Dr. Bruce Speck has made several public statements about leadership, morale, and managerial power in a ‘normal business organization’. Let’s examine these one at a time in light of what current literature and what research considers to be successful leadership and management techniques.
Morale: Dr. Speck has stated that employee morale is an individual responsibility. And, presumably in his opinion not something that he, as President need be concerned with.
Research has shown that employee motivation, innovation and productivity is closely tied to employee morale. Good Leaders continually look for ways that [they, the leader] can boost morale.
Methods used to increase employee morale and motivation include employee involvement, communication, development and empowerment. Actions, such as large cuts to a central core mission, without clear communication and not sharing of full information serve only to confuse employees. Actions which show micromanagement do not foster empowerment and statements that Dr. Speck is not answerable to faculty and that [he is] the person who will make decisions obviously do not foster employee involvement.
Conclusion: Dr. Speck is not concerned about employee motivation, productivity or innovation as he has publicly disassociated himself from any responsibility for low employee morale at MSSU. This is not a sound business strategy, and is obviously not the mark of a ‘good manager’.
Managerial Power: Dr. Speck has publicly stated that in any ‘normal business’ employees who would consider a vote of no-confidence or state some of the things that have been stated would be fired or sent to ‘Cambodia’.
Yes, management has a high degree of ultimate authority and the CEO does have the ability to hire and fire. Good managers use this power sparingly and use the threat of this even less. Management which seeks the participation of those being managed, includes them in decisions and allows for employee autonomy within guidelines obtains better results. A University is a unique setting, and is not a ‘normal business’ organization. Faculty have a professional obligation and a dedication to a much higher level goal of teaching students. Faculty determines the learning goals according to professional principles, delivers the learning opportunity and assesses the results. The President and administration obviously have some normal business responsibilities, but as is often the case, there are never enough resources to meet all the learning goals of faculty. This requires an atmosphere and structure of shared responsibility and inclusive behavior in
decision making [shared governance].
Conclusion: Dr. Speck’s statements regarding firing and sending to Cambodia as well as his continual statements which show a lack of respect for faculty (i.e. ‘when we have the medical school we can hire qualified faculty’ implies that he believes current faculty are not qualified). These statements by Dr. Speck show that he is not interested in sharing the responsibility for the institution.
Leadership: There are many different theories regarding leadership, whether transactional or transformational. One of the common threads to all theories is the concept that leaders must be viewed as being honest and fair.
Dr. Speck has continually made statements that can either be interpreted as showing his lack of knowledge about managing a University or showing a deliberate desire to mislead. Either way this speaks to a developing lack of credibility and employee belief that Dr. Speck is not an honest individual. Further actions of establishing task forces for certain areas, but not others, approving budgets and then later placing demands that are unrealistic only serve to convince faculty of his lack of honesty and sense of fairness.
Transactional leaders are those leaders who guide organizations with an attention to ‘fine tuning’ the operations. Transformational leaders are visionaries who lead through their personalities and ability to motivate and get people involved with a sense of ownership. MSSU is currently going through a transformational time: review of a long standing mission and potential addition of a medical school.
Conclusion: Dr. Speck considers faculty as unimportant to the accomplishment of the mission and sees no reason to treat faculty with respect, honesty and fairness. Instead he prefers to continue to make decisions in isolation without regard to curriculum, students or learning. Dr. Speck’s behavior tends to be of the transactional style yet the challenge is transformational. If he truly wants to transform the organization, then he must lead in a transformational style. Dr. Speck’s leadership style is at an obvious mismatch to the needs of the institution. Research shows that mismatches results in the kinds of low morale, high turnover and the non-accomplishment of the organizations mission and goals. If the Board truly wants the organization to succeed, then they need to align leadership with the needs of the organization.
As an individual who has actually worked and managed in a normal business organization I find it very interesting (and insulting) when I hear people who’s entire career has been in academia begin to make statements about an environment they have never experienced [business] as justification for poor managerial and leadership behavior. If Dr. Speck has ever actually managed in a real business organization then that experience is certainly not evident in his leadership and management of MSSU. Most organizations understand that it is the Human Resource that is among the most important and must be motivated, valued and included if the organization is to succeed.
If Dr. Speck truly wants to ‘mend fences’ with faculty he will need to undertake some serious changes to his leadership and management style. Not something he can do alone and possibly not even with the help of a CEO trainer/mentor. It might even be interesting to hear Dr. Speck address the issues of his actions and good leadership in his soon to be held meetings. I would imagine attendance at these meetings will be low. Dr. Speck has so soured the relationship with faculty and most are in such fear of retaliation that attendance will be by either the very brave or very stupid.
Sunday, October 18, 2009
Reader outlines the travesty of Bruce Speck's leadership at MSSU
(The following letter was submitted to me Saturday. I know the identity of the author, but have been asked to withhold it because of the possibility of reprisal against someone connected to the author.)