Friday, January 18, 2013

Administration and Leadership

For years I've mused at the fact that, especially in academia, good administrators often get promoted to leadership positions (e.g., department chairs, Deans, etc...).  The problem is that administrators often aren't good leaders.

They don't tend to be risk takers.  They tend to be good managers (not necessarily good human managers, but good systems managers).  They are good at setting up systems.  They are good about setting up processes. They tend to be good bureaucrats.

You need these people or an organization won't be able to grow.  Without someone with these gifts, an organization will waste massive amounts of time in inefficiency.  However, the irony is that, if they are the ones making the decisions, an organization can soon become encumbered with red tape and get bogged down.

Places become drudgery to work at.  In leadership, what was originally a breath of fresh air (because of how much work they are saving) eventually turns to the dark side and they gunk up the works and an organization begins the downward part of its cycle.

I think most people are on a spectrum between massive administrator and entrepreneurial leader.  There are a few people who are both.  Joel Green, who used to be Provost at Asbury, comes to mind.  He could do it all.  Most of us are probably somewhere in the middle.  But we can picture the stereotypical bureaucrat and the stereotypical disorganized visionary.

What I've observed can happen in academia and in church organizations is that often those who are most visionary don't want leadership positions because of the administrative work.  Meanwhile, those who like administration take those positions and then the organization becomes stale.  You end up with visionless people making the key decisions.

I think an effective organization will have just the right mix of both at the right times.  The goal is for strategic visionaries to make decisions informed and supported by gifted administrators.  The visionaries have to let the administrators bring efficiencies, and the administrators need to let the strategists make the decisions.

The top leader of the organization, I believe, should always be a strategic type person, not a stereotypical administrative type.  We have this now in the Wesleyan Church with Joanne Lyon, for example.

My two cents...


Angie Van De Merwe said...

Are you suggesting that the Government are those that work in the State and Federal offices to administrate whatever the "Leader" determines? Is this where the czar appointments were important and necessary for the implementation of the Leader's vision"?

Leadership is President Obama that wants to change our Constitution apart from checks and balances or accountability to the American people, for a "global vision"? Disarmament is a means to the end of "peace"?

Since he has embraced the Muslim Brotherhood and tried to negotiate with our "enemies", he is considered "a new visionary"?

I think it is dangerous to not consider history, what has transpired over eons of time in these cultures....and yet, such "vision" can be embraced without considering the costs, which we are only beginning to see or understand.

I suppose America is like the South, then and Obama is another Lincoln that will bring "reconstruction" to the world?!

Angie Van De Merwe said...

The "feelings" of security and what one can expect are based on the West's understanding of the power of the law, where all people are treated equally. Leaders do not have special privilege or right to subvert the law (Constitution). But, when American see their representative acting in disregard to the law (separated and divided powers) and defending any means to an end, then, "feelings" of security, regularity and what can be expected has been betrayed. People react to betryal, as did the revolutionaries when the King taxed them without representation! No wonder guns are being banned!

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Justice is provided in our courts, which re-affirms personal boundaries when they are breached. Private property was what made America great because men were not granted property by "natural right" or "privilege", but by earning it through work.

Today things have gotten skewed by modern liberals that want to entitle everyone...just because of their existence...or their "oppressive past", etc.

What one works for and earns is valued by "the market" and that is what has prospered America, but what has been undermined by this administration. Is that good leadership?

Richard Fellows said...

You are absolutely right about the tyranny of processes imposed by administrators. It is a huge problem throughout industry and information technology is making it easier for administrators to swamp others with administrative tasks. I have also observed that people tend to imitate their bosses and also that bosses (who tend to be big on process) tend to promote like-minded people (who are also big on process). Before you know it you have an organization of people administering each other and no-one is doing real work.

We need to show people that it doesn't have to be this way.