Embracing Servant Leadership in Higher Education: A Journey of Fulfillment and Challenge for Healthcare Management Faculty

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November 13, 2023

Written by: admin_1

The concept of servant leadership, first coined by Robert K. Greenleaf in 1970, has resonated across various sectors, including higher education. In the heart of Central Texas, the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE) has been at the forefront of integrating this philosophy within the academic sphere, especially in healthcare management. As servant leaders, full-time faculty members are called to prioritize the growth and well-being of their students and communities, serving as stewards of education and personal development. However, this noble pursuit comes with its unique set of advantages and challenges.

The Essence of Servant Leadership in Academic Healthcare Management

Servant leadership in higher education is not merely a role but a calling that transcends traditional teaching methodologies. It emphasizes the importance of nurturing a supportive and empowering environment. In this context, healthcare management educators are expected to lead by example, demonstrating values such as empathy, listening, and ethical decision-making, which are crucial in shaping the healthcare leaders of tomorrow.

Pros of Teaching in Higher Education as a Full-time Healthcare Management Faculty Member

Molding Future Leaders: One of the most rewarding aspects of academia is the opportunity to impact the future of healthcare by inspiring and training the next generation of leaders. Faculty members enjoy the privilege of imparting knowledge and values that will ultimately influence patient care and healthcare systems.

  1. Academic Freedom: Educators in higher education often have the freedom to design curricula, conduct research, and explore innovative teaching methods. This autonomy allows for personal and professional growth, encouraging faculty to become thought leaders in their fields.
  2. Lifelong Learning: The dynamic nature of healthcare means that educators are continual learners. The need to stay abreast of the latest trends and breakthroughs keeps the intellectual rigor alive, ensuring that teaching is never stagnant.
  3. Collaborative Opportunities: Higher education is a hub for collaboration, offering numerous opportunities to work with other professionals on research, grants, and publications. These collaborations can further one’s career and contribute to the advancement of healthcare management as a discipline.
  4. Community Impact: Beyond the classroom, faculty members can influence healthcare policy and practices through community engagement and advisory roles. This wider impact is both a privilege and a testament to the importance of their role.

Cons of Teaching in Higher Education as a Full-time Healthcare Management Faculty Member

  1. Administrative Burdens: With teaching comes a considerable amount of administrative work, including committee responsibilities, curriculum development, and student advisement. These tasks can be time-consuming and detract from research and personal interests.
  2. Pressure to Publish: The adage “publish or perish” holds true in academia, where scholarly output is a significant measure of success. This pressure can lead to stress and a work-life imbalance for faculty members striving to meet institutional expectations.
  3. Resource Limitations: Despite the autonomy in higher education, there are often limitations in terms of resources, be it funding for research or support staff, which can hinder program development and innovation.
  4. Evolving Educational Models: The shift towards online and hybrid learning models requires faculty to constantly adapt and develop new skills, which can be challenging and time-consuming.
  5. Emotional Labor: As servant leaders, faculty members often take on the emotional burdens of their students, offering support and guidance through personal and academic challenges. This emotional labor, while fulfilling, can also be draining.

In Conclusion

The role of a full-time healthcare management faculty member in higher education embodies the essence of servant leadership. It is a path filled with opportunities to influence and shape the industry’s future while engaging in continuous learning and professional development. Nonetheless, it is not without its challenges, including administrative workloads, the pressure to publish, and the emotional investment required.

As servant leaders, you have the power to not only educate but also inspire and transform the students who will go on to lead and innovate in the field of healthcare. The pros and cons of this noble profession are two sides of the same coin, reflecting the complex yet rewarding nature of serving in higher education.

By embracing both the rewards and challenges, healthcare management educators can continue to advance the field while embodying the principles of servant leadership. The ACHE remains committed to supporting its educators through resources, networking, and professional development opportunities, reinforcing the community that serves at the heart of healthcare leadership education.

Please join me for an upcoming Lunch & Learn webinar Dec. 6 from 12 to 1 p.m. for more details on servant leadership in higher education healthcare management programs.  I will further discuss the above information, while also covering professional contributions to the academy – including adjunct opportunities, as well as various teaching methods and challenges (online, hybrid, in-residence, etc).

Sign up here >>

Cristian H. Lieneck, PhD, FACHE, is an associate professor of heathcare administration at Texas State University. He serves as the ACHE regent for Central and South Texas.  Learn more >>



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