..........................Team A: Class Note - March 16, 2011


......................................Applying Culture in Higher Education

Summary: Ambiguity of Leadership (Pfeffer)

Pfeffer asserts in this article that leaders are often credited with the success or failure of their organizations, and are commonly acknowledged as having an important impact on the organizations they manage. This is why leaders are often fired after an organization performs poorly and other leaders are selected thoughtfully as an attempt to enable the success of the organization. Pfeffer argues, however, that leaders do not have as much power to achieve results in an organization as some would think, and that they are very constrained by the environment of which they are a part. The "ambiguity of leadership" is therefore the inability to measure or quantify the actions and outcomes of leadership. It is also the gap between the actions of the leader and the effects on the organization. Lastly, it is the way that leaders are selected based on characteristics not empirically proven to be effective, but rather the characteristics that are familiar to those doing the selecting.

Page Number
"Some have argued that there are two tasks to be accomplished in groups--maintenance of the group and performance of some task or activity--and thus leader behavior may be described along these two dimensions."

"Several authors have conceptualized leadership behavior in terms of the authority and discretion subordinates are permitted."
p. 206
Phenomenological Analysis
Pfeffer uses this type of analysis to identify and examine the "phenomena labeled as leadership". These phenomena include things like a leader's ability to manage up and down, a leader's ability to serve as a change agent or maintain the traditions of the organization, the external factors outside a leader's control, and the desire to believe in a meritocratic basis for social mobility.
p. 207 & 209
Attributional Process
This process is the way in which people make sense of the world around them by attributing causal relationships to factors they observe. This enables people to feel as though they have some control over the world.

"Given the desire for control and a feeling of personal effectiveness, organizational outcomes are more likely to be attributed to individual actions, regardless of their actual causes."
p. 209

p. 210

Summary: Symbolism & Presidential Perceptions of Leadership (Tierney)

Symbolic Aspects of Leadership
The symbolic role of the president allows for the communication of a vision. Presidents—both old and new—use symbols in their leadership style. Following is a list of the types of symbols used by leaders: metaphorical, physical, communicative, structural, personification, and ideational. See the table below for a complete description.

Symbols demand corroboration. Leaders need to be aware that symbols used may contradict each other. The goal is greater consistency between word and deeds. Organizational culture is a social construct based on the history of an institution, individuals, perceptions, and the larger environment. It is important to understand that symbols may or may not be interpreted the way the leader intends.

Page Number
Objects that serve as vehicles for conveying meaning. Symbols may reside in a variety of units including; events, language, dress, structural role, ceremonies, spatial position.
Using them consistently;
ensuring that the intended message is delivered.
P. 224
Metaphorical Symbols
Presidents use metaphors to provide images of leadership (e.g. a team, rounding up the troops, an orchestra, etc.)
Finding a metaphor that resonates with the culture of the institution and creating buy-in for that metaphor.
P. 226
Physical Symbols
Presidents use symbols that are objects. These objects are representative of something else (e.g. school uniforms, attention to the grounds, a new building, etc.)
Assuring that the object is seen within context of the organization and its constituents.
P. 226
Communicative Symbols
Verbal and written communication; plus nonverbal messages (e.g. an open door policy, "management by walking around")
Communicating in a way that will not be misunderstood by the stakeholders.
P. 226
Structural Symbols
Institutional organization and structural forms that signify more than just the organizational chart (i.e. new presidents may restructure committees with the intent of sending a message).
Identifying the appropriate way to make structural changes as opposed to restructuring just because you can.
P. 227
Personification Symbols
Symbolic personification refers to a leader’s intent to use an individual or group to convey a message.
Ensuring that the symbol is understood in the way it was intended.
P. 228
Ideational Symbols
Ideas as symbols refer to images of leaders that convey about the mission and purpose of the institution (e.g. institutional sagas)
Is the symbol accepted by the stakeholder? Does the idea fit within the culture?
P. 228

Summary: Academic Structure, Culture and the Case of Feminist Scholarship (Gumport)

This article takes a look at academic change analyzing it by answering two questions (1) How do faculty seek and find intellectual community? and (2) How do patterns of association differ in different campus organizational settings? The author states "I have found that the emergence of feminist scholarship and its associated academic networks call into question the e pluribis unum--out of many, one, framework".

Faculty Identifying with Departments
Faculty in his study who maintained academic loyalty to their departments viewed feminist scholarship as irrelevant or inappropriate. "Their networks and associations where not problematic, since they followed the formal structure, but they were only a few voices in my sample" (p. 511).

Faculty with Mixed Loyalties
This group mixed their discipline areas with their interest in feminist scholarship. They encountered varying degrees of success in creating feminist scholarly networks.

