fight his enemies for him and for religion,” adding Muslims are sinners if they did not seek the goal of establishing an Islamic state (Carter, 2014). Like Pope Francis, al-Baghdadi’s vision to change the world is also clear.

Transformational Leadership

As its name suggests, transformational leadership is “a process that changes and transforms people” and is “concerned with emotions, values, ethics, standards, and long-term goals” (Northouse, 2012, p. 185). Transformational leaders are normally charismatic and visionary and can motivate followers to do more than what is normally expected of them. Transformational leaders such as Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, George Washington, and others, set out a vision and influenced followers to join them in achieving it. So did Adolf Hitler. Many leadership theorists align transformational leadership with a positive outcome for followers actually leading them to a higher level of good or morality (Northouse, 2012, p. 185). In order to recognize the transforming leadership of Hitler and others who focused on their own interests rather than those of the group, some theorists have applied the term “pseudotransformational leadership” to describe them (Northouse, 2012, p. 187). Although a convenient distinction in some cases, al-Baghdadi does not fall into this category as he appears to truly believe what he is doing is for the greater good.

A Model by Bass and Riggio

Bernard Bass and Ronald Riggio (2006) have developed a model of transformational leadership which centers around four factors; idealized influence, inspirational motivation, intellectual stimulation, and individualized consideration (pp. 6-7). Transformational leaders achieve results through their use of one or more of these core components.

Idealized Influence. This factor has been called the “emotional component” of leadership (Bass & Riggio, 2006, p. 6). Leaders who display this characteristic serve as a role model for followers who, in turn, admire and respect them. They have very high standards of conduct and followers can count on them to uphold the values of the organization or group. These leaders are consistent and continually remind followers of the vision and emphasize the importance of the shared mission.

Pope Francis conceptualized his vision asking followers to pray the Holy Spirit would help them rebuild the Church through the blood of Christ, not seeking financial gain or worldly honor (Moynihan, 2013, p. 44). He continually encourages followers to carry out the “sweet and comforting” mission of evangelization – of bringing others to eternal salvation (Ladry, 2014). As the self-proclaimed Caliph, al-Baghdadi reminds followers of their shared mission – to restore the Caliphate to its former glory when the first four successors of Mohammed spread Islam by force. Unlike Pope Francis whose message is acceptance of others, al-Baghdadi preaches anyone who does not accept and follow his radical Sunni form of Islam must die. He encourages use of the same type of justice system used by Mohammed’s successors including death by beheading, stoning, and crucifixion. Although the majority of both Muslims and non-Muslims reject al- Baghdadi’s vision and methods, his message is attracting a number of Westerners who have traveled or tried to travel to Syria to join him.

Inspirational Motivation. This component of the model highlights the ability of leaders “who communicate high expectations to followers, inspiring them through motivation to become committed to and be a part of the shared vision” (Bass & Riggio, 2006, p. 7). These leaders are almost always charismatic and create a compelling and attractive vision of the future (Bass & Riggio, 2013, p. 7).

Pope Francis recently encouraged followers when he stated, “At no other moment in history has humanity had the possibility, as it does now, of building a plural, unified world community” (Callazo & Rogak, 2013, p. 37). Westerners around the world long for peace and prosperity and Pope Francis’ message is inspiring people of all faiths. Leadership expert Margie Warrell (2013) recently wrote about Pope Francis’ appeal noting people long for leaders “who are willing to do what is right above what is easy or politically expedient, and who are not afraid to lay their reputation on the line for a cause and a vision that is vastly bigger than themselves.”

Unfortunately, al-Baghdadi is also willing to do to what he feels is right even to the point of being disowned by al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri for his land grab in Syria and for fighting Shiites instead of Westerners. Author Andrew Salzman has suggested most of the world has downplayed the extraordinary message al Baghdadi is sending to followers through his declaration of a restored Caliphate (Salzman, 2014). He noted “Western leaders must recognize that calls for the reinstitution of a caliphate might not be cynical subversions of religion for political gain, but actually the product of genuine religious desire; leaders who sincerely view Dr. Ibrahim’s call as a ‘mere manipulation’ of religious sentiment demonstrate their failure to understand the full spectrum of Islamic belief” (Salzman, 2014). In a recent video, al Baghdadi encouraged followers to “Rush O Muslims to your state. It is your state. Syria is not for Syrians and Iraq is not for Iraqis. The land is for the Muslims, all Muslims” (McElroy, 2014).

Intellectual Consideration. Leaders who display this characteristic embolden followers to try new methods, think through issues, and find innovative solutions to problems. They encourage followers to challenge the values of the organization (Northouse, 2012, p. 186). Both Pope Francis and al Baghdadi are considered intellectuals and are highly educated. Pope Francis has a master’s degree in chemistry and a doctorate in theology while al Baghdadi has several degrees including a doctorate in sharia law. Both men encourage their followers to engage in creative ways to further their vision.

At first glance, it would appear neither of these men would want people to challenge the values of their organizations. Pope Francis, however, has taken the unprecedented step of requiring church leaders to survey over a billion members worldwide on what they think about various family issues including marriage equality, divorce, and contraception and to then report back (Jenkins, 2013). Earlier this year, he convened a synod in Rome with 250 church leaders to further address these issues. Pope Francis encouraged participants by telling them “God is not afraid of new things” (Dias, 2014). Through this synod, Time Magazine reported “Pope Francis showed the world that he is not afraid of making mistakes. He takes risks, and his commitment to listening allows a host of voices to rise and controversy to surface” (Dias, 2014).

On the other hand, al-Baghdadi also encourages followers to think on their own as long as they do not violate any tenets of the faith as believed by him. He urges followers to resist a watered- down version of Islam and kill those who support doing so. Although it would appear al- Baghdadi does not allow for flexibility, it is exactly this trait which has led to his stunning successes in taking over parts of Iraq and Syria for the Caliphate. He accomplished this by giving his leaders an objective and allowing them to figure out the details on how to achieve it (Anderson, 2014). This is in sharp contrast to the manner in which Western troop leaders carry out missions with higher ups utilizing technology to monitor and “advise.” It also differs from other Middle Eastern armies “where commanders are judged more on perceived loyalty to the leader than on competence” (Anderson, 2014).

Individualized Consideration. This final factor of this transformational leadership model describes the ability of leaders to assist followers in becoming fully actualized (Northouse, 2012, p. 193). This is achieved through coaching and teaching. In the case of Pope Francis, this trait is not only evident in his dealings with groups and the church as a whole, but on a personal level. He has been known to go visit individuals or pick up the phone to provide encouragement and guidance to others. When he received a letter from an unwed mother whose boyfriend wanted her to abort the child, Pope Francis called her and volunteered to be her spiritual counselor and to baptize her baby (Pisa, 2013). In addition to being a transformational leader, Pope Francis clearly has the attributes of a servant leader which fall under this category. He has urged church leaders to join him in healing the wounds of the sick, ostracized, and hurting and said the church should be “a field hospital in battle, a worldwide emergency room of Good Samaritans assisting the Divine Physician in nursing the injured back to health” (Ladry, 2014).

Within this factor of individualized consideration, once again, there is a great contrast between these two men. Given Pope Francis’ quest for acceptance, grace, healing, and forgiveness; al- Baghdadi’s message of hate and brutality seems anything but considerate. However, al-Baghdad believes his brutality is a means of achieving Allah’s goal for establishment of the Caliphate and full implementation of sharia law. He sees this as a religious obligation for his followers and encourages others to join his cause saying “So raise your ambitions, O soldiers of the Islamic State! For your brothers all over the world are waiting for your rescue, and are anticipating your brigades” and “Whoever amongst you can migrate to the Islamic State should migrate” (Mu’Minnin, 2014). He truly believes this is a noble cause – that he is freeing other Muslims from oppression.


Leadership expert Peter Northouse (2012) suggested transformational leaders “often have a strong set of internal values and ideals, and they are effective at motivating followers to act in ways that support the greater good rather than their own self-interests” (p. 191). Pope Francis and al-Baghdadi meet this definition despite the vast expanse between their beliefs. They have served as social architects for their organizations, using innovative methods to further their ideology. Both men have displayed the four characteristics of a transformational leader outlined in the Bass and Riggio model.

Time Magazine recognized these characteristics in Pope Francis, naming him Person of the Year for 2013. Fortune Magazine followed suite moving him to the number one spot in their World’s 50 Greatest Leaders. Despite being an almost complete unknown just a few years ago, al- Baghdadi was recently identified as a transformational leader by Transformational Labs, the research arm of Transformational Revenue (Christian, 2014). This was based on an evaluation of sixty transformational leadership characteristics (Christian, 2014). Two men, both transforming the world, one for good and the other for evil.


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Northouse, P. G. (2012). Leadership theory and practice. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Pisa, N. (2013, September 13). Single mother says her heart is ‘filled with joy’ after call from pope. Catholic Herald UK. Retrieved from https://www.catholicherald.co.uk/news/2013/09/06/single-mother-says-her-heart-is-filled-with- joy-after-call-from-pope-francis/

Salzman, A. (2014, August 4). ISIS: Public legitimacy through the reenactment of Islam’s early history. Small Wars Journal. Retrieved November 6, 2014, from https://smallwarsjournal.com/jrnl/art/isis-public-legitimacy-through-the-reenactment-of-islam’s- early-history

Sekulow, J. (2014). Rise of ISIS: A threat we can’t ignore. New York, NY: Howard Books. Staklebeck, E. (2014, August 6). See you in New York – Jihadists plans for America. Christian

Broadcasting Network. Retrieved November 3, 2014, from https://www.cbn.com/cbnnews/us/2014/August/See-You-In-New-York-Jihadists-Plans-for- America/

Warrell, M. (2013, August 28). Lead from the heart, then the head: A lesson from Pope Francis. Forbes. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/margiewarrell/2013/08/28/lead-from-the- heart-then-the-head-a-lesson-from-pope-francis/

CAPT Jeanne M. McDonnell, USN, (ret.)

Current Issue

Mastering the ‘Secret Order’: The Role of Organizational Design in 21st Century Organizations

In all chaos there is a cosmos, in all disorder a secret order.” ~ Carl Jung

Expect chaos, be ready for chaos, and learn to lead in chaos.”

~ Bob Schoultz, retired Navy SEAL

In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity.” ~ Sun Tzu

Only the paranoid survive.” ~ Andy Grove

When I say the phrase organizational structure, what comes to your mind? Do you think org charts, hierarchies, and pecking order? While these are certainly valid responses, we must nonetheless realize that they represent the surface or visible manifestations of what we call “the organization.” The “secret order” of organizational effectiveness is organizational design which provides the sinews that link the organization’s strategy, structure, processes, rewards, and people.

How can you create this “secret order” and how can it to help you to master the chaos that is our current milieu? Perhaps more than at any time in the postmodern era, organizational leadership is critically needed in the global workplace. Strategic leaders must design organizational structures that facilitate competitive advantage. Let us take a look into what organizational design is and how it is being applied by benchmark organizations who are mastering the chaos of our global business environment. First, some operational definitions are in order:

Organizational structure consists of activities such as task allocation, coordination and supervision, which are directed towards the achievement of organizational aims (Pugh, 1990, p.10.). An organization’s structure is a critical determinant of organizational effectiveness and in most cases needs to be altered when an organization’s strategic intent changes (Lawler & Worley, 2006, p. 88).

Organizational design involves decisions about the configuration of the formal organizational arrangements, including the formal structures, processes, and systems that make up an organization (Nadler & Tushman, 1997). Organizational design is a continuous process, not a single event (Galbraith, 2002). Organizational designs are effective when they achieve a strategic fit. A strategic fit occurs when all the policies in the Star Model (more to follow, below) are aligned with the strategy and reinforce one another. Organization design will have to keep changing to ensure that the organization remains aligned with its strategy (Galbraith, 2002).

On November 22, 1994, the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, Andy Grove, CEO of Intel Corp., was alerted that a CNN crew was coming to interview him about a flaw in the new Pentium chip. CNN subsequently broadcast a critical story and the issue hit the proverbial fan. Within days, consumers were demanding a recall of the flawed chip, and Intel’s biggest customer, IBM, stopped shipment of all Pentium-based computers. Says Grove, “All hell broke loose. It became clear that we had to make a major change” (Grove, 1996, pp.14-15). Intel announced a policy change to replace any customer’s part who wanted it replaced, and stood up a major division to deal with the returns and consumers. This experience became to Grove what he called a strategic inflection point. “We embarked on a whole new way of doing business. What happened here? Something big, something different, something unexpected” (Grove, 1996, p. 16). Intel changed their paradigm from focusing on selling to computer makers to selling to computer users. Said Grove, “I was one of the last to understand the implications of the Pentium crisis. It took a barrage of relentless criticism to make me realize that something had changed – and that we needed to adapt to the new environment” (Grove, 1996, p. 22).

Thomas Kuhn, the late physicist and science historian, would call what Grove experienced – his strategic inflection point – a paradigm shift. Such a paradigm shift, said Kuhn, is revolutionary and is born of chaos and failure:

Because it demands large-scale paradigm destruction and major shifts in the problems and techniques of normal science, the emergence of new theories is generally preceded by a period of pronounced professional insecurity. As one might expect, that insecurity is generated by the persistent failure of the puzzles of normal science to come out as they should. Failure of existing rules is the prelude to a search for new ones. (Kuhn, 1996, pp. 67-68).

Noting the increasing irrelevance of command-and-control and machine/bureaucratic organizations in today’s milieu, Dee Hock of VISA International said “we are experiencing a global epidemic of institutional failure that knows no bounds. We must seriously question the concepts underlying the current structures of organization and whether they are suitable to the management of accelerating societal and environmental problems – and…seriously consider whether they are the primary cause of those problems” (Hock, 1999, p. 6). The answer, said Hock, “lies in the very concept of organization. Forming of a chaordic organization begins with an intensive search for Purpose, then proceeds to Principles, People, and Concept, and only then to Structure and Practice” (pp. 6-7). Gina Hinrichs, an organizational designer for John Deere for over twenty years, characterizes chaordic as “the intersection of Chaos and Order where innovation emerges” and that chaordic design “is especially suited for both global and local communities where participants are attracted by shared understanding and conviction to the purpose of the organization” (Hinrichs, 2009, p. 7).

Clearly, as strategic leaders, we must be “masters of chaos” like the Navy SEALS, a little bit “paranoid” like Andy Grove, able to shift our paradigms as Kuhn suggests, and embrace Hock’s chaordic organization if we are to structure our organizations to flourish in the 21st century. Let us take a look at some types of designs that organizations are employing to lead the way today.

Types of Organizational Designs

Choosing an effective design is a key responsibility of senior leadership. Employees will flourish in the right environment, and organizational structure and culture play a major role in creating that environment. The framework for organization design is the foundation on which a firm bases its design choices (Galbraith, 2009, p. 9). Many organizations adopt a Star Model as an organizational design framework on which to base its design choices. The business strategy should set the criteria necessary for determining the priority task to accomplish. An organization can then be designed to meet those criteria. In the Star Model (see Figure 1), design policies fall into five categories: Strategy determines direction; Structure determines the location of decision-making power; Processes which have to do with the flow of information; Rewards which influence the motivation of people to perform and address organizational goals; and People which influence and frequently define the employees’ mind-sets and skills.

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Figure 1. The Star Model.

Galbraith, J.R. (2002). Designing organizations: An executive guide to strategy, structure, and process. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. p. 10.

While it is important to note that there is “no one best design,” it is nevertheless of critical importance that the policies interwoven into the Star Model be aligned and interacting harmoniously with each other. These policies are within the power of leaders to control and thus have a direct effect on employee behavior and outcomes (Galbraith, 2009). The Star Model provides the framework for the actual structure of the organization, which is shaped by four policy areas:

1. Specialization refers to the types and numbers of occupational specialties to be used in performing the work.

2. Shape is determined by the number of people forming departments at each hierarchical level. (Wider and flatter predominates today.)

3. Distribution of power refers to decision-making power and authority (vertical or horizontal), be it centralized or decentralized.

4. Departmentalization refers to the choice of departments to integrate the specialized work and form a hierarchy of departments formed along functions or specialty, product lines, customer segment, geographical areas, or work flow processes. (Galbraith, 2009)

Another popular design approach is McKinsey’s 7-S, first designed in the 1970s and popularized by McKinsey and Company partners Tom Peters and Robert Waterman in their 1982 bestseller

In Search of Excellence:

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Figure 2. McKinsey 7-S Model.

Hinrichs, G. (2009). Organic organizational design. OD Practitioner, 41(4), 4-11. Retrieved September 5, 2013 from EBSCOhost. p. 7.

Peters and Waterman asserted that the issue of organizational structure would never be optimized if it did not venture beyond structure and deal with problems like resource allocation, incentives, and actions across large organizations. Says Robert Kaplan who with David Norton later introduced the balanced scorecard approach to organizational design, “The 7-S model posits that organizations are successful when they achieve an integrated harmony among three ‘hard’ ‘S’s’ of strategy, structure, and systems, and four ‘soft’ ‘S’s’ of skills, staff, style, and super-ordinate goals (now referred to as shared values)” (Kaplan, 2005, p. 41).

What most of these design models have in common are alignment of strategy, structure, work processes, people, rewards, culture, values, and practices. Other commonalities include emphasis on cooperation and autonomy, vice hierarchical control (Keidel, 1995).

Organizational Designs in Contemporary Practice

Four companies exemplify the ways in which organizational design can be shaped for success. Islamic Azad University researchers Aghajani Hashjeen, et al., propose that creativity and innovation are dependent on the structure of the organization. They studied the relationship between organizational structure and creativity of the Saveh Aluminum Pars Company’s employees, who manufacture aluminum coil, sheet, and foil in Iran. Their findings included:

  • The more flexible an organization is and the more it moves toward an organic structure, the more creativity is fostered (and vice-versa).
  • The more formalized an organization is (i.e., emphasis on rules and regulations), the more creativity is dampened.
  • The more complex the organization, the less creative it is.
  • The more centralized an organization is, the more creativity is reduced. (AghajaniHashjeen, et al., 2013, pp. 237-242)

But, you might say, is there a danger that an organization can become too decentralized, too flexible, and too simple to make a profit and keep employees happy? Not necessarily. Let us take a look at Morning Star, a leading food processor (and the world’s largest tomato processor) in California’s San Joaquin Valley that combines managerial discipline and market-centric flexibility – without bosses, titles, or promotions. Gary Hamel writes in the Harvard Business Review that Morning Star is staffed by “‘Colleagues’ [who] are ridiculously empowered yet work together like members of a carefully choreographed dance troupe” (Hamel, 2011, p. 49). Morning Star’s Organizational Vision includes:

Colleague Self-Management. For Morning Star colleagues to be self-managing professionals, initiating communications and the coordination of their activities with fellow colleagues, customers, suppliers and fellow industry participants, absent directives from others. For colleagues to find joy and excitement utilizing their unique talents and to weave those talents into activities which complement and strengthen fellow colleagues’ activities. For colleagues to take personal responsibility and hold themselves accountable for achieving our Mission and shaping the Tomato Game. (www.morningstar.com)

How does Morning Star do it?

