An enquiry into cultural influences on leadership in higher education: comparing the experiences of business school academic leaders in Malaysia and the United Kingdom

Carlton, Joel (2022). An enquiry into cultural influences on leadership in higher education: comparing the experiences of business school academic leaders in Malaysia and the United Kingdom. University of Birmingham. Ed.D.

Text - Redacted Version
Available under License All rights reserved.

Download (6MB) | Preview


There remains a relative lack of research into higher education leadership generally, and very little in a cross-cultural context. The research that does exist includes the work of authors such as Floyd (2012) in the United Kingdom and Sayler et al (2019) in the United States who have charted the experience of higher education leaders. In the cross-cultural field, the GLOBE study (House et al, 2004) has advanced our understandings of leading across cultures in the world of business but is silent on higher education.

This current thesis contributes to this under researched area by focusing on the cultural influences on leadership in higher education, considering two business schools, one in Malaysia and the other in the United Kingdom. The GLOBE (House et al, 2004) understandings of culture and leadership, alongside the Gronn (1999) career model were used to frame the development of an understanding of the cultural influences on the leadership journey in higher education, and to get a sense of any differences between the Malaysian and United Kingdom settings.

Data have been gathered and analysed to surface cultural influences on the leadership journey. Twenty-eight academic leaders, fourteen at each business school, were asked to complete a pre interview questionnaire. This was followed by a series of semi-structured, biographical interviews, to explore academic leaders’ understanding of the cultural influences upon their personal leadership journey, and to also discern whether there was evidence of a shared academic sub-culture across Malaysian and British academic leaders.

Findings demonstrate that the experiences, attitudes and perspectives of academic leaders are largely different to those of business leaders in the Southern Asia cluster for Malaysia, and the Anglo cluster for the United Kingdom, when compared against the GLOBE Cultural Dimensions (House et al, 2004). In the nine Cultural Dimensions articulated by House et al, the academic leaders in Malaysia and the UK only aligned with three, these being Power Distance, Assertiveness and Human Orientation. The greatest differences between them were detected as Institutional Collectivism, Performance Orientation, Uncertainty Avoidance and Gender Egalitarianism. The Malaysian and United Kingdom academic leaders differed between themselves on Future Orientation and In-Group Collectivism.

There was strong alignment in regard to family being the primary influence for both groups of academic leaders, with other key people also being significant, demonstrating congruence with the Gronn and other models’ perspectives on career journeys in compulsory education. There was weaker adherence to the later stages of the Gronn career model as higher education leadership is typified by episodic interludes of leadership in what is an elected system and term of office. Key moments were important and resonated with the notion of Floyd’s (2012) ‘turning points.’

One of the primary insights was the finding that there is an academic sub-culture which has been characterised in this work as consisting of two pillars, Belief in Education, and Responsibility. Both terms represent several component elements and are integrated within the current author’s own proposed 6 C Ascendance to Higher Education Leadership model which acknowledges the existence of an academic sub-culture and describes the leadership journey for academics, articulating the episodic and largely undesired nature of leadership.

It is hoped that this work will be the starting point for deeper and wider enquiry into higher education leadership, and that the nascent sub-culture and the leadership model (the author’s proposed 6 C Ascendance to Higher Education Leadership model) will stimulate a future research agenda as well as inform the practice of developing academic leaders.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ed.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ed.D.
Licence: All rights reserved
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Social Sciences
School or Department: School of Education
Funders: None/not applicable
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HF Commerce
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB2300 Higher Education


Request a Correction Request a Correction
View Item View Item


Downloads per month over past year