Faculty Identifying Primarily with Women's Studies
This group of faculty found scholarly networks outside of their disciplines. "For the most part, they were extensively involved with a campus women's studies program and read, attend and published primarily in women's studies forums" (p. 513). Faculty specifically located in women's studies programs felt intellectually at home. Those who left their original academic discipline found it difficult to work with both programs full time.

Faculty Identifying with Feminism
Faculty in this group felt that their work in women's studies fell outside the academy and their loyalties sided more with the "political movement" than with the academy.

Campus Networks
Gumport found that those faculty who aligned more with their traditional academic disciplines tended to work at leading research universities as opposed to those who were more "feminist" and who tended to work more often at comprehensive institutions. She concludes that because research is rewarded at the research university, faculty were less inclined to cross into other disciplines. At the comprehensive institutions where the focus is on teaching, the faculty were more likely to be involved in a "cross-departmental feminist, scholarly network" (p. 515).

It appears that finding ones "scholarly identity, interpersonal communication and positioning oneself with the academic reward system may be central features of academic organizational life that have been understudied and undertheorized" (p. 517). Belonging to a network maybe be the best way for faculty to have the power to negotiate and push their programs and work forward.

Page Number

E pluribus unum
Out of many, one
p. 508

A priori
From the former, or from before

Retreat Rights
The ability for a faculty member in a new program of study to "retreat" back to their original department of discipline
p. 513

Summary: Understanding Academic Culture (Peterson & Spencer)

There is a subtle yet crucial difference between the culture and the climate in an organization. The deep-rooted values and beliefs are what comprises an institution's culture and the climate is the resultant personal behaviors. Culture has been identified as a major component in an organization while climate is a more recently viewed construct. Due to the increasing accountability issues in higher education, the issues of culture and climate have become important in the university setting.

Purposes: Instrumental - social, what the organization is, Interpretive - what the organization has
Major features: Emphasizes individual or unique aspects, Deeply embedded or enduring, Not malleable

Climate is more concerned with current features than culture with its deeply rooted beliefs and values.
Major features: Emphasis on a participant's viewpoint. Current patterns of beliefs, Malleable

Dimensions of climate and culture: Distinctiveness, content, continuity, strength, congruence, clarity, consensus
Models for culture: Geo-spatial; traditions, myths and artifacts; behavior patterns; values and beliefs (espoused or embedded)
Models for climate: Psychological concerns, cognitive process models, sociological
Three categories of climate: objective, perceived, psychological

Paradox exists in the institution--the existence of two contradictory values or purposes
Implications of research: awareness, establish context, benchmarks, active progress in studies, change expert
Page Number

Deeply embedded patterns of organizational behavior
p. 173

Current common patterns of dimensions of organizational life
p. 173

Tangible elements with shared meaning
p. 175

Espoused values
Widely communicated, present, ideal
p. 176

Embedded values
Real sense of meaning
p. 176

Summary of Class Notes:

From the Symbolism and Culture Power Point Lecture

There is an assumption made within a culture that we have a way of manipulating it. At William and Mary, we have a history of using images, symbols, and words to show people what we want them to see. In this case and at other campuses around the country, we use culture as a way of unifying and bridging cultural divides. Culture and symbols are all around us and they are used as ways to get us to feel about a place. At William and Mary, there are the old buildings and the rhetoric that is steeped in tradition and history. This gives off an image of prestige as an institution, a place in the nation's history, and a strong academic background. These images work together to create a story of the college that is packaged to those inside and outside as "what we want people to see".

The images are sometimes able to be pushed back against as someone is new in the organization. The excuse of "I didn't know" is often an ally of new members. They are able to make some change in the culture before a sort of assimilation occurs. Pam often comments that when you go for an on campus interview watch out for what a campus says they do versus what they actually do because you can only pretend for so long.

Artifacts are important on campus as a way of welcoming or even excluding others. When at a campus look for their important artifacts that help define campus culture such as the buildings, special landmarks on campus, traditions, etc. Artifacts can be tools but have not always worked. Sometimes college leaders can misread artifacts and get into trouble. There was a discussion about Gene Nichol and the cross in the Wren Chapel. College leaders must be aware of the culture and make changes sometimes within those confines of established culture.

Subcultures and rituals are other ways of assimilating to a culture and creating a culture. At William and Mary, there are many rituals and customs that happen annually. Rituals are a way of socializing a culture. It is part of the telling and retelling of the campus story. Once the story is told over and over the culture is formed. Here are examples of the William and Mary "story":

These stories are told at many other institutions around the country. It is a way of defining the college for those on the outside and on the inside of the institution. The histories both real and perceived help to tell the story.

External Sources:


Read the below article to see how symbols can be intertwined with campus culture.

Listen to President Reveley use of symbolism during convocation 2010.

Rutgers University-Presidential Symbols of Leadership
View the link to read more about the Rutger's president and symbols of his leadership.


Just for Fun: