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ERIC Number: ED525853
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2010
Pages: 195
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: 0
ISBN: ISBN-978-1-1244-9910-9
Presidential Leadership in Decision-Making: A Study of Three Historically Black Colleges and Universities
Brown, Ronald E. L.
ProQuest LLC, Ed.D. Dissertation, Harvard University
This study investigates presidential leadership in decision-making at three private Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and compares understandings of presidential power within and among the three colleges given their unique institutional contexts. The research questions guiding this study include. How do the presidents of 3 private HBCUs perceive their exercise of power over major institutional decisions? How do faculty, administrators and trustees describe the presidents' use of power over major institutional decisions? How do aspects of the organizational context promote or constrain the capacity of presidents to influence decisions? Finally, how does the exercise of power by these presidents compare across the 3 HBCUs and with other higher education institutions? I use French and Raven's theories of bases of power as an initial framework for this study. French and Raven's classic framework posits 5 bases of social power: (1) Reward Power--the ability to influence the behavior of others through providing benefits; (2) Coercive Power--ability to influence the behavior of others through applying punishments; (3) Legitimate Power--internalized values in one which results in a feeling of obligation to obey the wishes of another. Legitimate Power can be based on: (a) cultural values; (b) occupancy of position; or (c) appointment by a legitimate third party. (4) Referent Power--based on likeability and personality; and (5) Expert Power--based on special knowledge (French & Raven, 1959). French and Raven later added (6) Information Power to encompass the power associated with knowledge of facts in the organization. I also used unrestricted coding of the interview transcripts to explore the contextual factors that either promote or constrain the capacity of presidents to influence decisions (Strauss, 1987). I have found that the presidents of the HBCUs in this study are very influential on their campuses and that their influence is evidenced in a variety of ways that conform to French and Raven's classic typology of social power. The data indicates that the power that these presidents utilize in their work most aptly fits the categories of legitimate, expert, referent and some information power. Furthermore, context serves as an extremely important factor that both promotes and constrains the presidents' capacities to influence major institutional decisions. The aspects of context that seem to have the most impact on the decision-making of these HBCU presidents are severe financial constraint, institutional history and governance structure, and size. The study also surfaced important conversations on these campuses having to do with dilemmas and paradoxes related to institutional mission and the impact of race. Although not a central focus of this research, the impact of race on these campuses is worthy of further consideration. This is a study of leadership and power within context and it offers a comparative analysis of the types of power used by presidents in different situations. It explores how various institutional factors such as constituency expectations, institutional history, internal political pressures, external political pressures and personal characteristics of the president impact decision-making. This study aims to deepen our understandings of the presidencies of three HBCUs and facilitate a comparative analysis of presidential power at these institutions relative to prevailing trends as described in the literature. [The dissertation citations contained here are published with the permission of ProQuest LLC. Further reproduction is prohibited without permission. Copies of dissertations may be obtained by Telephone (800) 1-800-521-0600. Web page:]
ProQuest LLC. 789 East Eisenhower Parkway, P.O. Box 1346, Ann Arbor, MI 48106. Tel: 800-521-0600; Web site:
Publication Type: Dissertations/Theses - Doctoral Dissertations
Education Level: Higher Education; Postsecondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A