Leadership Post-secondary Education Partnership Organizational behaviour


The Ontario post-secondary environment is divided between colleges and universities, each with differing mandates.  While there is cooperation, this divide has led to competition and conflict between the sectors. The University of Guelph-Humber is a partnership between a college and a university offering an integrated curriculum leading to both a college diploma and a university degree.  This qualitative intrinsic case study was designed to provide insight into the nature, evolution, benefits, and challenges of the partnership.  This paper focuses on what the participants described as the most important aspect of the sustainability of the partnership— leadership. Thirty-three participants were interviewed, documents reviewed, and field observations conducted. The resulting data was interpreted through the lens of Social Interdependence Theory (Deutsch, 2014).  The interpretation of the data showed that senior leadership commitments to the partnership—clearly communicated— were crucial to sustaining the partnership.  Leadership as described in some cases was transformational, but in others as transactional.  In situations of transactional leadership, the goal interdependence (Deutsch, 2014) for followers was directed at career aspirations rather than directed at overarching organizational goals.  Whether employees buy into the goals of the leaders (transformational leadership), or they adopt those goals due to the perception of interdependence between their own career goal and the goals of the leader (transactional leadership), the fact remains that the goals of the leader—clearly communicated—influenced those within the organization.  The weakness observed with more transactional leadership was the lack of motivation to move organizational goals forward during periods of leadership change or absence.  Leadership was the linchpin of the partnership that has sustained an “impressive an example of cooperation between postsecondary sectors as exists anywhere in the world” (Skolnik, 2005, para. 29).  While a linchpin is critical to holding a complex system together, and hence a positive influence on organizations, it is also a great vulnerability when in its absence, the system is left unsupported.

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