Historically, leadership training has been designed primarily for post-secondary presidents or vice presidents/deans who are preparing for presidency. Few, if any, opportunities have been available to chairs or midlevel managers, who outnumber all other types of administrators combined. Unlike the private sector, which devotes a considerable percentage of its training dollars to midlevel managers, post-secondary institutions provide minimal funds for the leadership development of midlevel leaders. Although the midlevel manager/chair position is widely regarded as key to the effective functioning of a college or university’s major academic and career programs, those filling the positions generally receive little or no formal training for the job. In 1992, the department chairs of the Maricopa Community Colleges, located in the Phoenix metropolitan area of Arizona, recognized this need for training and were determined to identify and support the resources needed to obtain the necessary skills to lead their departments effectively.
This grassroots movement, initiated by these department chairs, has evolved into an internationally recognized organization focused on post-secondary leadership training programs and services. These chairs recognized the need for skills-based training that would assist them and other organizational leaders with their complex roles and responsibilities in serving as the academic and administrative leaders in their respective departments.
The Chair Academy began in 1992 with the International Conference for Chairs, Deans, and Other Organizational Leaders. The first annual Academy conference focused on providing leadership development for midlevel managers. In addition to designing the conference, the department chairs of the Maricopa Community Colleges also began to research and design a more extensive training program for academic and administrative leadership to meet the needs of midlevel organizational leaders. These efforts eventually developed into an internationally recognized Academy for Leadership and Development, which now offers leadership training programs throughout the United States, Canada, Australia, Europe, and the Middle East. The Chair Academy, whose main office is located in Mesa, Arizona, has now branched out internationally and has offices in Melbourne, Australia.
The Academy leadership program has stayed true to its origins. While there are programs intended to provide leadership training for the executive levels of post-secondary education, the Academy is not one of them. The Academy is not designed for college presidents, rather for all those leadership positions from the midlevel and above. During the early 1990’s, academic chairs and deans were the primary participants of the Academy. However, since 1995, program offerings have been expanded to include all midlevel organizational leaders from post-secondary institutions.
Academy for Leadership Training and Development Foundation Program
In 1992, the Chair Academy implemented its first Academy for Leadership Development Program on a pilot basis. Forty-eight participants from post-secondary institutions throughout North America participated. The knowledge and experiences learned from this pilot program served as the foundation for our yearlong leadership training program.
From the pilot program, the Chair Academy recognized that leadership training must be carefully designed to broaden participants' knowledge of leadership theories and principles as well as develop their supervisory and managerial skills. The training must help leaders apply leadership concepts, practices, and processes as they relate to their actual work situations. Training should also be conducted in a format that connects to the participant’s experiential world and the context of their job roles and responsibilities. The Academy also recognized that training must be a problem-based, situated-learning environment, rich with authentic applications and assessments. Finally, mentoring and coaching for success are key elements to effective leadership training.
The current leadership programs offered through the Chair Academy provide a systems approach to transformational leadership. From our initial pilot in 1992 and from our early programs offered in the early 1990’s, we discovered that our two weeks of residential training, bridged by a yearlong practicum with support mechanisms for coaching and mentoring in the participant’s current position, provided a rich foundation for participant growth and development. We discovered that training was most effective if it occurred over time, and had measurable outcomes. We also researched and discovered that participants would be best served and supported by selecting a mentor from their campuses as well as being assigned an Academy Coach, to support them during their leadership journey and experience. Lastly, in order to provide ongoing leadership training throughout the yearlong practicum, we needed to connect leaders electronically to continue interacting and sharing ideas and best practices with one another beyond the residential experiences.
We also learned that our weeklong residential training sessions needed to be skillfully developed and designed to introduce key leadership theories, research, and best practices. As part of this yearlong practicum, we included the opportunity for participants to implement an Individualized Professional Development Plan (IPDP) which would allow participants to develop measurable strategies and activities to reflect the leadership skills and best practices presented during the two weeklong training sessions. We also discovered that reflective practice and journaling should be an integral part of the participants' practicum experience. Through reflection and journaling, participants would be able to personally document their experiences and reflect on their growth and development.