Make the mission the boss. Every employee writes his or her personal mission statement that outlines how he or she will contribute to the company’s goal of “producing tomato products and services which consistently achieve the quality and service expectations of our customers.”

  • Let employees forge agreements. Each year, every employee negotiates a Colleague Letter of Understanding (CLOU) or operating plan for fulfilling one’s mission.
  • Empower everyone – truly. There is no central purchasing department at Morning Star– every employee is authorized to obtain what he or she needs to be successful on his or her job.
  • Don’t force people into boxes. Since there are no centrally defined roles, employees get the opportunity to take on bigger responsibilities as they develop their skills and gain experience.
  • Encourage competition for impact, not for promotions. With no hierarchy or career ladder to climb, employees get ahead by mastering new skills or discovering new ways to serve colleagues.

Hamel enthusiastically endorsed Morning Star’s organizational model, and believes it could work in companies of any size, saying, “The real question is not whether the model can be scaled up but whether it can be adopted by a traditional, hierarchical organization” (Hamel, 2011, p. 60).

Morning Star is a good example of what London Business School professor Charles Handy envisioned when he said, “Clever organizations do not, it seems, work the way organizations used to work. They have different shapes, different working habits, different age profiles, different traditions of authority” (Handy, 1989, p. 15).

Sometimes strategic leaders need to create or change the organization structure in order to foster innovation to make a profit.

Sony invented the portable music player, the Walkman, in 1979. The Walkman played a single cassette tape, or an album’s worth of perhaps a dozen songs. Two decades later, Apple invented the iPod, which was promoted as a product whose 5 gigabyte hard drive “put 1,000 songs in your pocket” (Hormby, 2013).

With a two-decade jump on the concept, why did Sony fail to beat Apple to market with its version of the iPod? Steve Jobs’ biographer Walter Isaacson suggests that despite Sony’s “long history of making beautiful consumer devices” and having “all of the assets to compete with Job’s strategy of integration of hardware, software, devices, and content sales,” its organization into divisions (a word that Isaacson points to as “ominous”) with their own bottom lines set up a culture of competition vice synergy within Sony (Isaacson, 2011, pp. 407-408). Steve Jobs, on the other hand, did not organize Apple into semiautonomous divisions like Sony, but rather he “closely controlled all of his teams and pushed them to work as one cohesive and flexible company, with one profit-and-loss bottom line” (p. 408).

Handy may have been thinking of Steve Jobs when he discussed upside-down thinking, a way of thinking that “changes nothing save the way we think, but that can make all the difference.” (p. 24). (Recall Apple’s “Think Different” ad campaign circa 1997)

David Nadler and Michael Tushman would also appreciate Apple’s organizational structure versus Sony’s, saying that:

In the war for competitive advantage, the rules of engagement have been thoroughly transformed. In this environment where instability is the norm, we’re convinced that the last remaining source of truly sustainable competitive advantage lies in what we’ve come to describe as ‘organizational capabilities’ – the unique ways in which each organization structures its work and motivates its people to achieve clearly articulated objectives. (p. 5)

The Future of Organizational Design

Longtime organizational design leader Jay Galbraith said that the future of organizational design will be shaped by three main phenomena:

  • Concatenation. Involves ever-increasing complexity and interdependence as firms add new strategic emphases and then incorporate them into their culture.
  • The law of requisite variety. As the number and variety of relevant entities in the stakeholder environment increases, the number and variety of units inside the enterprise must increase in order to manage these entities.
  • Enabling technologies. New digital devices and technologies like three- dimensional printers can eliminate expensive supply chains, maximize customization, and minimize economies of scale. (Galbraith, 2012, pp. 3-6).

Galbraith further predicts that “the constant interplay of rising complexity and interdependence creates an ongoing demand for organization designs that can respond with new and more powerful coordination mechanisms” (p. 5).

A global organization that is endeavoring to gain competitive advantage in an environment of “rising complexity and interdependence” by organizing itself with “new and more powerful coordination mechanisms” is Ford Motor Corp. Unveiled in 1993, Ford’s Project 2000 was the company’s global strategy aiming at the 21st century. According to Koichi Shimokawa of Hosei University, the basis for this strategy was the “recognition that the globalization of people, things, money and information was rapidly proceeding” and included the “strategic unification of the Ford family including Ford Europe, Mazda and Jaguar and infusing a common global vision” and promoted by the slogan “Think globally, act locally with agility” (Shimokawa, 2002, pp. 16- 17). Today, Ford says it has “big plans” for China and India who are among the top three largest automobile markets in the world in the next ten years. Indeed, “Ford expects 70 percent of its growth in the next 10 years to come from its Asia Pacific and Africa region.” Ford will accomplish this by “simplifying the way we work with suppliers by reducing complexity and expanding parts commonality…built off 13 core platforms” (Ford Motor Corp., 2013).


This paper has argued that achieving competitive advantage in a chaordic global environment takes more than org charts, hierarchies, and other obvious and literal power structures. The essential component is the “secret order” contained in organizational design which aligns the structure, people, rewards, processes, and strategy in a holistic approach to gaining competitive advantage. Various organizational designs can foster innovation, expedite change, and unlock human and technological potential in new and exciting ways. Perhaps we need to blow up our organizational structures and start anew?


AghajaniHashjeen, T., Shoghi, R., & Eisapourchalanbar, H. (2013). The relationship between organizational structure and creativity. Australian Journal of Basic and Applied Sciences, 7(2), 237-242. Retrieved August 25, 2013 from EBSCOhost.

Ford Motor Company. Ford Global Expansion and Growth. Retrieved October 19, 2013 from https://corporate.ford.com/our-company/investors/investor-news-detail/global_expansion_and_growth.

Galbraith, J.R. (2012). The future of organizational design. Journal of Organizational Design. 1(1), 3-6. doi: 10.7146/jod.2012.1.2.

Galbraith, J.R. (2002). Designing organizations: An executive guide to strategy, structure, and process. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Grove, A.S. (1996). Only the paranoid survive: How to exploit the crisis points that challenge every company and career. New York, NY: Currency Doubleday.

Hamel, G. (2011, December). First, let’s fire all the managers. Harvard Business Review, 89(12), 49-60.

Handy, C.B. (1989). The age of unreason. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.

Hinrichs, G. (2009). Organic organizational design. OD Practitioner, 41(4), 4-11. Retrieved September 5, 2013 from EBSCOhost.

Hock, D. (1999). Birth of the chaordic age. Oakland, CA: Berrett-Koehler Publishers.

Hormby, T. (2013, August 10). A history of the iPod: 2000 to 2004. Retrieved August 21, 2013 from https://lowendmac.com/2013/ipod-history-origin-2000-2004/ Isaacson, W. (2011). Steve Jobs. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.

Kaplan, R. S. (2005). How the Balanced Scorecard complements the McKinsey 7-S Model. Strategy & Leadership, 33(3), 41-46.

Keidel, R. W. (1995). Seeing organizational patters: A new theory and language of organizational design. San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler Publishers.

Kuhn, T. S. (1996). The structure of scientific revolutions. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Lawler, E. F., & Worley, C. G. (2006). Built to change: How to achieve sustained organizational effectiveness. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Pugh, D.S. (Ed.). (1990). Organization Theory: Selected Readings. Harmondsworth, U.K.: Penguin.

Shimokawa, K. (2002, June 26). Reorganization of the global automobile industry and structural change of the automobile component industry. MIT Sociotechnical Systems Research Center. Retrieved October 19, 2013 from https://dspace.mit.edu/handle/1721.1/1417.

David J. Boisselle

Current Issue

Organizational Diversity in the Teaching Workforce: A Conceptual Analysis of the Literature

In recent years, debate surrounding educational reform has been focused on the need for educational leaders to recruit and to retain culturally competent teachers of diverse ethnic/racial backgrounds in U.S. public schools (National Collaborative on Diversity in the Teaching Force, 2004; Villegas & Irvine, 2010). Reported in the 2011-2012 Schools Staffing Survey was that of the 3,385,200 teachers employed in U.S. public schools, the teacher workforce was predominantly White (82%), compared to much smaller percentages of Hispanic (8%) and Black (7%) teachers (Goldring, Gray, & Bitterman, 2013). In contrast, the student population in U.S. public schools has become increasingly more diverse. Students of underrepresented groups comprise 40.7% of the student population in U.S. public schools (Boser, 2011; Goldring et al., 2013). This trend is an indication that teachers of diverse ethnic/racial backgrounds are in critical shortage in U.S. public schools and essential for providing students with multiple ethnic/racial, gender, cultural, and linguistic perspectives that may positively influence the organizational behavior within the school setting (Bireda & Chait, 2011; Dilworth & Coleman, 2014). As such, it is essential that educational leaders address this critical shortage with respect to teacher diversity.

In an effort to address the cultural disparities that exist between teachers and their students in U.S. public schools, the United States Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, initiated the National Teacher Recruitment campaign (U.S. Department of Education, 2010; Villegas & Irvine, 2010). Secretary Duncan expressed his concern for the lack of ethnic/racial and gender diversity in the teacher workforce by stating the following:

I’m very concerned that increasingly, our teachers don’t reflect the great diversity of our nation’s young people, and so making sure we have more teachers of color and particularly more men, more Black and Latino men, coming into education is going to be a significant part of this Teach campaign. (Bireda & Chait, 2011, p. 1)

Secretary Duncan’s National Teacher Recruitment campaign has brought national attention regarding the growing need for a more diverse teacher workforce. Accordingly, educational leaders need to be responsive to the need for a more diverse teacher workforce.

Bireda and Chait (2011) discussed that the lack of a diverse teacher workforce in U.S. public schools is concerning for several reasons. First, the inability of school districts to recruit and retain a highly qualified diverse teaching staff may contribute to increased turnover among ethnic/racial and gender diverse teachers (Ingersoll & May, 2011a). Second, the lack of diverse teacher backgrounds in U.S. public schools may indicate that fewer ethnically/racially and gender diverse teachers are choosing teaching as a profession (Ahmad & Boser, 2014; Bireda & Chait, 2011). Lastly, fewer ethnic/racial teacher backgrounds represented in the teacher workforce may also be indicative of fewer ethnically/racially and gender diverse teacher candidates with the necessary skills and qualifications upon exiting teacher preparation programs (Angrist & Guryan, 2008; Bireda & Chait, 2011; Khan & Slate, 2014). Therefore, the existing literature was reviewed based on its relevance to (a) the reasons for more teacher diversity in U.S. public schools and (b) the reasons for low numbers of teachers of diverse ethnic/racial backgrounds at all school levels in U.S. public schools. A discussion of each argument is presented in this investigation.

Reasons for More Teacher Diversity in the U.S. Public Schools

The need for teacher diversity has long been espoused and continues to be the focus of current school reform initiatives. Over the past two decades, state and local education agencies across the country have implemented recruitment and retention measures to increase the number of teacher ethnic/racial and gender backgrounds into the teaching profession. Numerous researchers (e.g., Ahmad & Boser, 2014; Bireda & Chait, 2011; Bone & Slate, 2012; Partee, 2014; Villegas & Irvine, 2010) contend that diversifying the teacher workforce would provide students with the diverse role models and culturally responsive teachers to enhance students’ learning environment.

Changing Demographics of Students Enrolled in U.S. Public Schools

The National Center for Education Statistics reported that from 2001 to 2011 Hispanic student enrollment in U.S. public schools increased from 17% to 24% and Black student enrollment decreased slightly from 17% to 16% (National Center for Education Statistics [NCES], 2014c). In contrast, White student enrollment in U.S. public schools decreased from 60% to 52% during this same time period. Furthermore, White student enrollment is projected to decline to 45% between fall 2012 and fall 2023 (NCES, 2014c). The percentage of White student enrollment will continue to decrease as the percentages of Hispanic and Asian/Pacific Islanders student enrollment in U.S. public schools increase (NCES, 2014c). In the latest report by the U.S. Census Bureau (2013), 49.9% of children under the age of 5 were from an underrepresented group. Thomas Mesenbourg, acting director of the Census Bureau, stated that the population of children under the age of 5 is close to becoming majority-minority in a couple of years (U.S. Census Bureau, 2013). As such, the student demographics in U.S. public schools will be influenced by this trend.

Asians and Hispanics are the fastest-growing ethnic/racial group in the nation. This increase in Asian and Hispanic population translates to an increase in the overall student population. By 2023, the share of Hispanic student enrollment is projected to be 30% of the total student enrollment in U.S. public schools (U.S. Census Bureau, 2013). During this same time period, the share of Asian/Pacific Islander student enrollment is projected to be 5% of the total student enrollment in U.S. public schools (NCES, 2014c; U.S. Census Bureau, 2013). Despite the changing student demographics in U.S. public schools, the teacher workforce remains overwhelmingly White (82%) and female (Cushman, 2005; Knight & Moore, 2012; Montecinos & Nielsen, 2004). With an increase in a diverse student population, researchers (Ahmad & Boser, 2014; Bone & Slate, 2012; Cloudt & Stevens, 2009; Fergus, Sciurba, Martin, & Noguera, 2009; Quiocho & Rios, 2000) contend that the diversity in the teacher workforce has not kept up with the changing student demographics in U.S. public schools.

Similar to the national trend, the teacher workforce in majority-minority states (i.e., Hawaii, the District of Columbia, California, New Mexico, and Texas) continues to be at a disproportionate level compared to the diverse student population (Boser, 2011). In Texas, the teacher workforce has remained predominantly White (63.51%), with the remainder of the Texas teacher workforce being 24.32% Hispanic, 24.32%, Black, 9.19%, and Asian, 1.32% (Texas Education Agency [TEA], 2013a). In contrast, Hispanic students (51.3%) are the largest ethnic/racial group represented in the student population. Black students account for 12.7% of the total enrollment in Texas public schools (TEA, 2013b). This demographic shift is influenced by an increase in foreign immigration rates and an increase in birth rates (Combs, 2008). Furthermore, approximately 17% of the total student population in Texas is comprised of English Language Learners (TEA, 2012). Because of the increase in Hispanic student enrollment and percentage of English Language Learners, the Texas education system is faced with the challenge of providing an equitable education for its students (Golsan, 2013).

In California, 72% of the student population was from an underrepresented group (e.g, Hispanic). In contrast, 29% of the teacher workforce was from an underrepresented group (Boser, 2011; U.S. Census Bureau, 2013). Despite California being a majority-minority state, large disparities exist between student demographics and teacher demographics in public schools. These alarming trends are concerning as Hispanic students are less likely than White students to enroll in a 4-year college (56% compared to 72%), less likely to be enrolled as a full- time student, and less likely to obtain an academic degree (Fry & Taylor, 2013). Therefore, at a national and state level, school leaders face the challenge of providing an equitable education for all students that meets the educational needs of an increasingly more diverse group of learners (Bone, 2011; Milner, 2006; Villegas & Irvine, 2010). The literature examined on changing student demographics on U.S. public schools is briefly summarized in Table 1.

Teachers of Diverse Backgrounds Serve as Role Models to Students with Similar Backgrounds

According to researchers (Dee, 2004; L. S. Johnson, 2008; Ochoa, 2007), students of diverse ethnic/racial backgrounds who are taught by teachers of diverse ethnic/racial backgrounds are provided with numerous educational benefits. For example, teachers of diverse backgrounds serve as role models for all students, are culturally responsive to the diverse needs of their students, help students of diverse backgrounds to have a sense of belonging in school and in their community, and positively influence student academic achievement (Milner, 2006; National Collaborative on Diversity in the Teaching Force, 2004; Partee, 2014). Because teachers of diverse backgrounds increase the opportunities for diverse student groups to see themselves reflected in the teacher workforce (Branch & Kritsonis, 2006), all students, regardless of ethnic/racial backgrounds, can begin to associate unrepresented groups with positions of power and career success, which can be a catalyst for change (Ahmad & Boser, 2014; Harrison & Killion, 2007; Milner, 2006; Partee, 2014).

Results from empirical studies conducted in the mid-1980s to late 1990s revealed that increasing the percentage of teachers of diverse backgrounds in U.S. public schools provided additional benefits for students of diverse backgrounds (England & Meier, 1986; Fraga, Meier, & England, 1986; Hess & Leal, 1997; Meire, 1993). For example, England and Meier (1986) examined how discriminatory practices (e.g., special education referrals, disciplinary referrals, high school dropout rates, and college-going rates) in large urban school districts can produce educational inequities for students of diverse backgrounds and perpetuate negative stereotypical organizational behaviors. England and Meier (1986) documented that as the percentage of Black teachers in urban schools with high Black student enrollment increased, incidents of discriminatory practices statistically significantly decreased among Black student population. Similarly, Fraga et al. (1986) noted that large urban high schools with an increase in the percentage of Hispanic teachers reduced Hispanic students’ dropout rates and increased Hispanic students’ college-going rates.

Equally as important is the need for underrepresented male teachers in U.S. public schools (S. P. Johnson, 2008; Mills, Matino, & Lingard, 2004; Men Teach, 2007; Montecinos & Nielsen, 2004). Black male teachers and underrepresented male teachers constitute a miniscule 2.4% of the 3,000,000 teachers in U.S. public schools (Chmelynski, 2006). Researchers (e.g., Brown, 2012; Dee, 2005; Garza, Ovando, & Seymour, 2010; Milner, 2006) have discussed whether matching students and teacher by ethnic/racial and gender diversity benefits students in regard to their self-esteem, school integration, and academic achievement. Brown (2012) argued that Black male teachers have more to contribute to Black male students than a one-dimensional function as role models. Black male teachers have a vast wealth of knowledge, cultural diversity, and intellectual capabilities that can be shared with all students, specifically Black male students, to enhance their learning environment.

