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Understanding leadership paradigms for improvement in higher education

Shannon Flumerfelt (Pawley Lean Institute, Oakland University, Rochester, Michigan, USA)
Michael Banachowski (Pawley Lean Institute, Oakland University, Rochester, Michigan, USA)

Quality Assurance in Education

ISSN: 0968-4883

Article publication date: 12 July 2011




This research article is based on the Baldrige National Quality Program Education Criteria for Performance Excellence's conceptualization of improvement as a dual cycle/three element initiative of examining and bettering inputs, processes, and outputs as driven by measurement, analysis and knowledge management work. This study isolates a portion of one input element of leadership, higher education leadership paradigms of concern. These paradigms are analyzed and presented as points of improvement related to lean training for higher education.


This quantitative study utilized an online survey, prior to lean training, to identify leadership paradigms of concern by rank, and by significant paired association, using chi‐square tests and the Yates' correction for several higher education institutions.


The study identifies six highly ranked, and seven highly associated leadership paradigms of concern. The one paradigm that was most highly ranked and most highly associated is confronting ambiguity. The findings highlight that improving leadership paradigms is important.

Research limitations/implications

The study's implications are limited to the higher education respondents' organizations. However, the results of the study provide some insight into the impact of leadership paradigms on improvement work in these higher education settings, where an average of 5.6 paradigms of concern and 114 paired associations were selected.


Much has been written about the explicit elements of the improvement cycle, the processes and outputs of organizational systems. While the improvement elements of inputs are more tacit and harder to define, examining them via force field analysis can be extremely helpful in total quality management work and leadership development.



Flumerfelt, S. and Banachowski, M. (2011), "Understanding leadership paradigms for improvement in higher education", Quality Assurance in Education, Vol. 19 No. 3, pp. 224-247.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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