Exploring the role of coaching in academic leadership development at Stellenbosch University (SU)
Thesis (MPhil)--Stellenbosch University, 2017.
ENGLISH SUMMARY : Academic leadership has been the topic of investigation for many years with focus mainly on defining the role and identifying competencies associated with the role. Such research also revealed many challenges and stressors that academic leaders have to content with either during transition into the leadership role and as incumbents. Consequently, interventions such as mentorships and coaching are becoming popular offerings in academic leadership development as Human Resources managers try to identity and implement support structures for academic leaders. While mentorship has been widely used in higher education institutions in South Africa, coaching and leadership coaching in particular is only emerging as a support structure for academic leaders. Globally there is limited literature on the contribution of coaching on academic leadership development. Consequently, the aim of this research assignment was to investigate the potential contribution of coaching towards enhancing academic leadership competencies. The intention with this study was to provide baseline information with regard to academic leader support needs at Stellenbosch University, the accessibility of coaching to academic leaders and the benefits derived from coaching. The research was undertaken with academic leaders at the level of departmental head and one human resources manager at Stellenbosch University. Semi-structured interviews were employed to collect the research data from six participants (four that had never received coaching and two that had been coached). Amongst the two that had received coaching, one participant was an academic leader and the other participant was an HR manager. The key findings of this research assignment revealed that academic leaders experienced a myriad of challenges upon taking the role of academic leadership mainly associated with managing relationships, balancing the academic leadership role and remaining an active and productive faculty member. The dominant issues mainly evolved around managing difficult personalities, inspiring faculty, as well as managing tensions resulting differences of leadership styles between HODs and senior management. The findings revealed that the academic leaders generally felt inadequately prepared to deal with relationship management. Furthermore, academic leaders that had never been coached expressed unfamiliarity with coaching and its benefits, but imagined that it would be a useful and relevant intervention that needed to be introduced in an appropriate manner. Indeed, the findings derived from the coached participants in this research assignment suggest that this intervention enhanced the leaders’ assertiveness, ability to delegate and time management, and provided a safe and confidential space for reflection. However, these findings were limited by the fact that only one coached academic leader participated in this study, therefore making it difficult to draw any generalisation about the role of coaching in academic leadership development. Nevertheless, the findings do position coaching as an intervention that could bridge the gap in the enhancement of academic leadership role competencies. The current research assignment found that there were disparities in the types and level of support that is afforded to academic leaders across SU campuses. In addition, it was evident that existing support structures do not address the pressing and pertinent challenges that incumbent academic leaders face. This information might be useful for SU HR practitioners as it can stimulate conversations on commissioning a broader study to gain better understanding of the needs of academic leaders and to better calibrate leadership development programmes across campuses.
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