A conceptual model of systems thinking leadership in community colleges
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Citation of Original Publication
Davis, A. P., Dent, E. B., & Wharff, D. M. (2015). A conceptual model of systems thinking leadership in community colleges. Systemic Practice and Action Research, 28(4), 333–353. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11213-015-9340-9
The pluralistic and often competing goals of myriad constituents, the changing demographics of students, the uncertainty of funding, and the growing demands for accountability from stakeholders have increased the complexity of systems which community college leaders must manage. Emerging from the recent literature on community colleges is a call for new models of leadership in the context of leading in an increasingly uncertain and complex environment. Systems thinking offers a means to help leaders respond to these growing organizational complexities and move leadership from a traditional bureaucratic model to a more adaptive model. A systematic review of literature on systems thinking’s application to organizational performance in higher education was bolstered with evidence from healthcare. Findings revealed three reoccurring ways in which leaders apply systems thinking processes for improving organizational performance. A conceptual model for systems thinking leadership is proposed in which the three processes, characterized as discovery, framing, and action, can be enacted either individually or sequentially for enhancing organizational performance. The model draws upon boundary critique, critical systems thinking, systemic intervention, total systems intervention, systems dynamics, soft systems methodology, complexity theory and complex adaptive systems, yet uses language more readily identifiable to community college practitioners.