Dee (2005) contended that gender significantly influences teachers’ perceptions about students’ behavior and academic achievement in the classroom. Students were perceived to be disruptive and inattentive 37% higher when the teacher was not of the same gender as the student. Furthermore, teachers reported lower academic achievement that was 15% higher for students who were not of the same gender as the teacher. Both male and female students were perceived to be more likely to cause disruptions in the classroom when the teacher was not of the same gender. Similarly, White and underrepresented groups (i.e., Hispanic and Black) were more likely to be perceived as disruptive when their teachers’ ethnic/racial background differed from the students. As such, diverse students groups who are provided with teachers of similar ethnic/racial backgrounds may help to reduce cultural and gender biases that are prevalent in the classroom. Additionally, the mismatch of teacher and student ethnic/racial and gender backgrounds continue to perpetuate stereotypes that stifle students’ academic development and growth (Carrington, Tymms, & Merrell, 2008; Figlio, 2005; Oates, 2003).

McGrady and Reynolds (2013) documented comparisons of teacher background with ethnic/racial student groups (i.e., White, Hispanic, Black, and Asian) in Grade 10 English and mathematics classes. The researchers discovered that of the students who were taught by White teachers, Asian students were perceived more positively in regard to their academic effort and attentiveness than were White and Hispanic students. Black students, however, were perceived more negatively in regard to their academic effort and attentiveness than were other ethnic/racial student groups by White and non-White teachers. Interestingly, McGrady and Reynolds (2013) discovered that pairing teacher and student ethnic/racial background may not eliminate teacher stereotypes about diverse student groups’ abilities in the classroom. The literature examined on teachers of diverse background serving as role models for students of similar backgrounds is briefly summarized in Table 2.

Academically, students of diverse backgrounds demonstrated increased standardized test scores when taught by teachers of similar ethnic/racial and gender backgrounds (Ahmad & Boser, 2014; Dee, 2004). To determine if matching students and teachers by the same ethnic/racial and gender backgrounds increased test scores, Clewell, Puma, and McKay (2005) examined the mathematics and reading test scores of Hispanic and Black students in Grade 4 and Grade 6 who were taught by teachers of the same ethnic/racial background. Clewell et al. (2005) established that Hispanic students’ mathematics test score gains were statistically significantly higher than Hispanic students who were taught by teachers of different ethnic/racial background. Black students in Grade 4 had statistically significantly higher test score gains in mathematics when taught by teachers of the same ethnic/racial background; however, the results were not statistically significantly different for Black students in Grade 6.

Conversely, other researchers (e.g., Cho, 2012; Ehrenberg, Goldhaber, & Brewer, 1995; Krieg, 2005) have argued that pairing teacher and student by ethnic/racial and gender backgrounds does not influence student academic achievement. These researchers (Brown, 2012; Cho, 2012; Krieg, 2005) contend that other school factors (e.g., teacher preparation and training and teacher years of experience), and not teacher characteristics, influence student academic achievement. As such, the issue of teacher diversity as related to student achievement remains an issue that warrants further research. The literature examined on teachers of diverse background and their influence on the academic achievement of students from diverse backgrounds is briefly summarized in Table 3.

Students Need Exposure to a Wide Range of Cultural and Linguistic Experiences

Culturally diverse teachers, being similar to culturally diverse students, may be better aware of and possess a deeper understanding of diversity. Accordingly, these cultural connections may permit culturally diverse teachers to serve as advocates for a diverse student population (Tyler, Yzquierdo, Lopez-Reyna, & Saunders-Flippin, 2004; Villegas & Irvine, 2010). Additionally, culturally diverse teachers may influence the cultural climate within the classroom, facilitate multicultural interactions among students, and may be able to address better the learning styles of a diverse student population (Bone & Slate, 2012; Harris, Joyner, & Slate, 2010; Tyler et al., 2004). Because teachers of diverse backgrounds may have also experienced isolation and inequality during their school experience, teachers of diverse backgrounds may be able to relate with students of diverse groups in a way that White teachers may not (Nieto, 1999; Villegas & Irvine, 2010). Garcia-Nevarez, Stafford, and Arias (2005) stated that Hispanic teachers welcomed the use of Spanish to be spoken by their Hispanic students in the classroom more so than non-Hispanic teachers. As such, teacher of diverse backgrounds improve the academic achievement and school experiences of diverse student groups because teachers of diverse backgrounds help to break down cultural stereotypes and educational inequities that are prevalent in U.S. public schools (Villegas & Irvine, 2010). The literature examined on students’ need for cultural and linguistic experiences is briefly summarized in Table 4.

Reasons for Low Numbers of Teachers of Diverse Backgrounds in the Teacher Workforce

Nationally, school improvement efforts have been focused on the need for more teacher diversity in U.S. public schools (Ahmad & Boser, 2014; Boser, 2011; Dilworth & Coleman, 2014; National Collaborative on Diversity in Teaching Force, 2004; Partee, 2014; Villegas & Irvine, 2010). With an overwhelming majority of the teacher workforce being White (82%), school districts and educational leaders have not kept up with the changing student demographics in U.S. public schools. From the review of literature related to low numbers of teachers of diverse backgrounds in the teacher workforce, the following reasons were identified: (a) achievement gap for students of diverse backgrounds, (b) low secondary and postsecondary completion rate, and (c) recruitment, retention, and attrition. Each reason is discussed in detail.

Achievement Gap of Students of Diverse Backgrounds

The U.S. Census Bureau (2012) reported that the population will become increasingly more ethnically/racial diverse by 2060, with one in three U.S. residents being Hispanic. The Asian population is projected to increase from 15.9 million in 2012 to 34.4 million in 2060. Similarly, the Black population is expected to increase from 41.2 million to 61.8 million over the same time period. Conversely, the White population is projected to have a slight increase from 197.8 million in 2012 to 199.6 million in 2060; however, between 2024 and 2060 the White population is projected to decrease by 20.6 million. Because of these changing demographics, the U.S. is projected to become a majority-minority nation by 2043. Therefore, a need exists for highly effective teachers of diverse backgrounds to prepare students for high achievement and postsecondary attainment (Ahmad & Boser, 2014; Irizarry & Donaldson, 2012; Pew Research Center, 2005).

In 2013, the reading and mathematics results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress revealed that the achievement gap among diverse student groups had not narrowed from 1992 to 2013; instead, the achievement gap has become wider (NCES, 2013b). For example, the average reading score of Black students in Grade 12 in 1992 was 273 and in 2013 the average reading score was 268. In 2013, statistically significant differences were present in the average reading score of White students (297) and the average reading score of Black students (268), a 30 point difference. On average, White and Asian students scored higher in reading and mathematics than Black, Hispanic, and American Indian/Alaska Native students in 2013 (NCES, 2013b). Ahmad and Boser (2014) posited that the underachievement of diverse student groups in U.S. public schools reduces the future supply of a diverse teacher workforce.

Bromberg and Theokas (2014) discussed that Black and Hispanic high school students who were in the top 25 percentile, scored lower on Advanced Placement exams, and were less likely than White students to take advanced math and sciences courses, take college entrance exams (e.g., American College Test and Scholastic Aptitude Test), and enroll in selective colleges. Steele and Aronson (1995) argued that poor performance of diverse student groups on standardized, advanced placement, and aptitude examinations can be attributed to stereotype threat. This phenomenon occurs when diverse students groups are assigned negative stereotypes by members of other ethnicity/races, and the students knowing that they are not expected to perform well academically causes intellectual impairment. Because the teacher workforce is predominantly White (82%), students of diverse backgrounds do not have diverse teacher representation at the school level that could provide guidance and academic support in regard to the students’ academic preparation and career aspirations (Ahmad & Boser, 2014; Bromberg & Theokas, 2014).

The NCES (2014b) reported that for the 2010-2011 school year, the graduation rate for students in U.S. public schools was 79%, and for the 2011-2012 school year was 80%. In the 2011-2012 school year, the graduation rate of White students and Asian/Pacific Islander students was above the national average at 86% and 88%, respectively. Conversely, the graduation rate for Hispanic, Black, and American Indian/Alaska Native public school students was below the national average at 73%, 69%, and 67%, respectively for this time period. Additionally, 85% of female students graduated from high school, compared to 78% of male students in the 2011-2012 school year. Overall, the graduation rates of diverse student groups, with the exception of Asian/Pacific Islander, continue to lag behind White students. Because the percentage of Hispanic and Black students who graduate from high school is lower than the percentage of White students who graduate from high school, the pool of Hispanic and Black students who would be able to go to college and become teachers becomes smaller, thereby making it less likely that Black and Hispanic students will become teachers (Ahmad & Boser, 2014). Interestingly, Asian/Pacific Islander students have the highest graduation rate; however, they represent the lowest percentage of teachers, with 1.7 % at the elementary and middle school level and 2.1% at the high school level (Goldring et al., 2013).

Reported in the 1990 through 2012 Current Population Survey was that the status dropout rate for 16 through 24-year-olds decreased from 12% in 1990 to 7% in 2012 (NCES, 2014a). The status dropout rate for White students declined from 9% to 4%; the rate for Black students declined from 13% to 8%; and the rate for Hispanic students declined from 32% to 13%. As such, the status dropout rate gap between ethnic/racial groups (i.e., White and Hispanic) has narrowed during this time period. The results from the Current Population Survey are optimistic; however Secretary Duncan warns, At the same time, our high school dropout rate is still unsustainably high for a knowledge-based economy and still unacceptably high in our African-American, Latino, and Native-American communities…. But as this report shows, we are making progress in our schools toward living up to the American creed of equal opportunity for all. (U.S. Department of Education, 2013, para 2) Secretary Duncan’s concern regarding diverse student groups completing high school reflects the limited number of eligible candidates that could enter the teaching profession (Bireda & Chait, 2011). The literature examined on achievement gaps of students of diverse backgrounds is briefly summarized in Table 5.

College Enrollment and Degree Attainment of Students of Diverse Backgrounds

Low rates of academic achievement, high school completion, and college enrollment contribute to the low numbers of diverse students in the teaching field. The American College Testing reported (2012) that students of diverse ethnic/racial backgrounds (i.e., White, Hispanic, Black, Asian, Pacific Islander, and Native American) who graduated from high school in 2012, less than 50% of Hispanic, Black, and American Indian students were able to meet the College Readiness Benchmarks (i.e., English, reading, mathematics, and science). The College Readiness Benchmarks were met by at least 50% of White and Asian students; however, 50% of Pacific Islander students met only one College Readiness Benchmark. Furthermore, 83% of Asian students who graduated from high school aspired to obtain a bachelor’s degree and pursue advanced degrees (e.g., master’s and doctorate). Conversely, a dismal 30% of American Indian and about 34%-37% of Black, Hispanic, Pacific Islander, or White high school graduates aspired to obtain a bachelor’s degree or pursue advanced degrees. As such, the traditional route of entering the teaching profession (i.e., high school completion then college degree attainment) is being stifled by the low percentages of diverse student groups pursuing professional or advanced degrees (Ahmad & Boser, 2014; Bireda & Chait, 2011; Boser, 2011).

The NCES (2013a) reported that the annual cost (i.e., tuition, room, and board) of attending a 4- year public institution for the 2011-2012 academic year was estimated at $16,789 which is double the price of attending a 2-year institution. Ahmad and Boser (2014) contended that the high cost of a 4-year university and limited economic resources of many students of diverse backgrounds influences their college choice. For example, 44% of the student enrollment in 2- year community colleges is comprised of diverse student backgrounds (i.e., Hispanic, Black, Asian, American Indian, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander, and Multiethnic/two or more races) compared to 38% of diverse student enrollment in 4-year public universities (National Association of Community College Teacher Education Program, 2010). Fry and Lopez (2012) documented that the share of Hispanic student enrollment in college (i.e., 2-year institutions, 4-year institution, and public and private institutions) increased by 15% between 2010 and 2011, from 265,000 students to 2.1 million students, respectively. One explanation for this trend is that the growth of Hispanic college enrollment reflects the increase in the U.S. Hispanic population. Despite the increase in Hispanic college enrollment, however, the number of Hispanics attaining an associate’s or bachelor’s degree continues to lag behind other ethnic/racial groups. Of the 849,000 associate degrees conferred, 65% were awarded to White, 13% to Hispanic and Black, 5% to Asian/Pacific Islander, and 4% to American Indian/Alaska Natives and non-resident aliens. Similarly, of the 1.7 million bachelor degrees conferred, 71% were awarded to White, 10% to Black, 9% to Hispanic, 7% to Asian/Pacific Islander, and 4% to American Indian/Alaska Natives and non-resident aliens. Therefore, low academic achievement and persistence rates, and high cost of education, influence the number of diverse college graduates who pursue teaching as a profession (Bireda & Chait, 2011).

Since 1980, the percentage of students by gender who enrolled in college or obtained a professional degree was lower for males (39%) than for females (47%; Ross et al., 2012). This trend also occurred for diverse ethnic/racial groups by gender, White 43% (male) compared to 51% (female); Blacks 31% (male) compared to 43% (female); Hispanics 26% (male) compared to 36% (female), and American Indians 24% (male) compared to 33% (female; Ross et al., 2012). As such, the low percentages of males obtaining a professional degree reduces the likelihood that they will enter the teaching profession and contribute to reducing the shortage of males in the teacher workforce (Medford et al., 2013; Snyder, 2008). The literature examined on college enrollment and degree attainment of students of diverse backgrounds is briefly summarized in Table 6.

Recruitment, Retention, and Attrition of Teachers of Diverse Backgrounds

In an effort to diversity the teaching workforce, policymakers and school officials have advocated improving recruitment and retention practices of underrepresented groups in the teaching profession (Ahmad & Boser, 2014; Villegas & Irvine, 2010). Carnevale, Strohl, and Melton (2011) contended that a low percentage (10.6%) of U.S. college students choose education as a major, contributing to the limited pool of qualified candidates that can be recruited into the teaching profession. Furthermore, the ethnic/racial composition and gender backgrounds of education majors are predominantly female (77%) and White (82%). Ingersoll and May (2011b) argued that from 1988 to 2008 the number of teachers of diverse backgrounds at the elementary and secondary level increased from 325,000 to 642,000, which outpaced the numbers of White teachers by twice the rate. For this same time period, the number of diverse male teachers increased by 92% compared to White male teachers, who increased by only 18%. Notably, disparities still exist between the proportions of diverse teachers and diverse students in U.S. public schools; however, recruitment strategies may not be the only factor that contributes to the shortage of a diverse teacher workforce (Dilworth & Coleman, 2014; Ingersoll & May, 2011b). For example, low salaries and inefficient school management are also contributing factors of diverse teacher attrition (Boser, 2011).

In 2011, Feistritzer, author of The National Center for Education Information report, noted that public school teachers were least satisfied with the following: (a) salary (55%), (b) job status in the community (60%), (c) standardized testing (62%), and (d) school leadership (16%). Conversely, public school teachers were most satisfied with teacher-student relationships (97%) and relationships with other teachers (96%). Black teachers (37%) and Hispanic teachers (46%) were less likely than White teachers (53%) to be satisfied with their salary (Boser, 2011). Researchers (Ingersoll & May, 2011a; Partee, 2014; Villegas & Irvine, 2010) suggested that teachers of diverse backgrounds may be less satisfied with their salaries because they are more likely than White teachers to work in low-performing, low socioeconomic, urban schools, which have limited economic resources. Villegas and Irvine (2010) explained that teachers of diverse backgrounds appear to be drawn to urban, high-poverty school districts because they want to influence the academic achievement and cultural experiences of students from their own ethnic/racial group (National Collaborative on Diversity in the Teaching Force, 2004). Thus, recruiting diverse teacher groups into the teacher workforce can contribute to the overall supply of teachers in hard-to-staff schools and reduce the attrition of diverse teachers in those schools (Villegas & Irvine, 2010).

In an effort to increase diversity in the teacher workforce, most states utilize teacher preparation programs to attract college graduates and career professionals to the teaching profession (Bireda & Chait, 2014; Boser, 2011; Ingersoll & May, 2011a). Boser (2011) determined that Black teachers (27%) and Hispanic teachers (25%) were more likely than White teachers (11%) to enter the teaching profession through alternative routes. Despite the fact that more diverse teacher groups enter the teaching field through alternative preparation programs, great disparities exist among diverse teacher candidates’ licensure testing results compared to that of White teacher candidates (National Collaborative on Diversity in the Teaching Force, 2004). Furthermore, Hispanic teacher candidates score lower on teacher certification examinations than White or Black teacher candidates (Angrist & Guryan, 2008). For example, in Texas, Khan and Slate (2014) documented that Hispanic students constituted 51.7% of the total student enrollment in 2-year higher education institutions across the nation; however, the enrollment percentage was not reflective of the number of and percentage of Hispanic students taking and passing the Texas Examinations of Educator Standards. Therefore, teacher preparation programs in which early recruitment strategies of underrepresented student groups are incorporated establish a pathway to teacher certification and reduce the shortage of teacher diversity in public schools (Ingersoll & May, 2011a). Despite these recruitment efforts, school districts continue to struggle to diversity their teacher workforce (Ahmad & Boser, 2014; Boser, 2011; Bireda & Chait, 2011; National Collaborative on Diversity in the Teaching Force, 2004; Partee, 2014). The literature examined on recruitment, retention, and attrition of teachers of diverse background is briefly summarized in Table 7.

Theoretical Framework

The theoretical framework by which the literature was reviewed for this article was derived from critical race theory (Ladson-Billings & Tate, 1995). Critical race theory (CRT) refers to a critical framework in which racial inequalities and social injustices that are prevalent in American society are emphasized (Parker & Lynn, 2002). In education, critical race theory has been used to investigate inequities that exist in the current educational system pertaining to access, resources, and student achievement of underrepresented groups in a school setting (Aleman, 2009; Powers, 2007).

