University of Leicester
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Leadership in Higher Education: The Hong Kong Experience

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posted on 2010-07-29, 10:15 authored by Pak Wan Li
This study investigates the perceptions of a cohort of leaders of the higher education institutions in Hong Kong on the leadership styles and competencies that have enabled them to lead effectively, and also their perceptions of the influence of culture, authority/power and gender on their effectiveness as leaders of higher education in Hong Kong. The main source of research data is from a series of in-depth individual face-to-face interviews with the 14 respondents, eight males and six females, who consented to participate in the research. The research indicates that the respondents assessed the competencies of effective leadership from two perspectives: endorsing the traditional view of gender-stereotyping of leadership skills, attributes and characteristics on the one hand when considering the impact of gender, and on the other hand, displaying a mix of gender-stereotyped but perceivably effective competencies in themselves in their recollections of their experiences as higher education leaders in Hong Kong. The great majority felt that gender had no direct impact on their leadership. The findings identify a profile of perceived effective competencies of higher education leadership in Hong Kong, embracing a repertoire of male and female stereotyped skills, attributes, and characteristics, and confirm the concept of androgynous leader. The research finds that the preferred leadership of this cohort of higher education leaders was collegial, consultative and collaborative, featuring the transformational and distributed approaches to educational leadership. The associated competencies that had enabled most of them to lead effectively included the ability to inspire a shared vision, to lead and manage change, to motivate, stimulate and empower people; interpersonal skills; the focus on team-building and teamwork; and the capacity for staff and personal development. Given that these are mostly female stereotyped skills, abilities and characteristics, the potential of women becoming more efficient and effective leaders and the prospect of increased access by women to higher education leadership positions in Hong Kong are suggested. However, as leaders of higher education worldwide are increasingly compelled to cope with the rapid and unprecedented changes in the sector, the conventional collegial, consultative and collaborative styles of leadership and management are no longer felt to be appropriate to cope with these changes and challenges. It follows that there is an imperative need for higher education leaders to exhibit a wider range of competencies, such as business and entrepreneurial skills featuring a transactional approach to educational leadership. The concept of a contemporary effective higher education leader emerging from the analysis of the data collected for this study therefore demonstrates a mix of the transformational, distributed and transactional leadership approaches, the conventional collegial versus the new managerial styles, as well as male and female stereotyped competencies. The findings of the study also reveal the perceived influence/impact of culture, authority/power and gender on the effectiveness of the respondents as leaders of higher education in Hong Kong.



Sutton, Alan

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University of Leicester

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

Qualification name

  • EdD



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