The National Academy for Academic Leadership
Leadership that Transforms Learning

Leadership & Institutional Change

Defining Change

Dictionaries provide us with over thirty definitions of the word change including to transform, to make different in form, and to replace or substitute. As an academic leader you are called on to not only be a leader of change but to be sensitive the many reasons why change in programs or procedures are not only needed but becoming more urgent. Change, both within and outside the academy has become a way of life, a constant condition for those of us working in higher education. Recognizing that successful leadership requires a wide range of knowledge and skills, the academic leaders and scholars who developed the National Academy identified the specific knowledge and skills required by those in leadership positions. Their efforts led to the range of resources that are being provided and programs that are being offered.

While calls for research based higher education reform and innovation have been with us for years, only recently have a number of forces, both inside of and external to the academy, combined to increase the urgency for action.

First- and Second-Order Change

The characteristics of first- and second-order change


Reasons to Change

After brainstorming on potential barriers to change, the forty educators designing The National Academy's workshop on Leading Institutional Change: A National Workshop for College and University Teams (January 2000) considered the factors that would facilitate the achieving of significant and sustainable change. Here is their list of success factors, in the order in which they were proposed, with some factors applicable to the institution as a whole, some to the change initiative's leadership group, and most to both:

The resources of The National Academy for Academic Leadership can help you build upon those factors for successful change that are securely in place on your campus, strengthen those that you identify as underdeveloped, and develop those that would contribute to the success of your change initiative.

The Urgency for Change: Recommended Readings

Requisites for Change

The following questions are designed to help you and your colleagues determine how ready your college or university is for accomplishing substantive academic change. Everyone involved – whether the president, vice presidents, deans, chairs, key faculty members, or board members – should consider these questions about your institution from the perspective of his or her particular role and with the different levels of specificity that role requires.

  1. Does your institution have an effective mission statement, one that is consistent with its institutional values, guides work throughout the institution, and addresses the needs of a changing society?
  2. Are there gaps between the mission statement, institutional practices, and the needs of the publics you serve?
  3. Are decision makers knowledgeable about research on teaching, learning, and student development?
  4. Does the institution consistently encourage and support the use of best practices in curriculum development, instructional design, and academic advising?
  5. Is the institution committed to the systematic and continuous collection of data about its stakeholders and units, about academic processes and outcomes and does it use these data to improve programs?
  6. Does the institution encourage and support the appropriate use of technology to achieve learning goals?
  7. Are the institution's decision makers able to use their interpersonal skills effectively in interactions with other?
  8. Are decision makers committed to supporting both formal and informal leadership and to the critical role each plays in effecting change?
  9. Do decision makers have the support and collaborative leadership of key members of the administration, faculty, and staff?
  10. Do administrators, staff and faculty members have appropriate and ongoing opportunities for professional development?
  11. Is the institution's financial and academic planning integrated to achieve the educational mission?
  12. Does the institution's reward system for faculty, staff, and academic units enable achievement of the educational mission and priorities?
  13. Does the institution have an effective, shared governance system consistent with its mission and culture?
The National Academy for Academic Leadership has been established to help key campus decision-makers become effective leaders able to work collaboratively toward meaningful institutional change. Participants in our programs will learn more about themselves and their institutions, about the complexities of change, and about issues at the heart of contemporary higher education. They will gain the knowledge and develop the skills necessary to being effective agents for change in times more and more often described as "permanent whitewater."

More on Barriers to Change

Leading educators from across the country, convened to design The National Academy's January 2000 workshop Leading Institutional Change: A National Workshop for College and University Teams, brainstormed on the subject of barriers to change. Here is the resulting list of potential barriers, in the order in which they were proposed and, because no particular institution or change initiative was at issue, in general terms:

The National Academy offers resources that provide key campus decision-makers with the knowledge and skills they need to be leaders for sustained, integrated institutional change that significantly improves student learning.