Friday, May 24, 2024

Academic leadership

It is said that a strong leader can guide the weakest of soldiers to win a battle against a weak leader with the strongest of soldiers. Indeed the change in any system comes through leaders as they make things to happen. And the same is the case in the academic world. No wonder, the lack of effective leadership is a major factor plaguing the current scenario of higher education in our state. Amid the explosive growth of number of colleges in the state, the poor quality of academics, the employability factor of our restless youth and the idea of introducing job oriented courses, the most challenging barriers in higher education, particularly in the colleges today is identifying appropriate academic leaders who can successfully turn around things to introduce innovation and to improve upon the falling academic standards and organizational dysfunction. Yes, we cannot always blame teachers for non-performance or any slackness. We have highly qualified and talented teachers in our government colleges, and it appears that most of the teachers want to do a good job but we need to give them some direction. We need to exploit their talent and only influential and empathetic academic leaders can inspire and motivate them, to evoke high individual performance. Today petty politics and lobbyism is apparently going on in our colleges, particularly the government colleges. Generally our academic leaders feel uneasy with the senior staff and they usually prefer to come in league with the sycophants to play cheap politics against others. Different assignments, benefits like award recommendations, deputations, coordinators of committees, and other countless concessions are mostly granted on personal relationships. The dysfunctional culture, unfair treatment and inappropriate favors provoke dissatisfaction and lead to plummeting motivation, commitment and performance of faculty, which is creating a wedge and thwarting academic success of intuitions. Here we must understand that leadership is about vision, inspiring people, taking on board everybody, accommodating the dissent and making the system to function efficiently. It is the personality of the very highest ability. Empty rhetoric, maintaining only the attendance of employees, focusing on clerical works and being non-communicative and non-responsive to the concerns of the students and the staff is not leadership. If we cannot nurture leadership skills in others, we are bound to produce only followers for our future. If we sideline honest and dedicated teachers on personal problems or on the advice of chamchaas, we are doing a disservice to our cause. The uncritical approbation and playing into the hands of a few sycophants lead us towards dead ends, which result in ineffective decisions and poor results. Also it should be understood that teaching in colleges is the prime duty and it should not take a backseat vis-à-vis over-focusing on organizing various college events for publications in the newspapers. The point is though academic leaders must absolutely be resourceful scholars and teachers, but appointing college principals on seniority basis with apparently having no skills and knowledge of administration and at the same time with lots of health issues due to age factor and family problems, the handling of academic affair is simply detrimental to the cause of promoting higher education. Running academic administration is a tough job. Besides being scholarly, one needs training, skills, discipline, perseverance, stamina and it is not everyone’s cup of tea. It is high time that the state higher education department reform the policy of appointing college principals. Either UGC guidelines have to be followed strictly or there should be a departmental competitive exam on civil service pattern, so that people with high professional integrity, ethical standards and a good track record of rigorous teaching and other academic credentials like publication record are selected for the job. Clearly we must reverse the ongoing trend and for that collective wisdom is needed. We need strong leadership in our institutions so that they become academically dynamic and forward looking and not a den for intriguers, sycophants and deadwood. For if we encourage mediocrity, it will surely breed mediocrity!