Additionally, critical race theory is used to support how the lack of teacher ethnic/racial and gender diversity in a school setting limits diverse students’ access to role models of diverse ethnic/racial and gender backgrounds. Without the opportunity for diverse student groups to experience different perspectives from diverse teacher backgrounds, students could continue to perpetuate gender and ethnic/racial biases that are prevalent in society (Bone, 2011; Tyler et al., 2004). Furthermore, a diverse teacher workforce could increase students’ awareness of underrepresented groups in positions of power in their learning environment (Irizarry & Donaldson, 2012).

Existing Policy Recommendations to Improve Teacher Diversity

Federal, state, and local education agencies must continue to work collaboratively in effort to align the ethnic/racial diversity of teachers better in U.S. public schools with the changing diverse student population (Ahmad & Boser, 2014). Dilworth and Coleman (2014) suggested that examining hiring and recruitment practices of hard-to-staff schools may provide crucial information regarding how placements of diverse teacher backgrounds are made. Furthermore, targeting teachers of diverse backgrounds who have lived in similar communities may positively influence the behavior patterns of students and teachers within the school setting (Dilworth & Coleman, 2014; Graham, 2014). Additionally, professional development programs should be implemented at the state and local level to provide diverse teachers with peer mentors and in- school support that may reduce diverse teacher attrition (National Collaborative on Diversity in the Teaching Force, 2004). Leaders of national and state educational organizations are encouraged to examine the efficacy of their current efforts in improving teacher diversity. To the extent that the strategies and programs they are using are not working, educational leaders need to consider other alternative strategies and programs.

Researchers (Ahmad & Boser, 2014; Dilworth & Coleman, 2014; Irizarry & Donaldson, 2012; National Collaborative on Diversity in the Teaching Force, 2004) discussed that improving the academic outcomes of diverse student groups at all school levels may help to increase the pool of diverse teacher candidates in the teaching profession. Federal, state, and local education agencies should create career pathways from high school to college that lead underrepresented student groups to pursue a career in the teaching profession (Bireda & Chait, 2011; Partee, 2014). Ahmad and Boser (2014) recommended that a national teacher corps be established to provide diverse student groups educational opportunities to pursue teaching and to receive high- quality training in areas related to teaching. To encourage participation among diverse student groups, a training stipend would be awarded. Furthermore, strengthening federal programs (e.g., Pell grant, financial aid, and scholarships) that provide diverse students with economic assistance for college expenses may help to alleviate the financial burden that may keep these students from attaining a college degree (Ahmad & Boser, 2014).

Additionally, increasing teacher salaries may attract more teachers of diverse backgrounds into the teaching profession. Feistritzer (2011) noted that teachers of diverse backgrounds were less satisfied with their jobs than White teachers due to salary. Therefore, state and local school districts must improve teacher salaries and provide competitive compensation packages to attract highly qualified and knowledgeable teachers of diverse backgrounds into the teaching profession (Ahmad & Boser, 2014; NCES, 2013). Furthermore, diverse teacher salaries should be based on the ability of teachers of diverse backgrounds to increase student outcomes at the school level, particularly in hard-to-staff schools (Ahmad & Boser, 2014).

Equally as important is the recruitment of males in the teaching workforce. Mills et al. (2004) suggested that male teacher recruitment begins in postsecondary education and continues through college. School districts that establish mentorship programs between male teachers and male students increase the likelihood that more male students will consider teaching as a viable career option (Mills et al., 2004). Furthermore, state and local education agencies may increase the number of male students in teacher preparation courses by developing scholarships that specifically target male students in those courses (Mills et al., 2004).

Ingersoll and May (2011b) argued that the lack of a diverse teacher workforce is, in part, due to teacher turnover and not necessarily recruitment strategies. Black and Hispanic teachers are more likely than White teachers to leave the teaching profession because they work in less desirable high poverty, hard-to-staff urban schools. Similarly, male teachers have high turnover rates because they leave the teaching profession to pursue more lucrative careers in another field. Ingersoll and May (2011b) suggested that continuing to focus on recruitment efforts to increase the number of diverse teachers in hard-to-staff school districts is futile. Instead, state and school districts should place substantial effort in reducing diverse teacher turnover and increasing job satisfaction among teachers of diverse ethnic/racial and gender backgrounds (Ingersoll & May, 2011b; Feistritzer, 2011).


Student demographics in U.S. public schools are rapidly changing; however, the teacher workforce has not kept up with these changes. Results from empirical studies related to the need for more teacher diversity in U.S. public schools revealed that changing student demographics, lack of diverse teacher role models, and awareness of cultural competence can contribute to achievement gaps among students of diverse backgrounds.

Furthermore, low percentages of diverse ethnic/racial and gender students completing high school and obtaining a professional degree, reduce the potential supply of diverse teachers in the workforce. Federal, state, and local policy makers must continue to establish viable pathways for diverse student groups to enter and remain in the teacher workforce.


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Table 1

Summary of Literature Related to Changing Student Demographics in U.S. Public Schools

Author (s)

Year of


Summary of Results
Ahmad & Boser


Large disparities exist between teacher
and students of diverse backgrounds in
U.S. public schools

National Center for


From 2001 to 2011, White student
Education Statistics enrollment in U.S. public schools
decreased. Hispanic and Asian/Pacific
Islander student enrollment increased

Fry & Taylor


Hispanic students are less likely than
White students to enroll in selective 4-
year institutions and obtain professional




Texas public schools must provide an
equitable education for all students and service the needs of special populations

Texas Education Agency


Texas teacher workforce is overwhelmingly White in comparison to the diverse student enrollment at all school levels

Texas Education Agency


Hispanics represent the majority of students in Texas public schools
U.S. Census Bureau


Asians and Hispanic were the fastest-growing ethnic/racial group in the nation. Children under 5 are from an underrepresented group
Bone & Slate


Ethnic/racial backgrounds of the teacher workforce should be reflective of the diverse student population at all school levels


Black male teachers contribute a wealth of experiences, knowledge, and intellectual capabilities that go beyond a one-dimensional function as role models
Knight & Moore


Low percentages of male teachers at elementary and secondary schools
Texas Education Agency


English Language Learners represent a high percentage of student enrollment in Texas public schools


Disparities between teachers of diverse backgrounds and diverse student population in U.S. public schools create lack of diverse role models for students
Garza, Ovando, &


2010 Matching students and teachers by ethnic/racial and gender allows students to see examples of positive role models
Villegas & Irvine 2010 Teacher workforce does not match the diverse student population at all school levels
Cloudt & Stevens 2009 Texas teacher workforce has not kept up with changing student demographics. Texas teacher workforce remains predominantly White
Combs 2008 Texas population has become increasingly more diverse, older, and urban
Chmelynski 2006 Increasing the percentages of Black male teachers in the teacher workforce increases the representation of successful male role models at all school levels
Milner 2006 Public schools with large representation of Black students benefit from teachers of same ethnic/racial group
Cushman 2005 Low percentages of male teachers at the elementary school level
Dee 2005 Gender significantly influences teachers’ perceptions about students behavior and academic achievement
Montecinos & Nielsen 2004 Gender disparities at the elementary
school level

Table 2

Summary of Literature Related to Teachers of Diverse Backgrounds Who Serve as Role Models to Students with Similar Backgrounds

Author (s) Year of Publication Summary of Results

Ahmad & Boser




Teacher of diverse backgrounds increase academic outcomes for students of similar ethnic/racial backgrounds; teacher role models as an influential factor

Teachers of diverse

backgrounds serve as role
models for diverse students
groups and increase the
possibility for students of
diverse background to choose
teaching as a profession
McGrady & Reynolds 2013

Pairing teacher and student ethnic/racial background may

not eliminate discriminatory
practices in the classroom
Carrington, Tymms, & Merrell 2008 Increasing male role models at
the school levels reduces
gender stereotypes
L. Johnson 2008 Newly hired teachers of
diverse background believed
they represented examples of
success for diverse student


Ochoa 2007 Hispanic teachers report
serving as role models for
Hispanic students a crucial part
of their work as teachers
Branch & Kritsonis 2006 Teachers of similar cultural
backgrounds as their students
represent powerful role models
of underrepresented groups
perspectives and experiences
Milner 2006 Black teachers represent
successful role models for
Black students
Figlio 2005 Teachers of same ethnic/racial
background as their students
were less likely to discriminate
against students due to cultural


Dee 2004 Matching student and teachers
by ethnicity/race increased
reading and math scores;
diverse teachers serving as role
models as a possible cause
National Collaborative on 2004 Increasing the number of
Diversity in the Teaching Force diverse teacher backgrounds in
U.S. public schools provides
all students with culturally
competent role models
Oates 2003 Black teachers paired with
Black students shielded those
students from anti-
discriminatory practices of
White teachers

Table 3

Summary of Literature Related to Teachers of Diverse Backgrounds Influence on Academic Achievement of Students of Diverse Backgrounds

Author (s) Year of Publication Summary of Results

Ahmad & Boser




Teacher of diverse backgrounds increase math and reading scores of students of ethnic/racial backgrounds

Black male teachers contribute

a wealth of experiences,
knowledge, and intellectual
capabilities that go beyond a
one dimensional function as
role models
Cho 2012 Matching teacher and student
ethnic/racial background did
not improve academic

Clewell, Puma, 7 McKay


outcomes of students

Hispanic student in Grade 4

and Grade 6 taught by
Hispanic teachers had
statistically significant higher
math and reading test scores.
Kreig 2005 No significant impact on
standardized testing for boys
and girls taught by teachers of
same gender
Dee 2004 Matching teachers and by
ethnicity/race increased
reading and math scores,
particularly low socioeconomic
urban schools with high
percentages of Black student


Ehrenberg, Goldhaber, & Brewer 1995 Pairing teachers and students
by similar ethnic/racial
background resulted in no
significant impact on students’

test scores

Table 4

Summary of Literature Related to the Need for Students to Have a Wide Range of Cultural and Linguistic Experiences

Author (s) Year of Publication Summary of Results
Bone & Slate


Culturally competent teachers
may influence the cultural
climate within the classroom


Black male teachers contribute
a wealth of experiences,
knowledge, and intellectual
capabilities to Black students
Harris, Joyner, & Slate


Affirmative action policies
have not reduced
discriminatory practices in
higher education institutions
Villegas & Irvine


Teachers of diverse
backgrounds are culturally

responsive to the needs of

diverse student groups

Garcia-Nevarez, Stafford, &


Spanish teachers are more
Arias likely than White teachers to
have positive attitudes toward
English Language Learners
Tyler, Yzquierdo, Lopez-Reyna,


Teachers of diverse
& Saunders-Flippin backgrounds serve as
advocates for a diverse student




Teachers of diverse
backgrounds may share similar
experiences of racial inequality
as their students of diverse


Table 5

Summary of Literature Related to Achievement Gap

Author (s) Year of Publication Summary of Results

Ahmad & Boser

Bireda & Chait



Teacher of diverse background increase math and reading scores and graduation rates of students of ethnic/racial backgrounds

Lower high school and graduation completion rates reduce the number of eligible teacher candidates

Bromberg and Theokas 2014 Hispanic and Black students in top 25 percentile scored lower on Advanced Placement Test and college aptitude test than White students
National Center for Education Statistics 2014a

Status dropout rate gap between ethnic/racial groups narrowed from 1999 to 2012

National Center for Education Statistics 2014b Hispanic, Black, and American Indian students had lower graduation rates than White and Asian/Pacific Islander students
National Center for Education Statistics 2013b Achievement gaps among diverse student groups became wider from 1992 to 2013
U.S. Census Bureau 2012 U.S. population to become older and more diverse by 2060
Pew Hispanic Center 2005 Hispanic students lag behind White students in academic achievement
Steele & Aronson 1995 Black students performed lower on standardized, aptitude, and Advanced placement exams due to negative stereotypes assigned by them

Table 6

Summary of Literature Related to College Enrollment and Degree Attainment

Author (s) Year of Publication Summary of Results

Ahmad & Boser

Bireda & Chait



Low academic achievement of diverse backgrounds contribute to less qualified pool of diverse teacher candidates

Lower high school and

graduation completion rates
reduce the number of eligible
teacher candidates
Medford, Knorr, & Cook 2013 Male teacher shortage is
compounded by fewer males
obtaining professional degrees
National Center for Education 2013a Annual cost of attending a 4-
Statistics year institution is double that
of attending a 2-year

American College Testing



Less than half of Hispanic,

Black, and American Indian
met college readiness standards
Fry & Lopez 2012 Hispanics are more likely to
attend 2-year than 4-year


Ross et al. 2012 Persistence and degree
attainment were higher for
females than males and for
diverse ethnic/racial group by


Boser 2011 Disparities between college
enrollment rates and degree
attainment of students of
diverse backgrounds limit the
supply of potential teacher


National Association of 2010 Lower tuition rates at 2-year
Community College Teacher institutions influence college
Education Program choices of students of diverse
Snyder 2008 Low percentages of males in
teacher courses contributes to
the male teacher shortage

Table 7

Summary of Literature Related to Recruitment, Retention, and Attrition of Teachers of Diverse Backgrounds

Author (s) Year of Publication Summary of Results
Ahmad & Boser


Federal, state, and local
education agencies recruitment
initiatives with a focus on
providing financial and
program support for diverse
teacher candidates
Dilworth & Coleman


Other school factors contribute
to teacher attrition of diverse
Bireda & Chait


State and school district utilize
teacher education programs to
attract teachers of diverse
ethnic/racial backgrounds into

Khan & Slate


the teaching profession

High enrollment rates of

Hispanic students in 2-year
institutions are not reflective of
Hispanic students passing and
taking teacher certification




Teachers of diverse
backgrounds are less satisfied
with their salary than White
teachers due to school setting


Low teacher salary and
inefficient school management
contribute to higher rates of
diverse teacher attrition
Ingersoll & May


High percentages of Hispanics
and Blacks choose to work in
high-poverty, urban schools
Ingersoll & May


High attrition rates among
teachers of diverse background
contribute to teacher shortage
Carnevale, Strohl, & Melton


Low percentages of college
students choose education as a


National Center for Education


Hispanic and Black teachers
Information less likely than White teachers
to be satisfied with their salary
Villegas & Irvine


Recruitment of teachers of
diverse backgrounds in U.S.
public schools reduces
educational disparities among
diverse student groups
Angrist & Guryan 2007 Hispanic teacher candidates
score lower on teacher
certification exams than White
or Black teacher candidates
National Collaborative on 2004 Hispanic and Black teachers
Diversity in the Teaching Force are more likely to be employed
in low-income, urban schools
than White teachers

Myriam Quintero Khan, John R. Slate, George W. Moore, Cynthia Martinez-Garcia

Current Issue

Community College Chief Academic Officers’ Role Perception, Job Satisfaction and Propensity to Leave their Institutions

The community college chief academic officer (CAO) has a broad scope of responsibility, which includes providing leadership to both the institution as a whole and its faculty. The role is rapidly changing on a daily basis, which can directly affect a CAO’s perception of their role, as well as their job satisfaction and ultimately their propensity to leave their institutions. This study was conducted to take a further look beyond previous studies on CAOs’ role perception, job satisfaction, and propensity to leave. The present study is unique unlike others (Chieffo, 1991; Glick, 1992; McBride, Munday, & Tunnell, 1992; Milosheff, 1990; Murray & Murray, 1998; Murray & Summar, 2000; Wolverton, Wolverton, & Gmelch, 1999) that investigated some of the factors identified above or investigated them independent of one another, rather than examining the relationships between them. This national study will provide important evidence of the relationship between role perception, job satisfaction, and propensity to leave for community college CAOs. Additionally, the study seeks to provide community college leaders with a closer look at factors related to a CAOs success in their roles. The purpose of the study was to examine positive or negative relationships between the above identified factors for community college CAOs. Practical implications have developed from the findings of the present study and are shared later in the discussion and implications section.

Roles of the Community College CAO

The roles of the community college CAO vary by institution; some common themes have emerged in the research literature on CAOs. CAOs, “[are] concerned with the development and maintenance of smoothly running operations; they spend their time building an organizational structure, hiring and training personnel, and overseeing the operations they are developing,” (Melch, 1997, p. 288). Results of two studies, using Mintzberg’s Ten Management Roles, included common rank order of these roles for CAOs that included: (1) leader, (2) liaison, disseminator, (3) monitor, (4) resource allocator, (5) entrepreneur (Anderson, Murray, & Olivarez, 2002); and (1) leader, (2) resource allocator, disseminator, (3) monitor, entrepreneur, (4) disturbance handler, figurehead, liaison, (5) spokesperson, and negotiator (Mech,1997).

Results of other studies have included competencies necessary for work as a CAO that broadly included: contextual, technical, interpersonal, communication, conceptual, and adaptive (Townsend & Bassoppo-Moyo, 1997). Other more issue-oriented competencies have also been identified that included: concern for legislative and legal mandates, meeting greater student demands, grappling with uncertain funding issues, and managing enrollment concerns (Cejda & Leist, 2006; Murray, Murray, & Summar, 2000).

Chief academic officers have been described as professionals among professionals who often have to balance serving both faculty and administrative interests effectively from both sides of the table (Wolverton et al., 1999). They must closely consult and cooperate with faculty, in addition to facilitating work as a middle manager for the institution (Mech, 1997). Those CAOs lacking clearly stated objectives and authority can experience role conflict and ambiguity (Murray et al., 2000), particularly when the roles that they must play are in conflict with their values systems (Wolverton et al., 1999).

The CAO in the community college has been defined as the administrative head with responsibilities for the academic affairs of the institution (Cejda, McKenney, & Burley, 2000; Murray et al., 2000) with commonly held titles that include: academic dean, vice president for academic affairs, vice-president for instruction, dean of instruction, and dean of the college (Vaughan, 1990). No definitive career ladder exists leading to the CAO role. Many CAOs ascend through a series of positions that include a) faculty member, b) department or unit chair, c) academic dean, and d) provost or vice president for academic affairs (CAO) (Cejda et al., 2000; Cohen & March, 1974; Mech, 1997; Twombly, 1988).