Our Academy cadre of program facilitators has also grown over the years to twenty-six. Our facilitators are chosen for their knowledge and skill in facilitation and for their ongoing commitment to best practices in leadership on their own campuses. Facilitators model coaching, stewardship, and lifelong learning through their dedication and continued study of current leadership theories and research. The Academy’s facilitators have made a commitment to develop new leaders for post-secondary institutions.
The themes of the Leadership Academy integrate and synthesize the theory, research, and best practices of leadership for post-secondary leaders. These themes, along with the leadership topics and practicum experience, have resulted in a program that has achieved an exemplary level of success worldwide. From the first pilot program in 1992, the Academy for Leadership Training and Development has expanded its offerings worldwide. By the end of 2005, more than five thousand leaders around the world had participated in one of our leadership programs.
The Academy for Leadership and Development works to convert Steven Covey’s goal for training programs into reality. “Programs should attempt to empower people to soar, to sail, to step forward bravely into the unknown” (Covey, 1992, p.72). Evidence of success is abundant among Academy graduates. One Academy graduate wrote, “my life changed in a hundred different ways that week. I feel re-energized, confident, experienced, and wise. The Academy has been a metamorphosis for me. I only hope that I can share this experience and the direction and expertise I’ve gained from it with those leaders, and potential leaders, who dare to embark on this wonderful journey.”
From the beginning, the Chair Academy also developed a number of partnerships with universities around the world to offer graduate-level credit in conjunction with participation in one of our leadership programs. We recognized that universities could provide credibility and validity of Academy training by offering credit toward a Master's or Doctoral Degree. Presently we have partnerships with several respected universities, including the University of Nebraska, University of Wisconsin, Nova Southeastern University, and Walden University. The Chair Academy also has agreements with the University of Toronto in Canada and Victoria University in Australia. Graduates of the Academy can earn up to nine hours of graduate-level credit.
The Academy has been successful in developing leadership training tailored to meet the needs of multiple post-secondary populations. Statewide programs have been implemented in Wisconsin, New Jersey, New York, Texas, Tennessee, Minnesota, Arizona, Michigan, Florida, Iowa, and Illinois as well as Province-wide programs in Ontario, Alberta, and British Columbia. Local, customized leadership programs are also available to post-secondary institutions. In addition, our annual European Global Leadership Program offers opportunities for international connections among post-secondary leaders.
The Academy for Advanced Leadership
In December of 2005, the Chair Academy implemented, on a pilot basis, their first Academy for Advanced Leadership. Fifty-two leaders from post-secondary institutions around the world participated. With the goal of cultivating growth and development, participants engaged in collaborative inquiry, and dialogue and discovery on the most contemporary and up-to-date theory and research on leadership. Personal narratives and conversations added depth to traditional learning-centered strategies in this program.
The Academy for Advanced Leadership included three days of residential training seminars, followed by a six-month practicum experience. Participants are connected through a group listserv to serve as a vehicle for continual dialogue and interaction on leadership principles and issues. After the practicum, in which participants will implement individualized professional leadership plans of action, participants will return for another three days of residential seminars and focus on their responsibility as transformational leaders to develop the leaders around them and in their organization.
After careful review of the outcomes of this Academy for Advanced Leadership, the Chair Academy will look at offering this program in various locations throughout the world to post-secondary leaders.
Chair Academy Membership
In the fall of 1994, the Chair Academy offered both individual and institutional membership to the organization. Members receive a yearlong subscription to our award-winning refereed journal, Leadership. In addition to the journal, members receive discounts for attending our annual International Leadership Conference and receive bi-monthly electronic Leadership Tips and Tools bulletins which provide practical approaches to best leadership.
Chair Academy Global Plans
The Chair Academy, through its partnerships with the Higher Colleges of Technology (HCT) and the Center for Excellence for Applied Research and Training (CERT) located in the United Arab Emirates, will embark on bringing post-secondary institutions and leaders from both the East and the West together to create an environment where best leadership practices can be shared and discussed. Our goal will be to integrate the programs and services offered through the Academy East with the Academy West to find common ground for understanding, respecting, and valuing our similarities and differences, in order to bring about world peace and harmony so that students globally can benefit from our relationships.