College presidents: the relationships among gender, attributes, skills and institutions served
Tobias, Nicole Renee
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The purpose of this study was to explore the relationships between gender, leadership attributes, and skills in college presidents. Historically, the college president was a professor and served as the academic, spiritual, and ethical leader of campus (Schmidt, 1930). Since then, the role has become more administrative in nature (Thelin, 1994), requiring complex managerial and leadership skills. The study sought to determine what skill sets current presidents believe are important, whether they believe they have those skills, whether their attributes are related to the type of institution they serve, and whether there are differences in the responses of males and females. The College President Skills and Attributes Questionnaire (CPSAQ) was created and sent to 4,009 U.S. college presidents. The CPSAQ questions included demographics, educational and professional background, and skills ranked both for importance and perception of ability. The Personal Attributes Questionnaire (Spence, Helmreich, & Stapp, 1974) was also included to assess the respondents on the constructs of communion/expressiveness and agency/instrumentality, which are reflective of traditional views of feminine and masculine gender roles. Responses from 410 current college presidents yielded data that showed the respondents were similar to the national population in gender, institution size, and length of time in the presidency. Both male and female presidents received high scores in agency and communion, but female respondents scored significantly higher in communion attributes than the males. No differences were identified based on type of institution served. Honesty and integrity were found to be the most important skills overall, and the presidents perceive they have those qualities. Females gave higher ratings for both importance of skills and their own abilities. In addition to utilizing the CPSAQ to assess the importance of skills and the skillset of college presidents, some respondents indicated interest in using the skills list for personnel evaluation purposes. Overall, it was determined that male and female college presidents across different institutional types are more similar than different and possess a similarly broad range of skills and leadership attributes, supporting the argument that women have the capacity to serve in the college presidency in greater percentages than currently exist.