Several researchers who have studied CAOs have included demographic data describing characteristics of these administrators. One researcher found the average CAO to be a white married male, 52 years old with a doctorate who has served an average of six years in their role. The same researcher found the average female CAO to be a white married 51 year old with a doctorate who has served an average of slightly more than five years in their role (McKenney & Cejda, 2000). A second researcher, in their study of 349 CAOs, found them to have been in their roles for an average of 4.86, with an average of 15.95 years of total managerial experience at the department chair role or higher. Women were found to have slightly less total managerial experience and 55% of CAOs were found to have been appointed from within their current institutions (Mech, 1997). A third researcher, in their study of 184 CAOs, found the average CAO to be male, 52.5 years old who has served an average of 5.4 years in their role at their current institution, with an average of 15.5 years of total managerial experience. They were also found to supervise between 5-12 midlevel administrators in their current roles (Anderson, Murray & Olivarez).

Role Conflict

Role conflict has been defined as “the recognition of incompatible or contradictory demands that face the person who occupies a role” (Wagner & Hollenbeck, 2001, p. 144); “a sociological term which describes a situation in which a focal person is confronted with incompatible expectations” (Carroll, 1976, p. 245); and “occur[ing] when individuals find it necessary to handle duties that appear to be inconsistent or in conflict with their self-perception of their role or roles within the organizational structure” (Murray et al., 2000, p. 23). Many CAOs experience role conflict when met with conflicting demands that can include managing tasks which they either do not prefer to do or are uncomfortable doing (Amey, 1990). An example might include their providing personal support for departmental chairpersons, and also being responsible for evaluating their performance (Wolverton et al., 1999).

The effects of role conflict on CAOs are many and varied. Some have reported reduced trust in those administrators who imposed personal pressure leading to role conflict which has led to lowered esteem for their colleagues and less communication as a result. These effects have also been identified as carrying over to the greater organization, leading to dysfunction for others (Carroll, 1976). Differences in role conflict have been found between those administrators who were hired to maintain an organization and those administrators who were hired to bring about change in an organization. One researcher found that administrators that were hired to be responsible for sustaining the organization experienced less role conflict. Whereas administrators that were hired to bring about change experienced much higher levels of role conflict (Wolverton et al., 1999). It has been stated that nearly all administrators will experience some role conflict and ambiguity, particularly early in their roles. If left unresolved role conflict and ambiguity can lead to greater dissatisfaction, tension, stress and anxiety for the administrator (Amey, 1990).

Role Ambiguity

Role ambiguity has been defined as “compar[ing] the uncertainty or lack of clarity surrounding expectations about a person’s role in the organization” (Wagner & Hollenbeck, 2001, p. 144). It has also been defined as “relat[ing] to the degree to which we have sufficient information to perform the task or to ambiguous and problematic work requirements and performance expectations” (Wolverton, Wolverton & Gmelch, 1999, p. 82); and, “occur[ing] when a CAO is uncertain about the functional boundaries of his or her organizational role” (Murray et al., 2000, p. 23). Each of these definitions taken from the management and the higher education literature are fitting for the present study.

The effects of role ambiguity, like role conflict, on CAOs are also many and varied. The effects of role ambiguity, can strongly impact an organization’s effectiveness (Murray et al., 2000) and individual member expectations of the organization (Amey, 1990). Differences in role ambiguity, like role conflict, have been found between administrators who were hired to maintain an organization and administrators who were hired to bring about change in an organization. One researcher found that administrators that were hired to be responsible for sustaining the organization experienced less role ambiguity. Whereas, administrators that were hired to bring about change experienced much higher levels of role ambiguity (Wolverton et al., 1999).

Job Satisfaction

Job satisfaction has been said to result from the perception of fulfillment achieved related to values and their importance (Wagner & Hollenback, 2001). Job dissatisfaction can be defined as the opposite effect. Like role conflict and role ambiguity, many factors can affect a CAO’s level of job satisfaction. One researcher categorized the factors affecting job satisfaction into five broad categories that included:

(1) personal and demographic characteristics (e.g., gender, educational degree attainment), (2) professional activities/responsibilities (e.g., students and teaching, professional practice, participation and influence on campus), (3) perception of and relationships with students (e.g., student interactions outside of class, perceptions of student quality), (4) institutional environment (e.g., financial condition of the institution, perception of intellectual quality), and (5) departmental environment (e.g., type of departmental affiliation, perception of department and departmental colleagues) (Milosheff, 1990, p. 13).

Others have identified factors affecting job satisfaction that have included: co-workers, pay, supervision, kind of work, personal growth, and promotion prospects (Cook, Hepworth, Wall & Warr, 1981); “departmental goals and policy determination, institutional structure, and communications” (Carroll, p. 246); salary disparity and unequal representation (Blackhurst, 2000); and personal and organizational characteristics broadly (Williams & Hazer, 1986).

Job dissatisfaction has been examined as the result of role conflict and ambiguity. The linkages between these factors have been the focus of several studies in postsecondary education and with a distinct focus on the community college CAO. Direct and significant links have been made between role conflict and ambiguity and job satisfaction in academic department chairpersons (Carroll, 1976); academic deans (Wolverton et al., 1999); and community college chief academic officers (McBride, Munday & Tunnell, 1992; Milosheff, 1990; Murray & Murray, 1998).

Effects, other than job satisfaction, have been linked to job conflict and ambiguity that have included organizational politics, commitment and citizenship (Boehman, 2007; Chieffo, 1991; Wagner & Hollenbeck, 2001; Wolverton et al., 1999); job stress (McBride, Munday, & Tunnell, 1992; Milsheff, 1990; Murray et al., 2000; Wolverton et al., 1999). The visible effects of job dissatisfaction, resulting from role conflict and ambiguity can include poor performance and low productivity; absenteeism and turnover, and wasted resources (Mech, 1997; Wagner & Hollenbeck, 2001; Wolverton et al., 1999); job burnout and work overload (Tull, 2006; et al., 1999).

A community college CAO’s propensity to leave their role and in some cases their institution can be directly influenced by their role perception and level of job satisfaction. As a CAO’s negative perception of their role increases, so does the likelihood of their propensity to leave (Murray & Murray, 1998). Turnover in academic organizations is inevitable, a CAO’s decision to leave an institution is often a result of their dissatisfaction with the tasks they are assigned and/or their work conditions (Murray & Murray, 1998). No exact predictor often exists that signals actual turnover in an organization, an employee’s intention to leave, if thought to be a good predictor. “Actual turnover is difficult to study because employees who have left an institution are difficult to locate and their rate of response to queries about their decision to leave the institution is often low. Thus, researchers often use intention as a proxy for actual turnover,” (Johnsrud & Rosser, 1999, p. 2). The visible effects of one’s turnover resulting from poor role perception and job dissatisfaction include: “loss of experience, job knowledge, and skills to effectively and efficiently manage the institution” (Johnsrud & Rosser, 1999, p. 1); “lost opportunities” (Murray et al., 2000, p. 25); and effects on those remaining such as, “satisfaction, involvement, and organizational commitment” (Johnsrud & Rosser, 1999, p. 2). Each of these factors can affect employer’s fiscal and human resources, each of these in turn hurting productivity and efficiency.

While the relationship between job satisfaction and propensity to leave have been the focus of previous research on CAOs, little research exists that includes the factors of role perception (which include role conflict and role ambiguity). This study sought to provide a closer and more recent examination of these factors for CAOs at community colleges. The purpose of the present study was to examine relationships between factors of role perception, job satisfaction, and propensity to leave for community college CAOs. Specific research questions guiding the study were: (1) what are the relationships between role perception, job satisfaction, and propensity to leave for CAOs at community colleges? and (2) what, if any, demographic characteristics could predict the relationships between the factors of role perception, job satisfaction and propensity to leave?



Chief academic officers were identified through the use of the 2011 Higher Education Directory. Those that were identified as working at institutions with the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching’s Associate’s classification, indicating that they award the Associate’s degree as their highest degree were included in the study. Eight hundred and twenty-five CAOs were identified as potential research participants, having valid email addresses in the Directory. Of this group, 249 participated in the study for a response rate of 30.18%. Participant responses were examined to explore the relationships between factors of role conflict, role ambiguity, job satisfaction and propensity to leave. Male CAOs were slightly the largest group of participants at 50.40%, with female CAOs representing 49.60% of participants. White/Caucasian CAOs were the largest group of participants at 93.20%, with the lowest being .80% multiracial. For highest degree earned, 70.80% indicated they had a doctorate, 26.80% indicated having a master’s degree and 1.60% (four CAOs) indicated they held a juris doctorate as their highest earned degree. Chief academic officer’s participant ages ranged from 33-71, with the mean age at 55, mode age at 52 and median age at 53. Chief academic officers had varying lengths of time spent employed in the community college setting. The mean for number of years in the community college setting was 16, the mode for number of years was 15 and the median was 20 years. When asked whether they had spent any time employed in a four-year college setting 140 (56.20%) indicated that they had never been employed in this setting. For those CAOs that had (43.80%), their time ranged from less than one year to 45 years. Chief academic officers indicated that they had held their current role for an average of 4.37 years. Thirty-four (13.70%) had been in their role for less than one year, 12 (4.82%) were in their first year and two indicated they had been in their role for 22 years. Complete demographic data for CAOs who participated in the study can be found in Table 1. Whereas, no common data set exists nationally depicting demographic characteristics of community college CAOs, the demographic characteristics of CAOs included in the present study appear to be consistent with those samples used in other studies on CAOs. This finding is particularly accurate for the characteristics of gender (Keim & Murray, 2008); average age (McKenney & Cejda, 2000); highest degree earned (Keim & Murray, 2008); and time spent in current role (Anderson, Murray & Olivarez, 2002; Murray et al., 2000).


Role conflict and ambiguity were examined through the use of the Role Conflict and Ambiguity Scales, which included 18 items that were developed by House, Schuler and Levanoni (1983) to measure these factors. CAOs rated the degree to which they agreed or disagreed with a series of 11 statements related to role ambiguity (e.g., my authority matches the responsibilities assigned to me) and seven statements related to role conflict (e.g., I often get myself involved in situations in which there are conflicting requirements). These are identified on the full scale in Appendix A. Ratings were scored on a seven-point Likert-type scale (1 = strongly disagree and 7 = strongly agree). The mean value across these items (with eight items reversed scored for role ambiguity) constituted a composite scale score for role conflict and ambiguity respectively. Coefficient alpha values to test reliability of the Role Conflict and Ambiguity Scales have been reported between .79 and .86 (O’Driscoll & Beecher, 1994; Westman, 1992). Validity was also examined by O’Driscoll & Beecher (1994) and Westman (1992). Their results found, “role ambiguity correlated positively with role conflict, employee uncertainty, psychological strain, turnover intentions, job dissatisfaction, job decision latitude, and employee psychological distress” (Fields, 2002, p. 149).

Job satisfaction was examined through the use of three items from the Michigan Organizational Assessment Questionnaire (MOAQ). CAOs rated the degree to which they agreed or disagreed with a series of statements related to their satisfaction (e.g., all in all, I am satisfied with my job). Ratings were scored on a seven-point Likert-type scale (1 = strongly disagree and 7 = strongly agree). The mean value across these items (with one reversed scored) constituted a composite scale score for job satisfaction (Cook, Hepworth, Wall & Warr, 1981). Coefficient alpha values to test reliability of these items of the MOAQ have been reported at .71 (n = 400) (Cook et al., 1981). An average interconnection for the three items used from the MOAQ have been reported at .50 (n = 466) by Cook et al. (1981).

Propensity to leave was also examined through the use of three items from the MOAQ. CAOs rated the degree to which they agreed or disagreed with a series of statements related to their propensity to leave (e.g., how likely is it that you will probably look for a new job in the next year). Ratings were scored on a seven-point Likert-type scale (1 = not at all likely, 2, 3 = somewhat likely, 4, 5 = quite likely, 6, 7 = extremely likely) for question one. Dimensions were not provided for 2, 4, or 6 on the Likert-type scale for question one. For questions 2 and 3 CAOs rated the degree to which they agreed or disagreed with a series of statements. Ratings for 2 and 3 were scored on a seven-point Likert scale (1 = strongly disagree and 7 = strongly agree). The mean value across these items constituted a composite scale score for propensity to leave (Cook et al., 1981). Coefficient alpha values to test reliability of these items of the MOAQ have been reported at .83 (n = 400) (Cook, Hepworth, Wall, & Warr, 1981).

Procedure and Data Analysis

After receiving proper approval from the researcher’s Institutional Review Board at their host institution, all CAOs at community colleges nationally who met the criteria for participation in the study were contacted through email and asked to complete an online survey that was developed for the study. The online survey instrument (see Appendix A) included 24 items related to role perception, job satisfaction and propensity to leave. Additionally, CAOs were asked to complete seven demographic related questions that were used in the examination of study factors. CAOs were sent a reminder email message at the end of the first week of data collection, asking for their participation had they not done so already. At that time, CAOs were provided an additional two weeks for the completion of their surveys, providing them a total of three weeks for participation in the study.

Descriptive statistics were reviewed for all study participants and factors to provide a demographic profile of CAO participants, along with their survey responses on study factors. Scatterplots were first examined to check the assumptions that underlie the use of Product- moment (Pearson r) correlational coefficients on the means on scores of the Role Conflict and Ambiguity Scales and the Michigan Organizational Assessment Questionnaire. Pearson correlation coefficients were then calculated for the means of the responses for the Role Conflict and Ambiguity Scales and those items used from the Michigan Organizational Assessment Questionnaire (MOAQ). Data were then examined for any significant correlations between study factors and CAO participant responses. If a correlation of p < .05 or greater was discovered, the researcher determined that a direct or inverse significant relationship existed for those study factors (Frankel & Wallen, 2003). A regression analysis (Brace, Kemp & Snelgar, 2009) was then conducted to establish whether any demographic characteristics (predictor factors) could be used as predictors of community college CAO’s role perception, job satisfaction, and/or propensity to leave (criterion factors). This analysis was conducted to examine research question 2, identified above.


Scatterplots for the factors of role conflict and role ambiguity revealed a non-linear trend with negative association among the plots. This scatterplot also showed a weak relationship and non- constant scatter among the plots. Scatterplots for the factors of role conflict and job satisfaction revealed a linear trend with negative association among the plots. This scatterplot also showed a strong relationship and constant scatter among the plots. Scatterplots for the factors of role ambiguity and job satisfaction and role ambiguity and propensity to leave revealed a linear trend with positive association among the plots. This scatterplot also showed a strong relationship and constant scatter among the plots. Scatterplots for the factors of role conflict and propensity to leave revealed a linear trend with positive association among the plots. This scatterplot also showed a strong relationship and constant scatter among the plots. Scatterplots for the factors of job satisfaction and propensity to leave revealed a linear trend with negative association among the plots. This scatterplot also showed a weak relationship and non-constant scatter among the plots.

After checking the assumptions underlying the use of correlational statistical analysis, several direct and inverse significant correlations were found. These correlations are described below and are included in Table 2.

The Relationship Between Factors of Role Perception

Study findings indicated an inverse significant relationship at the p < .01 level between the factors of role conflict and role ambiguity. These findings indicated that a relationship between CAOs negative perceptions of their role expectations and their functional boundaries (role ambiguity) and the contradictory and inconsistent duties (role conflict) that they are encountered within their roles as CAOs at their community colleges.

The Relationship Between Factors of Role Perception and Job Satisfaction

Study findings indicated an inverse significant relationship at the p < .01 level between the

factors of role conflict and job satisfaction and a direct significant relationship at the p < .01 level between the factors of role ambiguity and job satisfaction. These findings indicated that a relationship between a CAO’s negative perceptions of their role and its functional boundaries with an influence on their satisfaction with their role as CAO. Also, findings revealed a relationship between CAOs positive perceptions of their role and its functional boundaries with a positive influence on job satisfaction.

The Relationships Between Factors of Role Perception and Propensity to Leave

Study findings indicated a direct significant relationship at the p < .01 level between the factors of role conflict and propensity to leave and an inverse significant relationship at the p <.01 level between the factors of role ambiguity and propensity to leave. These findings indicated that a relationship between a CAO’s positive perceptions of the contradictory and inconsistent duties that CAOs can be faced with and their propensity to leave their community colleges. Also, findings revealed a relationship between CAO’s inverse perceptions of their role and its functional boundaries with a inverse influence on propensity to leave.

The Relationship Between Job Satisfaction and Intention to Turnover

Study findings indicated a inverse significant relationship at the p < .01 level between the factors of job satisfaction and propensity to leave. The findings indicated that a relationship between a CAOs negative perceptions of their job satisfaction with a negative influence on their propensity to leave their community college.

After the completion of the multiple regression analysis, in response to research question 2 and investigating the results, a significant model was not found to exist, nor were any predictor factors found to be significant in the model. These findings lead to conclusion that for the present study none of the demographic factors could be used as predictors of role perception, job satisfaction and/or propensity to leave for community college CAOs who participated.

Discussion and Implications

The results of this study found a relationship between CAOs negative perceptions with regard their managing any incompatible or contradictory demands of their role (role conflict) with any uncertainty about the functional boundaries (role ambiguity) of their roles at community colleges. Those CAOs who struggle and/or are unable to develop positive perceptions about their roles may create dysfunction for others in their organizations as a result (Carroll, 1976). This struggle can be aggravated even more, based on the expectations placed on the CAO, such as maintaining the organization or being innovative in the role (Wolverton et al., 1999). All administrators who are new to their role are said to experience some level of role conflict and ambiguity, particularly early in their tenures (Amey, 1990).

A relationship was discovered between CAO negative perceptions in their being met with incompatible or contradictory demands and their self-perception of their roles with poor job satisfaction. CAOs who are experiencing role conflict, particularly those CAOs who are called on to manage tasks that they are uncomfortable doing (Amey, 1990) may experience greater levels of job dissatisfaction. On the other hand, CAOs who are found to have positive perceptions of their role and its functional boundaries are likely to experience greater levels of job satisfaction. CAOs that are best equipped with sufficient information about the expectations and requirements of their roles and can actively avoid the resulting effects job dissatisfaction.

An association was found between CAO positive perceptions in their ability to manage their role, even with the contradictory or incompatible demands that come with them, and their propensity to leave their community colleges. Those CAOs who have continued positive perceptions of their roles might be less likely to leave their institutions. Those CAOS with negative perceptions about their role and the expectations that come with them are likely to have a higher propensity to leave their organizations. For these reasons CAOs should strive to understand the functional boundaries of their roles and those elements that cause uncertainty for them to best avoid the propensity to leave their organizations.

