Transformational Leadership Characteristics of Distance Education Directors at Intermountain West Universities

Higher Education    Managers/Executives/Administrators

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TITLE Transformational Leadership Characteristics of Distance Education Directors at Intermountain West Universities
RESEARCHER Ryan J. Faulkner
Department of Education Leadership
Idaho State University
Unpublished doctoral dissertation: Summer 2015

The purpose of this study was to determine the transformational leadership strategies used by distance education leaders in several Intermountain West universities that specialize in multiple forms of distance education.

The study investigated the education leaders at 19 public four-year universities in nine Intermountain West States, which used online and video-conference tools for distance learning. Universities were selected based upon location and use of distance learning. They are all in rural areas, have similar population densities, and experience issues of poor Internet access. The two types of participants in the study were distance education technology directors of the university programs (n = 17) and the videoconference and online managers (n = 20), with a 76 percent response rate. Respondents completed the LPI (self) and participated in a semi-structured interview. About half of the directors were males, with 93 percent holding masters or doctoral degrees, 40 percent had 6-10 years of time in their current position, and more than two-thirds had only worked in educational institutions. Internal reliability for directors and managers on Model was .7, for director .8 and managers. 9 on Inspire, .7 for both on Challenge, .7 on Enable for directors and .06 for managers, and .9 for both on Encourage.

Directors and managers had very similar perceptions about how frequently they engaged in the five leadership practices, with Enable the most frequently used practice, followed by Encourage and Model, and then Challenge and Inspire.. There were no significant differences between the LPI scores of directors and managers.

From the interviews with directors, the researcher noted 145 responses related to Model, 131 related to Challenge, 120 related to Enable, 71 to Inspire, and 43 related to Encourage. However, the author notes, “Due to the small sample size for the survey and being mindful that the interview questions were not directly patterned after the LPI-S survey, the qualitative results do not indicate a significant shift in perception by the directors but reflect the types of questions the researcher utilized during the interview and the subjective analysis of the transcript data by the researcher” (p. 116).

The author concludes: “Distance education directors should take time to ponder and understand their personal leadership styles. This can be accomplished by their reading current leadership literature and taking various types of leadership surveys, such as the LPI-S, to gain an understanding of the leadership traits and qualities that best fit their personalities, values, and career goals” and, “University administrators should hire leaders familiar with the Five Characteristics of Exemplary Leadership for distance education positions” (p. 125).