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Effects of leadership on management of academic institutions PART 2

7. 9. 2017
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Motivation can be understood as an adrenaline rush which sets the employee onto a work mode automatically. As a part of the one of the important functions of management- Directing, motivation plays a crucial role in keeping the work force intact.

Author: Smita Biswal

Please click here to read PART 1.

Motivation can be understood as an adrenaline rush which sets the employee onto a work mode automatically. As a part of the one of the important functions of management- Directing, motivation plays a crucial role in keeping the work force intact. A motivated workforce would take an additional task entrusted without hesitation even if it happens to be beyond the boundaries of their work if the leader knows how to do so. Apart from incentivizing the employees ‘monetarily’ or by the way of certain ‘non monetary benefits’, the leaders should be good at understanding the psychology of the employees. This in turn would help them to guide and mentor their team members with minimum efforts as the expectations of the employees match with the actions of the leader whose actions they follow.

Apart from motivation to work for a reason other than salary, the employees should also be provided a congenial work environment. A congenial and an amiable work environment effectively enables the ideas to flow and bring to the table a level of creativity which can help the organizations and institutions like schools to provide innovative education which otherwise just remains as an advertisement to attract admissions. Allowing the teachers to participate in decision making, entrusting them with some tasks as per their abilities, and finding ways to enrich their jobs with additional but small responsibilities so as to allow learning without making it a burdensome task, introducing teaching aids as updated and upgraded, teachers interactive programs to break the ice with teachers of other schools and institutions so that the teachers learn from each other instead of directives from the management.

As such the idea is to ensure that the teachers find it as a motivation to be associated with an institution for a longer term than search for an option better than the former. It has been found during the survey that if a teacher tenders resignation, the management accepts the same without any query or a discussion to understand the reasons for resignation from the services. This clearly reflects the thinking of the management. Human resources as teachers who have spent a considerable time with an academic institution do not only know how to teach better but also gel well with the organizational policies and as such are more than an asset-they become indispensable. An organization which allows such jewels to slip through their fingers with an assumption that there would be many fitting into the same shoes is reflecting not only their inability to be a good manager but also putting the reputation of the school at stake.

A change in the mind set is required. As has been mentioned in the Principles of management, a ‘Mental Revolution’ is necessary to clear the invisible mist of distrust, discomfort and false acceptance. A teacher may follow the instructions or for that matter abide by the regulations without raising a question about its authenticity because of certain reasons which may be:

  1. Financial and job insecurity: several members of the teaching fraternity in our country take teaching as a job to earn and be consistent on job. Their assumption is that marketing or a desk job is secured till the time they are able to meet the targets or till the time they are able to remain as impressive performer which as a teacher is completely ruled out. In other words, several teachers chose this profession just to avoid stress due to targets, meetings and extended time limits to complete their targets which affect their family life. The management gets a pulse of the same during the interviews and this allows them to exploit the talent as well as the resource beyond permissible limits which are never clear. While some teachers raise their voices and get expelled or get the noose tightened around their neck, the others chose to just be a mute spectator for the reasons mentioned above.
  2. Confidence: in some situations, it has been found out that due to lack of confidence, some teachers may chose to adapt themselves to the conditions than to point out the irregularities or resign. It may be as such that they fail to gauge their abilities or are apprehensive enough about their abilities to present their skills in a better fashion when exposed to competition and as such chose to become informants to the management in order to protect themselves from any action being taken against the other teachers.
  3. Contractual constraints: while in many of the schools it has been found that the teachers are not given appointment letter upon appointment as a teacher, a contract however; gets signed which hinders their decision making to a greater extent.
  4. Herd following: many teachers chose to follow the instructions from the management without questions and expect their colleagues to do so even when they know that the instructions are not bona fide. Opposition from some quarters means that the teacher concerned gets marked as an offender and is isolated from any significant information sharing.

Such issues as mentioned above result in an ineffective management structure which heads nowhere. The basic reason as to why such ineffective management takes place can once again be attributed to the fact that the founder members or the people in charge of the school management might be those who have no exposure to academics or have just entered the field on the basis of dynasty ruling i.e. as a gift from their parents, without any understanding of what academics or management in academics is all about.

With inexperienced people on board of management in academics, it is always a difficult time for the teachers who have an exposure to teaching and the rules being followed. Those who desire to get closer to the management would never mind favoring policies which are anti academic or anti development. Their advises may further erode the skills of the managers who seldom know what management is all about-experiments, trails and errors, amendments in the existing set of norms or up gradation of the norms when unnecessary, creation of additional duties and responsibilities by trimming the work force to  cut costs even when in fair weather, imposing restrictions and other control measures which only work towards creating an uncomfortable and autocratic work environment than an open, teacher friendly environment which could pave way for creativity, innovation and improved productive levels.

