Leadership Excellence: Constructing the Role of Department
Academic Leadership - Online Journal,
Vol. 3 No. 1 (2002): Vol-3-Issue-1-January-2002
A quick scan of the Chronicle of Higher Education and the headline jumped out, “I Used to Run a
Department, but Then I Got Wise” (Davis, 2002). The article was worth reading because the author
confronted the important questions many chairs ask: “What is my real job?” and “Am I in the right
job?” Some decide that administration is not a suitable option while others embrace the leadership
experience of the chair role.
The role of department chair in today’s colleges and universities is much different and more
multifaceted than it was just a decade ago. Academic department chairs must conduct
performance reviews, oversee budgets, carry out strategic planning, and negotiate their
department’s identity within highly complex institutions (Hecht, Higgerson, Gmelch, & Tucker,
1999). Evidence gathered from ACE workshops indicated that as many as two-thirds of the chairs
had no prior administrative experience and yet they face a demanding role requiring a wide range
of talents (Hecht, Higgerson, Gmelch, & Tucker, 1999).