A relationship between CAO negative perceptions of their job satisfaction with a propensity to leave their community colleges was discovered. We have learned through the results of this study and others that those CAOs who experience role conflict and role ambiguity are likely to experience job dissatisfaction (Murray et al., 2000). CAOs that are unable to experience the workplace values that they have developed and expect to experience may also experience higher levels of job dissatisfaction (Wagner & Hollenbeck, 2001). Some visible effects of poor job satisfaction for the CAO may appear as poor work performance and productivity; absenteeism and turnover (Mech, 1997; Wagner & Hollenbeck, 2001; Wolverton, et al., 1999); and job burnout and work overload (Tull, 2006; and Wolverton et al., 1999).

Several implications exist for CAOs already serving and those who are preparing for or considering service in this role. Implications also exist for those community colleges who will continue to select CAOs to serve their institutions. CAOs would be wise to collect as much information as they can about the expectations from all constituent groups when preparing to accept the role of CAO. These would include both internal and external stakeholders, whom the CAO would interact with in the fulfillment of their duties. Those CAOs best able to recognize the factors of role perception and their effects on job satisfaction and propensity to leave may be better suited for addressing any negative consequences that may arise from these experiences. Self-knowledge about their own personal perceptions will help CAOs in identifying any gaps between what they perceived their role as being and what they experience once they are serving as the CAO.

Community colleges should pay careful attention to their own on boarding processes for new CAOs. Time spent in providing information to the CAO about expectations of them by various stakeholders they serve will be valuable to the CAO’s development. Community colleges should also effectively communicate particular information about the curricular missions (Cohen & Brawer 2008) and students they serve (Hirt, 2006). Community colleges should display positive organizational support, commitment and citizenship as strategies for curbing poor role perception (Wagner & Hollenbeck, 2001; Williams & Hazer, 1986), job dissatisfaction and greater propensity to leave for the CAO.


A few limitations for the present study should be addressed. Those CAOs who participated in the study were presented with questions about their perceptions of their role, job satisfaction and propensity to leave. Each of the questions related to these study factors centered more on their working relationships with others, rather than any particular focus on other external factors that could lead to negative role perceptions, job dissatisfaction or a greater propensity to leave.

When using the same survey instrument in examining community college senior student affairs officers (Tull, 2012) one participant in email correspondence to the researcher noted, “Most of my job problems are a result of economic conditions, budget cuts, and state and federal regulations.” This statement illustrates this notion well.

Survey questions completed by study participants also did not allow acknowledging whether their greater propensity to leave was associated with their desire to be promoted either internal to their institution or externally. Additionally, five CAOs who were contacted to participate in this study had become Presidents at other community colleges, as indicated by their email responses. Two CAOs noted through email correspondence to the researcher that they intended to leave for promotions. Lastly, some CAOs may not have chosen to participate in the present study due to poor perceptions of their current role or level of job satisfaction or greater propensity to leave their community colleges for negative reasons.


The present study sought to examine community college chief academic affairs officers’ role perceptions, job satisfaction and propensity to leave their institutions. Study results revealed several positive and negative significant relationships for the factors mentioned above. These results will contribute to the small, but existing body of knowledge, and also provide new confirmatory evidence about the important relationships between role conflict, role ambiguity, job satisfaction and propensity to leave. Continued study of these factors should occur as they present important implications for both the community college chief academic officers and the institutions that employ them. Further examination is also important as community colleges and their administrators should work to curb poor role perception, job dissatisfaction and the propensity to leave for negative reasons of their CAOs and those administrators who aspire to hold this role.


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Table 1

Demographic Characteristics of Community College Chief Academic Officers

Demographic Characteristic Percentage




Female 49.6%


White/Caucasian 93.20%
Black/African American 2.40%
Hispanic/Latino/a 2.00%
Asian/Pacific Islander 1.20%
Multiracial 0.80%
Other 0.40%

Highest Degree Earned

Associates 0.40%
Bachelors 0.00%
Masters 26.80%
Doctorate 70.80%
Juris Doctorate 1.60%
Other 0.40%
Table 2

Significant Correlations for Role Perception, Job Satisfaction and Propensity to Leave

Study Factors Significant Correlations*

The Relationship Between Factors of Role


Role Conflict and Role Ambiguity r (n = 250) = – .50, p = < .01

The Relationship Between Factors of Role Perception and Job Satisfaction

Role Conflict and Job Satisfaction r (n = 250) = -.46, p = < .01

Role Ambiguity and Job Satisfaction r (n = 250) = .48, p = < .01

The Relationship Between Factors of Role Perception and Intention to Turnover

Role Conflict and Propensity to Leave r (n = 250) = .50, p = < .01

Role Ambiguity and Propensity to Leave r (n = 250) = -.43, p = < .01

The Relationship Between Job Satisfaction and Intention to Turnover

Job Satisfaction and Propensity to Leave r (n = 250) = -.60, p = < .01

* All correlations significant at the 0.01 level

Appendix A

An Examination of Community College Senior Academic Affairs Officers, Role Perception, Job Satisfaction, and Propensity to Leave their Institutions

Responses are scored on a 7-point Likert-type scale where 1 = strongly disagree and 7 = strongly agree.

Role Ambiguity Strongly Disagree Strongly Agree

My authority matches the responsibilities 1






assigned to me. (R)
I don’t know what is expected of me. 1






My responsibilities are clearly defined. (R) 1






I feel certain about how much authority I 1






have. (R)
I know what my responsibilities are. (R) 1






I have clear planned goals and objectives for my job. (R) 1






The planned goals and objectives are not 1






I don’t know how I will be evaluated for a 1






raise or promotion.
I know what is expected of me. (R) 1






Explanations are clear of what has to be 1






done. (R)
My boss makes it clear how he will 1






Evaluate my performance. (R)
Role Conflict
I often get myself involved in situations in 1






which there are conflicting requirements.
There are unreasonable pressures for better 1






I receive an assignment without adequate 1






resources and materials to execute it.
I have to buck a rule or policy in order to 1






carry out a policy.
I receive incompatible requests from two or 1






more people.

I have to do things that should be done








differently under different conditions.

Job Satisfaction

For the following Questions, responses are scored on a 7-point Likert-type scale where 1 =

strongly agree and 7 = strongly disagree.

1=Strongly Agree, 2=Disagree, 3=Slightly Agree, 4=Neither Agree or Disagree, 5=Slightly

Agree, 6=Agree, 7=Strongly Agree

All in all, I am satisfied with my job. 7






In general, I don’t like my job. (R) 7







In general, I like working here. 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

Propensity to Leave

For the following Question, responses are scored on a 7-point Likert-type scale where 1 = not at all likely and 7 = extremely likely. (1=Not at All Likely, 2, 3=Somewhat Likely, 4, 5=Quite Likely, 6, 7=Extremely Likely)

How likely is it that you will probably look for a new job in the next year.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

(1=Not at All Likely, 2, 3=Somewhat Likely, 4, 5=Quite Likely, 6, 7=Extremely Likely)

For the following Questions, responses are scored on a 7-point Likert-type scale where 1 =strongly disagree and 7 = strongly agree. (1=Strongly Disagree, 2=Disagree, 3=Slightly Disagree, 4=Neither Agree nor Disagree, 5=Slightly Agree, 6=Agree, 7=Strongly Agree)

I often think about quitting. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

I will probably look for a new job in the next year. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

(R) denotes items that are reverse scored

Demographic Information





White or Caucasian

Black or African American


Asian or Pacific Islander





Associate Bachelors



Juris Doctorate


Number of Years of Full Time Experience in Postsecondary Education Prior to Assuming the SSAO role

In two-year colleges

In four-year colleges

Number of Years in current SSAO Role

Ashley Tull

Current Issue

Unpacking Organizational Alignment: The View from Theory and Practice

Organizations use a range of performance improvement interventions to enhance their business. Internal factors such as people and processes are continuously developed to optimize business performance. External operating factors such as the market environment, shared industry space, and globalization also impact the success and survival of organizations. Put together, the external and internal factors drive organizations to continuously change, adapt and improve. For example, the TQM movement in early1980s, and the more recent Lean improvement practices highlight process improvement methodologies that prescribed an internal and external focus on process, cost, customer and product quality.

The global interdependence of markets, consumers, and suppliers created a complex value chain for organizations that presented exciting opportunities for growth as well as presented complex challenges for survival in the face of competition. In fact, the long-term success and viability of organizations is uncertain as constant changes in the external and internal environment can affect their performance. Interventions that help managers understand and evaluate their decision- making as it relates to enhancing the alignment of internal and external organizational components can help not only in managing but also driving performance. Yet, we know little about how alignment is created or measured at multiple levels in the organization. In fact, elaboration on organizational alignment in the literature is not only limited, but also underexplored.

According to Tosti and Jackson (2000), alignment links key organizational components such as strategy, culture, processes, people, leadership and systems for the purpose of accomplishing common goals. The alignment of critical factors internal to the organization suggests opportunities for identifying potential partnerships and collaborative integration of different functions, processes, and products. Furthermore, alignment also recognizes the importance of an organization’s connection to the external environment involving suppliers, new markets, customer groups, and shareholders (Powell, 1992). At a global level, organizational alignment can be viewed as connecting an organization’s internal network of people, products and processes to the external environment such as industry, national and global consumer, and producer markets for the purpose of strengthening organizational performance (Kathuria, Joshi & Porth, 2007). We position organizational alignment as a critical factor for enhancing organizational performance as well as for achieving a position of competitive advantage through the integration of people and processes.

Alignment acknowledges existing complexities of internal and external networks of an organization’s processes, products, as well as people and emphasizes the potential need for creating stronger linkages that can further enhance, or serve the broader purposes and goals of the organization. Alignment can also enhance cross-functional fit between departments and units in the organization, as well as the linkages between strategy-structure-culture (Lawrence & Lorsch, 1967).

The employee-job, employee-organization fit also emphasizes alignment albeit, at a micro level. Thus, the importance of alignment as a focal construct in understanding assessing and improving the performance of organizations at multiple levels cannot be ignored. Despite the intuitive appeal of organizational alignment, a strong absence of empirical validation has prevented the examination of this construct as a central theme of interest in the management literature. The purpose of our work is to examine how organizational alignment is understood and defined in the literature, identify important perspectives of organizational alignment, as well as elaborate on the implications for practice.

Research Questions

This paper aims to develop an understanding of alignment as a focal construct in organizational theory and practice. The importance of alignment on performance and learning outcomes of the organization is a relatively new area of exploration that has implications for senior leaders, operations managers and human resource (HR) professionals. For instance, enhancing person- job, and person-organization fit in the organization can significantly enhance the role and performance of HR managers. The following questions guided our inquiry:

Research Question 1: How is alignment understood and defined in the literature? What are the important perspectives on alignment and how to do these perspectives shape our understanding of alignment?

Research Question 2: In what ways does the literature link alignment with learning and performance outcomes? What are the implications for senior leaders, operations managers and HR professionals?

What is Organizational Alignment?

Likert (1961) introduced the notion of alignment as a “linking pin” connecting internal and external networks of people, products and processes for the purpose of strengthening organizational performance Early contributions in the literature emphasized the importance of strategic fit with external factors such as industry characteristics, environmental threats; and, internal factors such as organizational culture and structure (Ansoff, 1965; Andres, 1971). We highlight the importance of organizational alignment – or fit – between internal and external organizational factors as a common theme and distinctive focus in the management literature. For instance, management scholars have extended the notion of alignment to include organizational systems, processes and managerial decision-making (Lorange & Vancil, 1977,

Kaplan, 2005, Kathuria, Joshi & Porth, 2007). Powell (1992) connected organizational alignment and competitive advantage to establish the alignment-firm performance connection. More recent contributions (e.g. Porter, 1996) conceptualized alignment as an array of interlocked activities, where key resources and capabilities are deployed according to organizational requirements.

Defining Organizational Alignment

Prior literature defines alignment as a valuable and scarce resource that has significant consequences to organizational performance (Lawrence & Lorsch, 1967; Powell, 1992). For example, Powell (1992) posits alignment as a dynamic capability that brings attention to both the internal and external organizational factors (Burn, 1996). The central premise of prior conceptualizations suggests that alignment-performance linkage is not only important but can also be adopted as a deliberate approach for enhancing the mission and vision of the organization. These conceptualizations explicitly suggest alignment as an outcome of managerial decision-making and skill rather than luck (Powell, 1992); as a “higher order of integrative capacity” (Lawrence & Lorsch, p.245), that is a common feature of high-performing organizations. Other scholars have described alignment as an adaptive dynamic capability (Pascale, 1999; Miller, 1996), an integrative capacity that is a “source of sustainable competitive advantage” (Powell, 1992, p.121) to help organizations achieve their strategic potential (Hamel & Prahlad, 1994).

Avison, Jones, Powell, Wilson (2004) identified six popular descriptions of alignment which describe alignment as fit (Porter, 1996), integration (Weill & Broadbent, 1998), bridge (Ciborra, 1997), harmony (Luftman et al., 1996), fusion (Smaczny, 2001) and linkage (Henderson & Venkatraman, 1989). Alignment can be described as “heading in the same direction” (Weiser, 2000, p.90). These explanations emphasize linkages within the organization, and describe how different parts work towards the achievement of shared organizational goals. Drawing from the more recent work of Alagaraja & Shuck (2015), alignment is defined as an adaptive, dynamic resource capability achieved by developing a shared understanding of organizational goals and requirements by employees (p.5). This definition encompasses previous conceptualizations of alignment at the macro level as well as emphasizes micro level approaches for identifying and evaluating managerial behavior and decisions that can influence alignment in different levels such as individual, team, department as well as the whole organization.

Review of Alignment Literature

Numerous scholars have contributed to the understanding of organizational alignment resulting in the development of key perspectives and types. In the sections below, we provide an overview of these contributions by identifying common themes in the conceptualizations of alignment. Overall, we identified three major perspectives and five types of alignment that inform theory and research. We contend that the three major perspectives of alignment theorize and validate the five different types.

Perspectives of Alignment

Several streams of literature explored alignment from three dominant perspectives that rest on a different set of agreements about how organizations learn and perform. The three perspectives – process, relational and strategic identify distinctive arrangements for translating organizational priorities into goals, objectives and activities. These major perspectives suggest notions of alignment as emergent and performative resulting from the many interactions involving the organization’s external and internal environment, as well as internal linkages that occur between strategy, structure, culture and other organizational processes. The following sections briefly overview each major perspective, starting with the process perspective.

Process Perspective

Viewed broadly, the process perspective describes alignment as a continuous and dynamic process (Burns, 1996; Tallon & Kraemer, 1999). Alignment occurs when the organization ensures that departments can work together smoothly (Kanter, 1994). This perspective emphasizes understanding of functional processes, and generating systematic agreement towards optimization and continuous improvement of organizational processes and underscores the conceptualization of organizations’ primarily as a series of processes and processual arrangements. Thus, alignment of macro and micro level processes, focusing on individual, functional, cross-functional and cross-organizational processes through shared engagement and commitment of employees, customers and stakeholder groups emphasize the process perspective. Other descriptions of process alignment suggest, “gaining a collaborative view” through an iterative process in which businesses achieve goals (Gulledge & Sommer, 2002, p. 984). Organizations that take time to align their business processes within and between departments, and across their supply chain (customers, suppliers and regulators) are more likely to enhance overall performance. We contend that attention to the process perspective of alignment allows us to theorize and examine how the design and structure of business processes can improve organizational performance. The process perspective also suggests the importance of optimizing resources, skills, abilities and knowledge for the overall benefit of the organization. As Weiser (2000) suggested, process alignment enhances the ability of different functions or departments to work towards a common goal, such that the organization is not only “heading in the same direction” (p.90) but is also able to reduce internal inefficiencies. This perspective underscores the importance of examining the extent to which there is congruence between different processes involving tasks, responsibilities, goals and objectives in the organization. Yet, in conceiving of alignment as the enhancement of linkages and connections between organizations processes, this perspective under theorizes the value of describing the organization in terms of demonstrating the relational value of strategy, culture, and other elements of the organization that impact performance.

Relational Perspectives

Some scholars attempted to address the lack of demonstrated value around strategy and culture by taking a more relational approach. This perspective describes alignment as the extent to which the organization is able to experience congruence between different components of the organization’s internal and or external environment. For example, several scholars highlight the relational perspective of alignment through the examination of the organization’s internal environment. The performance of different components within the organization are motivated by the alignment of strategy and structure (Mintzberg, 1979); organizational size and strategic planning (Mintzberg, 1973); and strategy –culture linkages (Mintzberg, 1989, 1991). Other scholars in this perspective have suggested the organizational “fit” with the external environment resulting from the interactions and general response of the organization to the environment (Lawrence & Lorsch, 1967; Thompson, 1967, Miles & Snow, 1978). As one example, managers must consider the fit of organizational design to the external environment (Burns & Stalker, 1961, Khandwalla, 1973). This strand of organizational alignment emphasizes the role of organizational flexibility, adaptation and ability to respond well to changes in both the external and internal environment. Organizational priorities and arrangements are viewed as contingent upon the conditions of the environment, and thus, alignment occurs through ongoing adaptations of the organization. But, how these alignments might unfold given that senior executives play an important part in influencing if and whether organizations adopt a particular strategy, strategic orientation or perspective has not been a concerted focus of the relational perspective. This is discussed next.

Strategic Perspective

Within the strategic perspective, scholars have positioned strategy as likely to influence the ways in which organizations could achieve alignment. For example, Snow and Miles (1983) argued the importance of linking strategic planning and overall strategy to the specific configurations of technology, structure and processes in the organization. In this view, the extents to which processes and organizational components are consistent with the selected strategy determine the performance of the organization. The resultant outcome of this perspective suggests that organizations can create unique strategic alignments for achieving a position of competitive advantage.

The strategic alignment perspective has found empirical support in the literature. For example, several scholars found strategic alignment as positively related to organizational performance. For example, Avison, Jones, Powell, Wilson (2004) validated a strategic alignment model examining the integration of information technology (IT) strategy to business performance. Bergeron, Raymond, Rivard (2003) described ideal patterns of strategic alignment and business performance. Burn & Szeto (1999) compared critical success factors for achieving strategic alignment. Further, Campbell, Kay, Avison (2004) used causal model building to analyze IT and business alignment. Through performance measurement systems, organizations leverage alignment of strategy and organizational learning to achieve competitive advantage.