While it is not to discourage young people as managers on board in academic institutions, it is a suggestion that there should be some experience learned and exposed to for an effective skill acquisition and the mere fact that they belong to the family which owns the school or the institution should not be a qualification for their elevation to the position of decision maker.

Certain reasons as to why untrained managers as a part of the dynasty may not be effective as leaders in academics have been presented below:

  1. Impulsive than thoughtful: it has been found in the survey through observations that the managers or the directors of the schools are mostly in the age group of 25-28 years. While the decision making comes natural to these category of people, it has been found that their impulsive nature to take decisions without consultation or without a second thought makes the management a one sided affair as they would jump to conclusions or a decision without analyzing its effects.
  2. Ego over rationality: being a director of an academic institution and with the power to take decisions completely entrusted into their hands, it becomes difficult for them to accept suggestions or objections at the same time. Being young and ambitious, they desire a ‘yes’ from their staff members. This in turn ruins the delicate fabric of trust and cooperation which forms the main basis for work in this industry.
  3. Erratic work style: in many of the schools it has been found that the directors who are at the helm of the affairs do not follow a set pattern at work which is time tested. Either that they modify them or that they ignore the same to replace them with their own ideology which back fires at times. Expecting the staff members to execute tasks just at the nick of the moment which require a specific time period, without proper support system and discussing their failure in staff meetings would only ensure that the motivation levels get reduced, thus reducing the participation levels of the staff.
  4. Failure to accept challenges: it has been observed while these directors or the managers desire to rule over their staff, they generally try to shift certain responsibilities to the staff members who are experienced and later blame them for any irregularity instead of taking the blame upon themselves as would be expected of a strong leader.  For an instance, Director A desires to take all the decisions by himself but when it comes to a situation which requires a solution, he would distance himself stating that the management was not involved nor was it interested in the event so conducted and would shift the outcome onto the teachers who were shouldering the responsibilities.  Such a situation reflects with clarity the personality of the director and his inabilities to take his staff members into his fold when faced with a difficult or challenging situation.  

Recommended solutions for the issues mentioned:

  1. Those who aspire to become managers/ leaders academically should mandatorily be trained for leadership skills as mandatorily as a B.Ed certification is mandatory for teaching by Teachers.
  2. Frequent workshops and seminars should be attended to address certain issues and to get updated about the developments at national and global levels.

For effectiveness in terms of performance as managers/directors of institutions which is the most important position, it is suggested, as stated above, that they be a part of the teaching fraternity in an institution which is not owned by them, observe closely the conditions, situations and challenges of being a teacher and then, study the ways in which the management of those institutions takes steps or initiative to manage or overcome those challenges. A study or observation of other institutions and their approach will only widen the horizon of decision making, reduce the biasness, sharpen their leadership skills and enable them to become an inspiring leader. The other way is to get trained as a good leader by joining management school or any institution which professes in carving out leaders.

Apart from these, guidance from an academician will always be fruitful as the ways in which an academic institution has to be operated and maintained will depend upon experience and not on free will and experimentation. To illustrate the same, let us take the case of an institution which started as a primary school and grew up to be a senior secondary school. Throughout the life of the school, work happened without an academician at the helm of the affairs except for a short time period when things were systematic. After the exit of the academician, the organization was almost liberal to execute things their own way. Teachers did not follow a planned syllabus, extracurricular activities were a passé and punishments became a regular and ineffective method of keeping students under control.  With an atmosphere of absolute domination over students without giving them a chance to speak or relate their problems, the school was nothing but a money making machine with no educational belief in place. 

With an addition of senior secondary wing at a later stage, the school operated the same way. While the issues remained the same, the management made little efforts to improve or infuse new blood into the system. Adjustments were made to the teaching staff by adding multiple subjects to their list of already burdened responsibilities. Without revised pay, the teachers were having revised burden and a mindset of casual labor which worsened the system further. Anything which could do well for the organizational development was shelved for something which was a success in the past. Despite the fact that several other schools which were started at the same time as this, advanced and changed with time, this school chose to remain the same without a defined organization structure, a job description, a proper hierarchy and a set of well defined regulations. Their idea that they would succeed one day with a motto of ‘Slow and steady wins the race’ in an age of fierce competition only meant that they would be left behind by a few more competitors who would have started later than them.

It could thus be inferred from the illustration stated above that an organization however, old and strong at a point of time should change with the change in time in terms of its leadership skills, flexible organizational structure, employee orientation, feedback and appraisal systems, rewards and punishments system, proper job descriptions etc for a work atmosphere worth working and a clear career path defined for career growth. If an organization fails to have a proper management mechanism in place for its employees and does not have a defined goal then the organization will either suffer serious setbacks during the early years or that it will continue to drag with its inefficiencies dangerously to the grave.

