Dr. Allen is a 2011 graduate of the PhD Program in Leadership & Change at Antioch University.

Dr. Mark Allen [Center] with committee member, Dr. Jon Wergin [Left] and committee chair, Dr. Alan E. Guskin, [Right].


relational leadership, college presidents, higher education, relationships, effectiveness, exploratory study, phenomenology, PhD in Leadership & Change

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The purpose of this study was to explore the nature of relationships within the context of a new college presidency. The college presidency is unique given the societal importance of higher education and the organizational complexity of academia. To remain relevant in addressing society's needs a president must successfully create an environment receptive to self-examination and change. Central to a president's success is the ability to construct and maintain effective relationships. This exploratory research employed a phenomenological approach, interviewing eleven new college presidents as the primary method for gathering data. Through data analysis the researcher captured a deeper understanding of the complex dimensions of relationships. Several themes emerged from the data. Professional relationship challenges included: turbulent relationships with provosts; a propensity to restructure presidents' cabinets; challenges with faculty relationships; and the importance of board chair relationships. Personal relationships were more challenged by presidents with children. Themes relative to interpersonal constructs found most participants in this study feeling it important to maintain social distance from work colleagues. Several participants lacked trust, or had limited trust, in others (beyond spouses) to discuss sensitive work-related matters. There was a strong sense from the participants that they had not sacrificed authenticity as a result of being president. A majority of the participants experienced sporadic periods of loneliness attributed to leader decision making and lack of non-work related social opportunities. An analysis of the themes related to interpersonal constructs found contradictory views relative to trust, authenticity, social distancing, and loneliness to the degree that many of the presidents were functioning more in a command and control style of leadership rather than a relational approach. All of the presidents felt that relationship construction and maintenance was foundational to their effectiveness. The electronic version of this dissertation is at Ohiolink ETD Center,