University of Leicester
2022O'DonoghueBPhD.pdf (2.21 MB)

Followers’ Dilemmas and Leadership Challenges; a Study of Academic Middle Managers in Higher Education in Malaysia

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posted on 2023-01-06, 11:45 authored by Brian T. O’Donoghue

This thesis investigates the challenges faced by academic middle managers in Malaysia. It took an etic but emically influenced approach drawing on 22 semi-structured interviews. Literature on academic middle management does not typically take a followership perspective. In addition, calls have been made for Followership work to be conducted in Asia. This work takes up these challenges and addresses the following research question:

“How do academic middle managers in Business Schools and Business Faculties in Malaysia, in their dual roles as both followers and leaders, deal with the challenges, conflicts, contradictions and dilemmas that they experience?”

The main findings consist of: A) identifying a range of ‘Academic Middle Manager Strategies’ which enhance our understanding of how academic middle managers in Malaysia navigate their positions in the middle. The implementation of these strategies was dialectical and nuanced. B) Differing perspectives between junior academic middle managers and Deans; junior managers showed less sense of power and agency, while Deans express a greater degree of agency. C) Participants’ social constructions of followership suggested nuanced followership which was highly influenced by the concept of ‘Face’.

This work makes three contributions to the literature firstly, ‘Academic Middle Manager Strategies’ broaden the range of strategies beyond those in the existing academic middle management literature, and add to our understanding of the dialectical nature of compliance and resistance in higher education in Malaysia. Secondly, the differing perspectives of junior academic middle managers and Deans contribute to the academic middle management literature by enhancing our understanding of the differing pressures they face. Thirdly, the development of expanded categorisations of social constructions of followership contribute to our understanding of the nuanced nature of followership in higher education in Malaysia.



Sarah Robinson; Mark Stein

Date of award


Author affiliation

School of Management

Awarding institution

University of Leicester

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

Qualification name

  • PhD



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