As in the case of the school cited above, the management should either hire a consultant or appoint principal and teachers with experience so that a clear cut path can be defined, designed and implemented for the organization to survive competition, grow and give competition to the existing set of educational institutions. This would in turn clear the path of human resource management which in schools and academic institutions does not have a department carved out but rests upon the shoulders of a principal, Departmental head and a coordinator together.

It is upon the Principal and the Academic Director to carefully design and implement a syllabus which can fit the requirements of an academic session, the board, the objectives for which the school was set up as well as provide an opportunity to the teachers to add value to their own teaching methods, enrich their jobs by adding new responsibilities and by guiding them through the changes with a parental attitude instead of the attitude of an autocratic leader.

It was also found in several schools surveyed that the performance appraisal system lacked clarity about the parameters upon which the appraisals happen. It was as if the parameters changed every day as a pass word for an IT professional would. Consistency in the regulations was found to be less than effective while in many, there were none at all. Teachers close to the management or those who followed the rules with blind faith even if it meant sacrificing the rational thinking, were the ones who were considered eligible for a pay hike or for higher positions than those who deserved it. In a way, excessive lobbying, favoritism and unfair practices were parameters for the choice of the best candidate for higher positions including salary hike and not those who work and delivered promises.

Work in these schools gets divided not on the basis of capabilities but on the basis of what the management feels the teacher can. It is more of a gut feeling and a hit and a trial method than a proper and scientific methodology being followed for allocation of duties. While some schools being surveyed were adhering to the norms of placement, other schools were acting according to their gut feeling or adopted hit and trial method of placement. For instance, a teacher in one of the schools surveyed appointed as a specific subject teacher was later on asked to teach subjects beyond his specialization and when objected she was told that her potential to teach other subjects was being checked. This in turn meant discomfort for students as many of them were not able to understand her lectures. She being a senior secondary teacher was unable to teach primary class students and ultimately the blame of low grades in her subject in both the classes fell upon her. It meant not only pressure but also poor appraisal. Such instances of teachers being pressurized to teach subjects which they are not trained for, only means that the quality of teachers and their knowledge gets depreciated, the knowledge they impart to the students gets scattered and shredded, thus resulting in a downfall at both the levels- teacher and the student grades.

What happens and how can they be overcome for effectiveness in management by human resources department?

  1. The management however, turned a blind eye to this issue and continued with their arrangements.  While the management window dresses itself as an open organization, the fact that such welcoming of suggestions happens only in an autocratic manner can’t be ruled out.
  2. Decision making authority gets concentrated only into the hands of a few who ‘assume and conclude’ situations than ‘consult, discuss, think and conclude’ because of which differences in the work atmosphere arise and lead to issues incorrigible.
  3. The fact that there are some senior teachers in a school who can fix any problem on the basis of their past experience will would only mean narrowing chances of improvement, enhancement and transcending old methods of managing or handling issues.  For instance, if a particular method of teaching or making students at one point of time was popular or succeeded at a point of time, it is not necessary that the same methods would work for every batch of students or even for that matter the teachers who join as well.  There should be flexibility in the regulations of the management to allow changes in terms of policy making, administrative norms etc so that the organization grows and prospers.
  4. Centralized work system leads to a dangerous situation in academic institutions where teachers too need to take decisions at their levels to manage a class. If every idea has to move from the cabin of the director or the principal, then the role of a teacher gets reduced to just a medium of communication and nothing beyond. As such, the effectiveness with which a teacher can teach also gets reduced.
  5. Job enrichment, rotation and proper reward-punishment system : in order to ensure that a teacher learns methods to improve his/her teaching skills and student engagement skills, they should be allowed to attend seminars, conferences, conduct such workshops and conferences, engage teachers in brain storming sessions, situational analysis kind of activities and also make them a part of the key discussions. This will make them understand as well as aware about how and why a decision needs to be taken and the reasons for changes as well. While on one hand, the author suggests that a teacher should be allocated a specific subject to teach instead of making him/her teach multiple subjects, on the other hand, it is suggested that there should be a job rotation as well to ensure that they learn certain basic and essential tasks they should know in case they get promoted to certain key positions at a later stage.
  6. A proper departmentalization of the work to ensure a smooth flow of work. In several schools it has been found that there are either none or a few handling several positions. This creates not only a burden but also results in inefficiency, overlapping and duplication of services resulting in wasted efforts. Several times, documents in schools get lost because of lack of organized way of working and planning as well. This can be overcome by setting up certain responsibility centers to ensure that there is enough space for accountability.
  7.  A control system which has to be carefully designed. Instead of organizations pouring in funds to create a technically advanced organization where gadgets would play a vital role thus sidelining human efforts, an integral system is suggested. It would involve both human resources and gadgets as well to ensure that nothing is overlooked and a proper follow up on the basis of the hierarchy created would mean a clear structure of seniority and subordination without fuss and tension.