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Leadership in Higher Education from a Transrelational Perspective

reviewed by S. Divine Sankofa & Cristóbal Rodríguez - April 11, 2019

coverTitle: Leadership in Higher Education from a Transrelational Perspective
Author(s): Christopher Branson, Maureen Maura, Camilla Erskine, Margaret Franken, & Dawn Penney
Publisher: Bloomsbury, London
ISBN: 1350135100, Pages: 224, Year: 2019
Search for book at Amazon.com

A deep dive into the history of higher education reveals an array of flaws. From being created solely for the privileged to the historic lack of gender and racial diversity in faculty, it’s clear that higher education is in need of an effective and long-lasting intervention. One of the most glaring problems that ironically receives little to no attention is the effectiveness (or lack thereof) of the model of leadership at colleges and universities; namely, the fact that in many cases, a model from a bygone era is being used to lead institutions in the 21st century.

Leadership in Higher Education from a Transrelational Perspective calls for a rethinking of leadership in higher education. Stressing the significance of relational leadership (in lieu of mundane managerial and administrative approaches), authors Christopher Branson, Maureen Maura, Camilla Erskine, Margaret Franken, and Dawn Penney collectively offer generous recommendations for improving higher education administration. Throughout the book’s eight chapters, the authors invite readers to examine leadership in higher education with the following idea in mind:

A manager measures while a leader explores, a manager focuses on processes while a leader focuses on people, a manager deals in details while a leader deals in possibilities, and finally, followers look to managers for task while others look to leaders for purpose.” (p. 3)

Chapter One emphasizes the connection between leadership and organizational culture. The authors provide a clear and concise list of common symptoms of a toxic organizational culture and suggest that understanding organizational culture must be at the core of re-examining effective leadership.

Chapters Two and Three explore the relationships between habits, mindset, and managerialism. The authors argue that leaders exhibit a fixed mindset when they (a) base their leadership solely on past experiences, (b) uphold personal beliefs created as a result of climbing the ranks of higher education, (c) luxuriate in structural hierarchy, and (d) espouse views inherited from formal leadership development programs. This, the authors argue, contributes to poor organizational culture. They describe a growth mindset as a key component of transrelational leadership, especially given the inevitability of surprises and changes on college campuses.

In order to further support the authors’ claims about the effectiveness of transrelational leadership, Chapter Four serves as a literature review regarding leadership, authority, power, and influence. Chapter Five explores the changing demographics at higher education institutions, changes in funding, online learning expansions, and a wide range of other current challenges. With growth mindset as a guide, the significance in employee engagement is stressed in Chapter Six. In addition to this, the authors make it known that transrelational leaders acknowledge employee engagement as a phenomenon, not as a concept. In doing so, the transrelational leader makes use of the human essence of engagement, creating “environments where employees take responsibility for their own and teams’ engagement to build workplaces that are sites of productivity and profitability” (p. 130).

Following Chapter Six, the purpose of the books shifts to reimaging the structure of human resources. Titled “Reinventing Human Resource Management,” Chapter Seven concerns the ecology of the policies, practices, and systems that create the culture of an organization. This ecology has a direct relationship to the vision and mission of an institution. The ultimate goal of human resource management is to maximize organizational success with innovative systems. Chapter Eight explores the actual learning process for leaders, providing a collection of narratives from aspiring higher education leaders enrolled in leadership-learning programs.

Leadership in Higher Education from a Transrelational Perspective is a gift to academia. Higher education administrators, regardless of the populations they serve, can reference this book to identify and tackle a range of leadership challenges. This book will be highly useful in the process of uprooting archaic forms of leadership that halt the growth of higher education overall.

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record, Date Published: April 11, 2019
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 22756, Date Accessed: 1/25/2022 5:53:40 PM

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About the Author
  • S. Divine Sankofa
    Howard University
    E-mail Author
    S. DIVINE SANKOFA is a third-year doctoral student in the Educational Leadership and Policy Studies Department at Howard University. With over a decade of teaching at the K-12 level, he has also been a school-based and central office leader. Currently, he assumes the role of a P-20 research practitioner investigating race and equity. Mr. Sankofa has a chapter titled "Now That They Are Enrolled in College, How Do We Keep Them?" in the book The Role of Student Services in Black and Brown Males Academic Success (in press). Additionally, he contributed to a forthcoming research publication titled "Understanding Mason’s Success in Decreasing Racial Disparities in College Students Graduation Rates.”
  • Cristóbal Rodríguez
    Howard University
    E-mail Author
    CRISTÓBAL RODRÍGUEZ, PhD, is Associate Professor of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies and the Director of Graduate Studies in the School of Education at Howard University. Dr. Rodríguez's research interests are in educational policies and leadership as they influence access throughout the educational pipeline for segregated communities with considerations to equity. Dr. Rodríguez' recent works and collaborations have been published in the Journal of Latinos and Education, Harvard Journal of African American Policy, Journal of Hispanic Higher Education, and most recently in Equity & Excellence in Education and the International Journal for Qualitative Studies in Education. Dr. Rodríguez most recently co-edited a book for Information Age Publishing with co-editors Melissa A. Martinez and Fernando Valle on Latino Educational Leadership: Serving Latino Communities and Preparing Latina/o Leaders Across the P-20 Pipeline.
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