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Leaders in education face diverse challenges in an increasingly competitive and changing environment. Although women numerically dominate the workforce, senior managers…
Leaders in education face diverse challenges in an increasingly competitive and changing environment. Although women numerically dominate the workforce, senior managers are predominately men. The purpose of this paper is to examine leadership skills required for senior management roles in vocational education training (VET); determine if the ranking of importance of skills differs by gender and if the ranking contributes to women not advancing to senior management roles. As skills are abilities that can be developed and learned focusing on leadership skills will provide further insight into leadership and influence leadership development programs in VET to re-orientate women into senior management roles.
The methodology was based on the theoretical framework of the Leadership Skills Strataplex Model (LSSM). The model categorises leadership skills into cognitive, interpersonal, business and strategic skills and determines skill requirement based on management level. A quantitative study with data collected from an online survey completed by 100 senior managers employed in Australian VET, with an even distribution of men and women, identified leadership skills and ranked the importance of the skills. Analysis of the data was conducted using correlation test and principal factor analysis.
Both men and women identified that cognitive, interpersonal, business and strategic skills were required for senior management roles in VET; however, they ranked the importance of these skills differently. Men ranked business and strategic skills as the most important whilst women ranked cognitive and interpersonal skills. The findings provide insight into how gender influences leadership with men focused on task-orientated leadership skills whilst and women focused on relationship development leadership skills.
The major limitation of this study was that the results were derived from the employees’ perspective and not that of the employer. However, the limitation does not detract from the overall contribution, this study makes to leadership, leadership skills and VET. The findings of this study suggest that further education leadership research is warranted as most studies are predominately focused on leadership theory with limited reference to leadership skills.
The findings of this study provide practical implications to inform VET leadership professional development programs for teachers and managers to focus on leadership skills. The difference in ranking of importance of leadership skills by men and women highlights that focusing on specific leadership skill development of cognitive, interpersonal, business and strategic skills for aspiring managers may help re-orientate women into senior management roles.
The use of the LSSM, previously used in government and higher education to identify leadership skills, the online survey as the data collection tool and quantitative analysis provides originality in the methodology rarely seen in VET education. The study adds value to education management, VET, leadership, and gender research by providing insight into leadership skills.