Tyler Guy Olson, Ph.D. is a 2023 graduate of the PHD Program in Leadership and Change at Antioch University.
Tyler Olson at his Dissertation Defense.
From L-R: Dr. Jon Wergin, Committee Chair, Dr. Lize Booysen, Committee Member, Dr. Richard McGuigan, Committee Member.
- Jon Wergin, Ph.D., Committee Chair
- Lize Booysen, DBL, Committee Member
- Richard McGuigan, Ph.D., Committee Member
higher education, leadership, constructive-developmental theory, subject-object interview, critical incident technique, multicase study, academic leaders, conflict resolution, organizational change, empathy, perspective-taking
Navigating departmental and organizational conflict is an essential function and responsibility of an academic unit leader (dean, associate dean, director, or chair) in higher education institutions (HEIs). During periods of organizational change, conflict tends to increase in complexity and difficulty—in part due to resistance to change—making it more difficult to manage in a constructive manner (Marcus, 2014). Much of the literature that looks at the academic unit leader and conflict focuses on personal conflict styles (or modes), types of conflicts encountered, and training on techniques and skills for conflict resolution and management. Missing from the literature is research that examines academic leaders’ constructive-developmental mindsets (i.e., meaning-making structures) when dealing with and navigating conflict within their division (or institution) and the relationship between one’s developmental mindset and their approach to engaging and navigating complex conflict. This study examines how nine academic unit leaders construct meaning when experiencing and navigating conflict situations amid organizational change (which HEIs experienced at an unprecedented level in 2020 and 2021). Additionally, it examines the relationship between how one constructs meaning and their capacity for constructive engagement and navigation of conflict. The primary finding from this study supports the hypothesis that academic leaders who demonstrate complex developmental mindsets hold a greater capacity to engage and navigate complex conflict situations in more deliberate and potentially constructive ways. Additionally, data from the research supports the notion that as an individual develops an increasingly more complex developmental mindset, their capacity for cognitive empathy (i.e., perspective-taking) increases. The study employed a multimethod approach, incorporating multiple case studies and a modified critical incident technique. Data were collected through the Subject-Object Interview (Lahey et al., 2011), a modified critical incident interview, and a loosely-structured closing interview. Each of the nine leaders participated fully in all three interviews in this order. This exploratory study contributes to the continued scholarly discussion on leaders navigating conflict and change in HEIs. This dissertation is available in open access at AURA (https://aura.antioch.edu) and OhioLINK ETD Center (https://etd.ohiolink.edu).
Olson, T. G. (2023). Navigating Conflict During Periods of Change in Higher Education: Deconstructing Academic Leaders’ Construction of Meaning. https://aura.antioch.edu/etds/921