How Teams Lead Change: A Comparative Case Study Analysis of Senior Leadership Teams

Jon Sampson

For ease of access, this is the book-formatted version of my dissertation. Are there more accessible ways to get this content? Absolutely. But if you're looking for a dissertation-style presentation of this research, you've come to the right place.

Here's the official abstract:

Higher education has experienced a number of internal and external calls for change, and the challenges facing college and university campuses— from rising costs to questions about educational quality—continue to multiply (Kezar, 2009; Selingo, 2013; Zemsky, 2013). Within this context, the premise of adaptive leadership suggests that some problems can only be solved by abandoning old ways of thinking and embracing new, untested paths forward (Heifetz, Linsky, & Grashow, 2009). The complexity of both the challenges and solutions facing colleges and universities likely exceeds any one leader’s ability to navigate (Cutright, 2001). Studies have found that senior leadership teams have more significant impact on organizational outcomes than the senior leader alone (Bensimon & Neumann, 1994; Hambrick, 1994; Wageman, Nunes, Burruss, & Hackman, 2008).

Through an exploratory comparative case study design, this study sought to better understand how university senior leadership teams interact and organize as they lead change within a complex and adaptive context. The research question that guided this work was: What are the perspectives and practices of an executive-level team that leads adaptive change on a university campus? Research was conducted on 2 university campuses that had experienced multiple years of enrollment growth. Data was gathered during 2 visits to each campus that included meeting observations and interviews with every member of the senior leadership team.

This study adds to the understanding of how a senior leadership team might contribute to an adaptive culture and expands the understanding of real, rather than illusory, teams within higher education. The findings suggest that the teams on both campuses demonstrated intentional team structures and culture, created and maintained habits of listening to one another and voices outside of the team, and prioritized execution and implementation as central team tasks. Recommendations for practice include appointing an operationally focused leader for one’s team and hiring leaders for team skills, implementation skills, and openness to innovative ideas.

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2.07 MB
276 pages
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