Commentary on the Differences Between Leadership and Power in Academia

Magee et al. suggests that power is the capacity to get things done but leadership is the process of getting things done. Galinsky et al. suggests that power is derived from the ability to provide and withhold resources and leadership emerges by inspiring others through rhetoric and being exemplary. When applying these schemas to the leader/follower relationships described in academia by professor Dr. Shannon Jones in an informational interview, it is evident that “leaders” in academia might be power wielders rather than true leaders. Dr. Jones described that the organization of leaders in academia starts with the chair of a department, followed by the dean of the college, followed by the provost. It was also explained that this organization can be frustrating at time as often leaders are not trained in the subjects they oversee. Meaning there are leaders making decisions for their followers such as budget allocations and course curriculums, with out being an expert in said field. From Dr. Jones’ description I would conclude that the organizational structure in academia is based more on power rather than on leadership. It is for this reason that I would evaluate leaders in academia to be power wielders rather than true leaders. Magee et al. suggests leadership is the process of getting things done but as leaders in academia do not possess knowledge of the proper processes of instruction, they are unable to effectively be involved in the process of accomplishing effective instruction. Rather, as Magee et al. suggests, leaders in academia only have the capacity such as the money, quotas, and regulations to accomplish the goal of instruction. Applying this conclusion to the explanation provided by Galinsky et al., leaders in academia purely have the ability to provide and withhold resources but do not possess the rhetoric or ability to be exemplary because they are not knowledgeable on the subjects that provide resources for. An inability for them to speak on the technicalities of the subject and a subsequent inability to be exemplary in said subject means that they “lead” through power rather than through leadership. I believe this conclusion can partially explain the frustration of the professor, Dr. Jones, with whom I spoke as she is a leader in her actions but does not have the practical power of a leader in academia.