Within the strategic perspective, another strand is a differing approach where some scholars examine the extent of misalignment between the strategies of a function or department and the organization. For instance, studies examined the misalignment of IT strategy and business strategy, describing the lack of alignment as the emergent from “continuous adaptation and change” (Henderson & Venkatraman 1993, p.5). Saberwal, Hirschheim and Goles (2001) expanded on this strand to emphasize the importance of IT alignment on organizational strategy and structure. Tallon, Kraemer and Gurbaxani (2001) argued that alignment of IT and business strategies were a critical factor for enhancing the performance of the IT department as well as the overall organization. Other studies renewed the focus on misalignment inquiring into issues arising from the implementation of organizational and functional strategies (Grover, Jeong, Kettinger & Teng, 1995).

Recent Conceptualizations of Alignment

The aforementioned perspectives have highlighted the different ways alignment can manifest from different sources such as processes, internal and external environments, as well as organizational strategies. Contemporary conceptualizations have argued for a more dynamic understanding, which suggests a need to simultaneously focus on multiples sources of alignment– not just one perspective. For example, strategic perspectives of alignment have begun to emphasize the need for addressing customer needs and other requirements of the external environment (Hall, 2002). Moreover, relational perspectives have emphasized symmetry in organizational design and structure that enables process optimization through cross-functional behavior (Weiser, 2000). As Schneider, Godfrey, Hayes, Hyang, Lim, Nishii, Raver, Ziegert (2003) explain, internal organizational systems and their environments must achieve “fit, congruence, consistency, alignment, and matching” of goals and objectives at multiple levels in the organization. (p.124). They developed a star alignment model examining the reciprocity of strategy and culture through the alignment of five organizational components – team work, people, goals and rewards, training and development, and service. More complex perspectives of alignment advance the recognition of conflicting patterns of alignment and misalignment that involve business performance, strategy, structure, human resource (HR) and IT systems (Alagaraja, 2013; Bergeron, Raymond &Rivard, 2003).

These emerging perspectives suggest the need for understanding what perspectives of alignment are of value, why they are valued, and how managers and business leaders can recognize, facilitate or manage when and where alignment or misalignment occur in the organization. The alignment ontology offers a potentially promising approach for understanding the value of achieving shared vision, mission, values, goals, objectives and direction for the organization. However, these contributions do not explicitly address specific types of alignment as they relate to different levels of the organization (individual, departmental, supply chain etc.) that can be pursued by managers and leaders for improving organizational performance. By investigating the specific types of alignment we hope to offer new distinctions to the practice of alignment and its relevance to real world contexts. To do so, we take a human resource (HR) infused practice perspective to examine the different types of alignment and their implications for leaders and managers in organizations.

Types of Alignment and Relevance to Human Resources

As we have noted, the organizational alignment literatures distinguish between several types of alignment. Horizontal alignment, for example, involves the “co-ordination of efforts across the organization” (Kathuria, Joshi & Porth, 2007; p.505). This type of alignment emphasizes roles, responsibilities among different work groups, departments and teams and closely links different elements of structure with business processes in the organization. As such, this type of alignment also addresses the integration of social and culture processes, which in theory have greater impact on alignment and organizational performance (Mezias, 1990; Powell, 1991). In the human resource (HR) literature, this type of alignment highlights the importance of achieving internal coherence and consistency of human resource policies towards improving employee performance (Gratton & Truss, 2003).

Vertical alignment emphasizes alignment within each function and focuses on how different departments orient their functional goals to that of the organization or business unit. Gratton and Truss (2003) proposed the linking of HR strategy to business strategy as an example of vertical alignment and suggests “a much more fluid dynamic that allows for variation and flexibility” (p.75). A high degree of vertical alignment helps in developing internally coherent HR policies that “consistently relate to one another” (p.75).

As described by Venkatraman, Henderson and Oldach (1993), management practices act as “alignment mechanisms” that deal “with translating strategic choices . . . into administrative practices and operational decision-making” (p. 144). Semler (1997) identified strategy, structure, culture, leadership and HRD as important components for building alignment. According to him, three additional types of alignment were identified: structural alignment, cultural alignment, and environment alignment.

Structural alignment emphasizes the systematic design of structure to ensure the achievement of strategic goals (Swanson, 1994; Rummler & Brache, 1990). Of particular relevance to HRD professionals is the need for designing motivational structure of rewards and incentives that are in alignment with organizations’ strategic and tactical goals. Structural alignment differs from vertical and horizontal alignment in its narrow focus on design and structure of organizational roles, responsibilities. On the other hand, horizontal and vertical alignments also consider social and cultural norms and values.

Cultural alignment emphasizes alignment of planned tactical behaviors with cultural behavioral norms. This type of alignment is a strong predictor of actual individual performance. Finally, environmental alignment underscores the strategic fit of the organization (vision, goals and tactics) and external environment. This type of alignment refers to the removal of barriers, increase in cooperation and performance by HR departments for enhancing employee performance. Within the literature, structural alignment emphasizes organizational design and rewards structure, cultural alignment suggest the importance of attending to existing cultural norms, and environmental alignment highlights cooperation and removal of performance barriers between different departments.


Our review of the organizational alignment literature revealed several challenges, from conceptual or theoretical perspective as well as an applied perspective. We explore these challenges in an attempt to bring clarity to this conceptual domain of interest as well as to call for further research in this important area.

First, there is a significant lack of agreement on a discrete definition of alignment. Our review of select alignment literature revealed several descriptions (see, e.g. Avison, Jones, Powell & Wilson, 2004), which we categorized thematically into various types and perspectives. However, a single, unified understanding of alignment was absent. This is perhaps due to the contextual nature of organizational alignment construct. We contend that organizational alignment is embedded in and emergent from the context and unique operating environment with a multitude of constraints and contextual characteristics (e.g. specific industry, governmental regulation, employee culture, organizational mission, etc.). This results in unique ways in which organizational alignment can occur. This lack of agreement on a definition leads to a conceptual overlap between the various ways of understanding organizational alignment. Furthermore, it is difficult to measure to what extent alignments and misalignments surface, intensify or dissolve so that these manifestations can be managed effectively for the organization from a practical standpoint.

We compare the definitions of organizational alignment by juxtaposing the various perspectives of alignment with different types of alignment we identified. Table 1 identifies conceptual overlap that exists between the various perspectives and types of alignment. From the literature we examined, we thematically identified which perspective and type of organizational alignment that was most closely described by the author. For example, Gulledge and Sommer’s (2002) work seemed to address issues of process alignment with an emphasis on a vertical alignment type. While this list is not meant to be exhaustive, it points to the overlapping definitions of organizational alignment that exist and compete for managerial and organizational attention.

Table 1

Comparison of Organizational Alignment (OA) Perspectives and Types

Alignment Type



Vertical Horizontal Structural Cultural Environmental
Process Gulledge & Kanter, 1994 Weiser, 2000 Mezias, 1990
Sommer, Powell, 1991
Relational Mintzberg, Burns & Mintzberg, Lawrence
1973 Stalker, 1961 1989, 1991 &Lorsch, 1967



1973 1967


Miles & Snow,

1979 1978
Strategic Chenhall Hammer, Snow & Hall, 2002
(2005) 2001 Miles, 1983





1999 , Henderson Hayes, Hyang,
& Oldach, Lim, Nishii,
1993 Raver, Ziegert

Rummler &

Brache, 1990

Building on this difficulty of reconciling on a common definition or definitions of alignment, we point to an absence of a consistent and reliable way of measuring organizational alignment within an organization. Although measurement is present in the literature (see, e.g. Avison, Jones, Powell, & Wilson, 2004), it is difficult to generalize findings and compare across contexts. This poses a problem of an almost cyclical nature. Because it is difficult to measure organizational alignment empirically, it is difficult to arrive at consensus on definitional attributes. While these challenges are not insurmountable, they must nevertheless be taken into account when examining the organizational alignment construct. Of particular note, both scholars and practitioners should be aware of the specific context from which alignment is being studied or practiced. Again, while the measurement of organizational alignment may be difficult, it is not an unfruitful endeavor, and should be considered in the context of the organizations’ environment.

Theoretical Implications

Perhaps most notably, our review of the alignment literature revealed a lack of agreement on one particular definition of the construct posing serious problems for advancing theoretical propositions of alignment. As we have noted, this lack of definition stems from the idea that alignment in any given organization will be uniquely and singularly constructed. We however come to some terms about what organizational alignment is. We have highlighted several streams of organizational alignments literature that rests disparately across academic disciplines.

As such, we maintain there is a unique opportunity for theoretcial advancement around the construct of organizational alignment. While the construct of organizational alignment enjoys a robust history, the evolution and maturation the the theoretcial frame is only beginning application in organizational contexts. For example, while we name and highlight several perspectives and types, we actually know very little about the inner workings, influence, or interactions of the phenomonon in practice.

For example, theoretcially, we wonder how varying perspectives and types might look like together. If we use the contextual and specific definitonal positioning offered by each set of authors, we can then juxtapose their position graphically. See Figure 1.

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Figure 1. Theoretcial Juxtapostion of Organizational Alignment Perspectives and Types

Grounded in the literature and definitions reviewed, we propose that horizontal and vertical alignment make up those systems and processes that define the context of the organization while structural and cultural alignment define the organizational bounds of alignment. Moreover, environmental alignment works as a catalyst for the creation of alignment – either in the process of removing barriers or spurring activity that facilitates the performance of alignment in an organization. The nuanced model highlighted in Figure 1 contextualizes the theoretical overlap, convergence, and utility of unique perspectives under one frame of reference.

Practical Implications

From a practical perspective, alignment has received little attention. Again, this may be due to the difficulty in defining and measuring organizational alignment as a construct. Yet, organizational alignment indeed can have important consequences for organizations. As noted in the literature, organizations that understand and implement good alignment practices can see increased productivity and performance (Bergeron, Raymond, & Rivard, 2004). Therefore, it is imperative for managers and leaders to understand organizational alignment and their role in driving alignment. Ultimately, it is these individuals that facilitate alignment in the organization through various channels of implementation. According to Kathuria, Joshi and Porth (2007), alignment “requires a shared understanding of organizational goals and objectives by managers at various levels and within various units of the organizational hierarchy” (p. 504). In a sense, implementing an alignment plan involves not only the alignment of processes, structures, and systems, but also an ideological alignment among employees and leaders. Without a “shared understanding” of alignment within the organization, it is difficult to fully ensure that relevant and important organizational elements are truly aligned.

Additionally, different subsets of employees may find it beneficial to focus on different aspects of organizational alignment. We have outlined suggested foci for three different functional areas of organizational managers/leaders (executive leadership, operations, and human resources) in Table 2. To be sure, this is not an exhaustive list, but may nevertheless be useful for determining where certain emphases can be placed for maximal impact. Operational employees (those carrying out the “central” aspect of a given business) could have more influence over vertical and horizontal process alignment, for example, because of the proximity of these individuals to the work being carried out. Similarly, human resource professionals might have notable influence in alignment that pertains to issues of organizational culture because of their roles within the organization and their job tasks. Lastly, executive leadership should be particularly interested in the strategic execution of alignment, especially when this pertains to the interaction of the internal and external operating environment.

Table 2

Suggested Foci for Organizational Leaders

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Note: Red = executive leadership, blue = operations, green = human resources


Organizational alignment is a phenomenon shown to contribute to both organizational performance as well as employee and team performance. Alignment can be used to improve internal processes and reduce inefficiencies as well as link the organization more closely to its external operating environment (regulators, suppliers, and customers, e.g.). However, our examination of the organizational alignment literature has revealed that there is considerable difficulty in arriving at a single definition of alignment that remains useful across contexts as well as specific and bounded. This appears to be due to the unique organizational contexts within which alignment is enacted. This difficulty in defining alignment naturally leads to difficulty in measuring alignment and making useful conclusions based on empiricism. Nevertheless, the process of planning for and implementing alignment plans is beneficial to employee and organizational success.


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Meera Alagaraja, Kevin Rose, Brad Shuck, Matt Bergman

Current Issue

The Relationship between Leadership Styles and Job Satisfaction: A Case Study of Multicultural Educational Organizations in United Arab Emirates

United Arab Emirates is a recently developed country with and its education system has achieved a significant growth in last two decades. In last few years the number of schools, colleges and universities has increased rapidly showing massive development in education system.

Like almost all other organizations, educational organization owes its existence to four universally recognized elements-Man, Money, Method and Material. Out of these, the single most important element is man or educational leader, who operates the other three elements in such a way that the educational organization could achieve its goal. Educational leadership is a new concept that is receiving a lot of attention as evidenced by schools, colleges, universities, nongovernment organizations as well as government education departments investing huge resources in leadership development programs. In educational organization, a strong educational leader or principal is a necessity because they play a potential role in effectiveness of a school. Result of many research (Fowler, 1991; Hall, 1994) have indicated that school effectiveness is closely related to the job satisfaction of teachers as Bogler (2001) pointed out that the success of the educational system and organization are highly dependent on the way teachers feel about their work and how satisfied they are with their job. Thus effective leadership and teacher’s job satisfaction are two factors that are regarded as fundamentals for educational organizations success. Many researchers (Loke & Crawford, 2001; Red & Yarmohammadian, 2006) in their studies found that leadership style has significant impact on the job satisfaction of employees.

According to Lipham (1981) principal’s leadership styles influence teacher’s job satisfaction which was further supported by Ingram (1997) who found that principals who were perceived to exhibit high transformational behavior had greater positive effects on teacher’s motivation to exert extra effort than principals who were perceived to exhibit high transactional leadership. Transformational leaders improve the cognitive or affective state of followers and thus increase their job satisfaction (Martin & Epitropaki, 2001) and high job satisfaction enhances employee’s psychological and physical well being and positively affects their performance. Meson (1998) in his research demonstrated that perceived leadership style predicted job satisfaction of teachers in educational settings. Researcher Kerry Webb (2003) found transformational leadership of administrators as significant predictors of lecturer’s job satisfaction in his research in educational setting in USA. Chen et al (2004) in their studies of higher education in Taiwan also found that transformational leadership was significant predictor of lecturers’ job satisfaction in university and an organization that fosters high employee’s job satisfaction is more capable of retaining and attracting employees with the skills it needs (Red & Yarmohammadian, 2006).

Principal leadership style is an essential element in the success of a school and according to Goleman (1996) the principal’s ability to understand, identify and empathize with educator’s emotions and then react appropriately are integral factors which could help foster a feeling of job satisfaction among teachers. Thus effective leadership and teacher’s job satisfaction are two factors that are regarded as fundamentals for educational organizations success.

This study aimed at exploring the relationship between perceived leadership style of principals and the job satisfaction of teachers working multicultural educational organizations in UAE.

Education system in UAE:

The education system of UAE is relatively new. According to Ministry of Education, systematic modern education started in UAE with Al Qassemia School in Sharjah in 1953/54, but a formal education system was launched in 1971 with the establishment of Federal Ministry of Education and Youth which was in charge of all education related issues. In 1975, the rate of adult literacy was 54.2 % among men and 30.3 % among women and in 1998 the male literacy rate increased to 73.4% and female literacy rate to 77.1%. Public education is free for citizens up to university level in UAE and government provide scholarships to a large number of students to go abroad for higher studies.

According to Abu Dhabi Education Council (ADEC), there are 296 public schools and 180 private schools offering range of curriculum including International Baccalaureate (IB), UAE Ministry of Education, British, American, French, Indian, Filipino etc.

From data provided by Knowledge & Human Development Authority (KHDA), Government of Dubai, 2012-2013, there are 153 private schools in Dubai in which 225,099 students of 177 nationalities are studying in different curriculum schools. There are 14,333 teachers in private schools in which 80% are female and 20% are male. In UAE the public schools use Arabic as the medium of instruction whereas the medium of instruction in private schools is English.

According to Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research (MOHESR), there are 73 institution of higher education in UAE, which are given license by commission for Academic Accreditation (CAA) and there are 561 accredited programs running in these institutions of higher studies.

According to KHDA report (2010) there are 52 institutions in Dubai that offer higher education programs. Generally all types of training providers are situated in Dubai Knowledge Village and all higher education providers are present in Dubai International Academic City.

The majority of teaching faculties working in private educational organization are of foreign nationals like Americans, British, Indians, Australians, French, Sri Lankans, Pakistanis, and Filipino etc and hence the working environment is multicultural, as the faculties are of different nationalities and of different culture. Since employees come here to work on temporary basis, based on their visa and work permit, hence their job satisfaction is very important for the organizations otherwise these teachers can move to another country for more comfort, facilities and satisfaction. High level of employees’ job satisfaction has been highly associated with more work performance and less employee turnover and absenteeism. All educational organizations are focused to maintain a highly qualified and productive workforce so that standard of teaching can be of international level. Job satisfaction, as suggested by Locke and Crawford (1999) is the most determining factor that encourages the highest level of organizational commitment. There is clear evidence that employees with high level of job satisfaction are less likely to leave the organization and dissatisfied workers are more likely to resign (Hanson & Miller, 2002). This study is designed to determine if there is a significant relationship between the perceived leadership styles of principals and job satisfaction of teachers working in multicultural educational organizations in U.A.E.

Transformational and Transactional Leadership Styles

Koontz and Weihrich (2004) have defined leadership as the art or process of influencing people so that they will strive willingly and enthusiastically towards the achievement of group goals. Leadership is the ability to persuade others to seek defined objectives enthusiastically. In educational organization, a strong educational leader or principal is a necessity because they play a potential role in effectiveness of a school.

The transformational leaders interact with followers in such a way as to stimulate their thinking, to inspire their performance and to perform beyond expectations. “Transformational leadership is a process of influencing in which leaders change their associates awareness of what is important, and move them to see themselves and the opportunities and challenges of their environment in a new way” (Avolio & Bass, 2004). According to Bass (1997), transformational leaders show following characteristics:

1. Idealized Influence Attributed: The leader has the followers respect, faith and trust. Followers emulate his behavior, assume his values and are committed to achieving his vision and making sacrifices in this regard.

2. Idealized Influence Behavior: The leader shared a vision and a sense of mission with the followers. Radicals, innovative solutions to critical problems are proposed for handling follower’s problems.

