Literature of Leadership - Crisis Leadership In Higher Education: Theory And Practice


Undeniably, crisis situations that befall postsecondary institutions are becoming more prevalent and complex in nature. College admissions scandals, acts of violence on campuses, incidents of academic and financial fraud, breaches in information privacy, cyberattacks on computer systems, disruptions caused by natural disasters—not to mention the COVID-19 pandemic, are but a few extraordinary situations that increasingly threaten the vitality and reputation of institutions. Consequently, crisis leadership, while once in the purview of only a select few institutional leaders, has become a fundamental competency to the work of all leaders. Ralph Gigliotti, Director of the Center for Organizational Leadership at Rutgers University, offers a research-informed perspective on this important issue in his book, Crisis Leadership in Higher Education: Theory and Practice.

According to Gigliotti, critical moments of organizational disruption present an opportunity for campus leaders to model and reaffirm the values and principles that are most consistent with the mission of higher education. Yet, he observed that institutional responses often become the subject of widespread criticism. Therefore, Gigliotti undertook research to develop a richer understanding of (a) what fundamentally constitutes crisis in higher education, (b) what are the primary leadership issues at stake during these critical times, and (c) how can values-based organizations best respond to perceived crises.

Drawing from Gigliotti’s research findings, this book provides a bridge between theoretical concepts and practical insights to advance both scholarship and professional practices. Specifically, chapters 1 and 2 review the theoretical context underlying the research. Chapters 3 and 4 summarize research findings on the process of defining and labelling crises, including a taxonomy of crisis types that are most applicable to colleges and universities. Chapter 5 discusses the centrality of communication in crisis leadership, and includes a continuum for thinking through communication during crisis situations. In Chapter 6, a scorecard is presented on the skills, values, and competencies required for effective crisis leadership. Finally, Chapter 7 summarizes the concepts, principles, and takeaways from the study for higher education practices going forward.

Definitely an instructive read on a timely topic.

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