3. Inspirational Motivation: The leader increases the optimism and enthusiasm of followers.

4. Intellectual Stimulation: They promote intelligence, rationality, and careful problem solving.

5. Individualized Consideration: They give personal attention, treat each employee individually, coach, advice and mentor the followers.

Transactional leaders focus their energies on task completion and compliance and rely on organizational rewards and punishments to influence employee performance, with reward being contingent on the followers for carrying out the roles and assignments as defined by the leader (Bass & Avolio, 2004). According to Bass, transactional leaders show following characteristics:

1. Contingent Reward: In this style of leadership, the leader provides appropriate rewards when followers meet agreed upon objectives.

2. Active Management by Exception: Leader actively watches for deviations from rules and standards and then takes corrective actions.

3. Passive Management by Exception: Passive management of exception implies waiting passively for deviance, mistakes and errors to occur and then taking corrective action.

4. Laissez-Faire Leadership: It is the avoidance of leadership and is the most ineffective form of leadership style. The leader abdicates responsibilities, avoids making decisions.

Job Satisfaction

According to Rocca and Kostanski (2001), job satisfaction is the degree to which people like their jobs. It is a general attitude towards the job, the difference between the amount of rewards employee receive and the amount they believe they should receive. It was found that supervisor’s display of nonverbal immediacy, mutual respect, trust, and consideration of staff member’s feelings is highly related to the job satisfaction of the staff (Richmond & McCroskey, 2000; Medlock, 2006). According to Wright and Terrian (1987) employee’s job satisfaction with work is a multifaceted construct which include following factors-

Intrinsic factors: Those factors which occur at the time of performance of the work, so there is direct satisfaction to perform the work like classroom activities, daily interactions with students, student’s characteristics and perceptions of teacher control over the classroom environment.

Extrinsic factors: Those factors which occur after work or away from work, providing no direct satisfaction at the time the work is performed like retirement plans, health insurance and vacations, Co-workers interpersonal relationship, availability of resources, perceived support from administrators, supervision, role clarity, organization structure, salary, policy etc.

In case of UAE, annual teacher turnover is significant as approximately 16 % of the teachers that were teaching in a private school last year were not teaching at the school the following year.

23.4% of all teachers were new to their school in 2012-13 and half of these new teachers were recruited from other countries. Many studies (Locke and Crawford, 1999) have shown that dissatisfaction in job causes absenteeism, high turnover, lesser productivity causing low standard of teaching in educational organizations. UAE where local literacy percentage is low, they drastically need high quality of teaching faculties so that their younger generation is better equipped with knowledge and be able to lead their country. The study of perceived leadership styles of principals and how they relate to the job satisfaction of these teachers working in these multicultural educational organizations in UAE can provide principals valuable information about how teaching faculties perceive their leadership behavior and what are the faculties’ expectations about the job and working environment. Based on this research, principals may be able to diagnose the needs of their school or college environment and adjust their leadership style to meet those needs.

This study was directed to investigate and to get a better understanding of the relationship between perceived leadership styles of principals and job satisfaction of teachers working in multicultural educational context of UAE. If there is a correlation between the particular perceived leadership styles of principals and job satisfaction of these teachers, then educational organizations can use this quantitative data to enhance job satisfaction among teachers using that particular leadership style. This research will also help educational policy makers and administrators to prepare leaders and provide particular leadership style training to the principals to become more effective leaders.

This study is guided by the following research questions:

1. To what extent does the perceived transformational leadership style of principals relate to the job satisfaction level of the teaching faculties?

2. To what extent does the perceived transactional leadership style of principals relate to the job satisfaction level of educators in working in UAE?

3. What is the predictive relationship of perceived leadership styles (transformational and transactional) of principals on the job satisfaction of teaching faculties working in multicultural educational organizations in UAE?



The nature of this study is quantitative and a non experimental, descriptive research design is used to investigate the relationship between the perceived leadership styles of principals and job satisfaction of the teaching faculties working in educational organizations in UAE.


This study was carried out in fifteen private schools, educational institutes and universities situated in different emirates-Dubai, Sharjah, Abu Dhabi and Ras Al Khaimah of UAE. A total of 300 expatriate teachers and lecturer took part in this survey. The sample consisted of 11.7 % male teachers and 88.3 % female teachers. As for as academic qualification was concerned, majority of teachers were postgraduate (46.3%), followed by graduates (45.3%). Only 5.3 % teaching faculties had doctorate degree and 3% teachers had senior secondary or A-level of education.


Three instruments were used to assess leadership styles of principals and job satisfaction of teachers and their personal information.

Personal Information

Respondents were requested to give information about their gender, age, academic qualification, professional qualification, years of teaching experience and grade in which they were teaching, for which a separate demographic questionnaire by researcher was provided.

Leadership Styles

The independent variable- perceived transformational and transactional leadership styles of principals were measured by using the Multifactor Leadership Questionnaire (MLQ 5X short form) developed by Bruce Avolio and Bernard Bass (2004). It consisted of 45 items with responses ranging from not at all (0) to always (4) on a five point scale. Since Bass and Avolio (1995) ‘Nine Factor Model’ distinguished five subscales for transformational leadership and four subscales for the transactional leadership style so only thirty six items were used for the assessment. In the present study the reliability coefficients were as follow- Idealized Influence Behavior-0.64, Idealized Influence Attributed-0.66, Inspirational motivation-0.71, Intellectual Stimulation-0.66, Individualized Consideration-0.62, Contingent Reward-0.65, Active management by exception-0.57, Passive management by exception-0.58 and Laissez faire-0.61.

Job Satisfaction

Job satisfaction of teaching faculties working in different educational organizations in UAE was evaluated by using Mohrman-Cooke-Mohrman Job Satisfaction Scale (MCMJSS) by Mohrman, Cooke, Mohrman & Zaltman, 1977. It was designed to measure self-perception of job satisfaction using 8-items scale which is divided into two sections. Each section contains four questions and measures self perceived intrinsic, extrinsic and overall satisfaction. The instrument is self-administered and uses a six-point Likert-type scale. Reliability coefficient for the intrinsic job satisfaction scale was .89 and reliability coefficient for the extrinsic job satisfaction scale was .88, which were almost identical in magnitude to those reported for educator respondents by Mohrman et al (1977).


The research instruments were administered on teachers and lecturers using the drop-off and pick-up method. A total of 397 questionnaires were distributed in all schools, colleges and institutes out of which, only 307 questionnaires were returned with the return rate of 77% but only 300 questionnaires were used for the analysis because seven questionnaires were incomplete.

Data analysis

The data collected were analyzed by using the Statistical Package for Social Science (SPSS). Descriptive statistics, Pearson correlational analysis and Multiple regression analysis procedure was administered to determine the relationship between leadership styles of principals and teachers’ job satisfaction.


The mean and standard deviations of leadership styles of the leaders were calculated on the Multifactor Leadership Questionnaire and were presented in table 1.

Table 1.

Mean, SD of perceived leadership styles of principals on Multifactor Leadership Questionnaire and total number of teaching faculties

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The mean score for transformational behaviors was highest 3.09, for inspirational motivation and lowest score was 2.75 for intellectual stimulation and individualized consideration. The mean score for transactional behaviors was highest, 2.87 for contingent reward and the lowest score 0.90 for laissez faire. In MLQ analysis, teaching faculties perceived the leadership style of their leaders as mostly transformational based on the total mean transformational leadership behavior score of 57.76 whereas total mean transactional leadership behavior score was 30.83. Table 2 showed the mean and standard deviation of different variables of job satisfaction.

Table 2.

Mean, SD and No. of teaching faculties in the Job Satisfaction Questionnaire

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The mean intrinsic job satisfaction was 4.33 while the mean extrinsic job satisfaction of the respondent was 4.43. The total mean score for overall job satisfaction for teachers was high (35.03), with standard deviation of 9.74. On further analysis, it was found that the extrinsic job satisfaction mean (M= 4.43) was higher than the intrinsic job satisfaction mean (M = 4.33), which indicated that teaching faculties were more satisfied with the extrinsic factors of job satisfaction like amount of respect receiving from their superiors, perceived support from administration, participating in determination of methods, procedure and goals. They were less satisfied with intrinsic factors such as working- environment, daily interactions with students, student’s characteristics, feeling of self esteem, opportunity for personal growth, feeling of worthwhile accomplishment etc.

Pearson Correlational Analysis:

The research questions were analyzed by performing Pearson’s correlations for each leadership style (transformational and transactional) and two subscales of job satisfaction (extrinsic and intrinsic) as shown below in Table 3 and Table 4.

Table 3.

Pearson Coefficients of Transformational Leadership style factors of Principals and Job satisfaction of Teachers

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** p < .01

The result of the analysis obtained showed that the correlation between both extrinsic and intrinsic job satisfaction factors with four leadership factors of the transformational leadership style were moderate and statistically significant. All these correlations were positive and individualized consideration factor had maximum correlation coefficient value with both intrinsic and extrinsic job satisfaction.

Table 4.

Pearson Coefficient of Transactional Leadership Style factors of Principals and Job Satisfaction of Teachers/Lecturers

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** p ‹ .01

It was clear from the above table that out of four transactional leadership factors, the correlation between contingent reward factor with both extrinsic and intrinsic job satisfaction factors were moderate, positive and significant. The active management by exception was weakly, positively and significantly correlated to both intrinsic and extrinsic job satisfaction factors, but the correlation between passive management by exception with job satisfaction was non significant. As expected, correlation between laissez faire factor and extrinsic job satisfaction level of teachers was weak, significant but negative but laissez faire was not correlated significantly to the intrinsic job satisfaction factor.

Multiple Regression Analysis

The predictive relationship between the perceived leadership styles of principle and job satisfaction of expatriate teachers was further analyzed by employing multiple regression analysis where transformational and transactional leadership styles as a whole were taken as independent variables and job satisfaction of teachers as dependent variable. Result of regression analysis was shown in the Table 5 and Table 6.

Table 5.

Regression Analysis of Perceived Total Transformational Leadership Style of Principals on the Job Satisfaction of Teachers/Lecturers

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* p < .05

Table 6.

Regression Analysis of Perceived Total Transactional Leadership Style of Principals on the Job Satisfaction of Teachers/Lecturers

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* p < .05

It was found that perceived transformational leadership style subscales accounted for 20 % of the variance in job satisfaction of the teachers and perceived transactional leadership style explained the 5 % of variance in teacher’s job satisfaction.

When individual leadership subscales or factors of both transactional and transformational leadership styles were taken as independent variables and job satisfaction of teachers was taken as dependent variable in multiple regression analysis, following result was obtained as shown in Table 7.

Table 7.

Regression Analysis of Perceived Transformational and Transactional Leadership Styles of Principals on the Job Satisfaction of Teachers/ Lecturers

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* Significance level p < .05

These figures indicated that 28 % of the variance of job satisfaction of teachers was jointly explained by both transformational and transactional leadership style factors of principals. Of the five subscales of transformational leadership style, idealized influence attributed and individualized consideration subscales were significant predictors of the job satisfaction of teachers and lecturers of different multicultural educational organizations in UAE.

The regression model on all the nine dimensions of transformation leadership and transactional leadership was significant as p‹0.05, at F = 12.622. However, this study found a strange result that one of the transformational leadership factors – idealized influence attributed was negatively significant which contradicted the most of the studies in the world. Another transformational leadership factor individualized consideration was positively significant and its magnitude of contribution was highest.


Results of this study clearly indicated that transformational leadership has stronger impact on the job satisfaction of teachers than transactional leadership style. Many research studies supported the theory that the group of transformational leadership factors had stronger positive influence on the job satisfaction than the group of transactional leadership factors (Judge & Piccolo, 2004; A Fatima, 2010). Pearson’s corelational analysis result showed that all five transformational leadership factors were positively and significantly correlated with intrinsic and extrinsic job satisfaction. James Griffith (2004) in his study also found that in educational organizations, principal’s transformational leadership style was directly related to job satisfaction of teachers. Principal’s perceived transformational leadership style affected teacher’s job satisfaction both directly and indirectly as teachers felt highly satisfied when leader provided them opportunities for self development, gave them the feeling of success and allowed them to participate in determining school activities. Principals with transformational leadership skills created environments in which teachers get more involved in creating and enhancing school vision. Thus finding of this result was consistent with the result of other researches (Ozaralli, 2003; Chen et al, 2004).

The findings of this study that only two transactional leadership factors-contingent rewards and active management by exception has moderate to weak effect on the job satisfaction of teachers, support result of previous study (S.Nguni, 2005). Further analysis showed that correlation between laissez faire factor with extrinsic job satisfaction factor was weak, significant and negative. Thus teachers were not satisfied under laissez faire leadership and their perception of job satisfaction is negatively influenced by their principal’s laissez faire leadership style behavior. They do not like to be led by a principal who avoids decision making and is absent when important issues arise. Thus even in multicultural educational organizations, this result was similar to the finding of Judge and Piccolo (2004) and (F. Hamidifar, 2009) that laissez faire leadership style was negatively correlated to the job satisfaction of the teachers.

The results from multiple regression analysis of this study indicated that the transformational leadership accounted for 20 % of the variance for predicting job satisfaction and transactional model accounted for 5 % of the variance for predicting job satisfaction and both together accounted for the 28% of variation in the teacher’s job satisfaction. S. Nguni (2005) in his study in Tanjanian schools found the similar result. This indicates that when teachers perceive their principals as a leader which provide a vision and a sense of mission, inspire pride, stimulates them intellectually and help them to perform well to accomplish the organization goals, teachers are more likely to experience the higher level of job satisfaction.

With regard to the influence of the individual transformational and transactional leadership factors, it was found that two transformational factors – idealized influence attributed and individualized consideration had significant predictive relationship with the job satisfaction of teachers. However they differ in the magnitude and direction of the influence on the outcome variable. The individualized consideration had highest positive influence on the job satisfaction of teachers. According to Yukl (1999) individualized consideration is further subdivided into two sub dimensions:

A. Supportive leadership -.Supportive leader provides emotional, informational, instrumental and appraisal support to followers. According to Yukl (1999) and Judge, Piccalo & Ilies, (2004) supportive leaderships enhances job satisfaction because socio – emotional support increases positive affect and enjoyment at the work place and communicates to followers that they are accepted and liked.

B. Developmental leadership – Leader acts as coach and mentor thus, he enhances follower’s skills and self efficacy and has transformational effect. Higgins and Thomas (2001) found that career oriented assistance and psychological support were positively related to job satisfaction. Since both sub dimensions of individualized consideration leadership factor influence job satisfaction factor, we can conclude that individualized consideration has major positive impact on job satisfaction level of teachers and show strong significant predictive relationship with job satisfaction. A. M. Barnett (2003) in his research indicated that individualized consideration factor of transformational leadership had a significant impact on teacher’s perception of job satisfaction. Thus even in multicultural environment, teacher’s perception of job satisfaction with leadership is more likely to be manifested when the leaders show individualized care and concern for their teachers.

The most surprising finding of this study was that idealized influence attributes behaviors of principals were indicated as significant but negative predictor of teacher’s job satisfaction. This is a strange result as it is contrary to the findings reported in other previous studies (Bogler, 2001; Stumpf, 2003; Chen et al (2004) where it was found that idealized influence was positively related to the job satisfaction of the followers. This negative relationship could however be attributed to the overambitious nature of the leader and his very strong domineering personality. Idealized influence attributed refers to the personality of the leader where he is perceived as confident and powerful (Antonakis et al, 2003). Johnson (1967) & Wright (1991) suggested that the personality of the principal seemed to control the attitude of teachers and that the organizational climate of schools contributed to teacher satisfaction – dissatisfaction.). Since teaching faculties were indirectly forced to accomplish the goals, they might have to work hard and might feel over pressurized. His influence over teachers might be so strong that they feel dominated by him and were forced to achieve the goal of the organization. All these educational organizations are private and principals have been given lots of controlling power over teachers. Teachers might feel scared and had less communication due to his domineering personality and they tended to focus on the negative feedback and this caused inverse effect of idealized attributes of leaders on the teacher’s job satisfaction.

The research findings of Law (2004) showed a strong relationship between principal’s communication style and job satisfaction of teachers. Since teachers working in UAE were of different nationalities and had come from different cultural background, so there might be cultural barriers between principal and teachers and they did not trust their leader completely. There might be communication barrier due to which principal was not able to communicate the organizations goal, mission and vision clearly and hence this misunderstanding created feeling of interference and had caused resentment among teachers. Thus idealized influence attributes of leader might have impacted negatively on their job satisfaction.

Thus the findings of this research were partly consistent with prior research conducted by researchers Kerry Webb (2003) and Meson (1998) who found that attributed charisma and individual consideration were significant positive predictors of follower’s job satisfaction in their research in educational setting in USA. But this study clearly indicated that in multicultural educational organizations, idealized influence attributed leadership style of principals caused negative impact on the job satisfaction of the teachers and showed negative predictive relationship with teachers’ job satisfaction.

Conclusion and Recommendation

Findings of this study indicated that in multicultural educational organizations in the UAE, the perceived transformational leadership style of principals showed more influence over teachers’ job satisfaction than transactional leadership style. The individualized consideration factor of transformational leadership style of principal had strongest positive influence over teachers’ job satisfaction level and showed positive significant predictive relationship with job satisfaction. This implied that teaching faculties working in multicultural educational organizations in UAE liked principal who recognizes teacher as an individual, considers their unique needs, abilities and ambitions, listens attentively, furthers teacher’s developments, advises, teaches and coaches rather than treating all teachers as though they have the same needs and ambitions. The strange feature of result of this study was that idealized influence attributes of principals had negative significant predictive relationship with teachers’ job satisfaction which contradicted with the result of most studies. It indicated that teaching faculty in UAE did not like principals with idealized influence attribute.

For educational leaders in UAE to succeed in today’s fast changing environment, it is recommended that they adopt a transformational leadership style to enhance the job satisfaction of teaching faculties and ultimately their efficiency and job performance. The influence of individualized consideration leadership is maximum on the teachers’ job satisfaction and idealized influence attributed leadership style should be avoided. Teacher’s job satisfaction can be further improved by providing specific leadership style training to principals. This will strengthen the relationship between principals and their teachers, keep qualified teachers satisfied, retain good teachers in the profession and improve working environment in educational organizations in UAE so that teachers can achieve educational objective in successful manner.


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Namrata Verma

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