Leadership Frames of Program Directors at
Finnish Universities of Applied Sciences

By Johanna Vuori
April 2011
Tampere University Press
Distributed by Coronet Books
ISBN: 9789514483561
186 pages
$82.50 Paper Original

The focus for this study was the leadership of people responsible for the line management of lecturers at Finnish universities of applied sciences (UASs). The term “program director” was used to refer to the profession in this study. The research objective was to analyze and understand the leadership orientations of program directors. Using reframing theory as a conceptual framework the research questions that guided the analysis were: do the program directors use the four leadership frames presented in the reframing theory, how do they use them and how do they use them to frame change. The empirical data were collected by interviewing program directors or persons in similar managerial positions at Finnish UASs. Thematic analysis with a prior code was used for the analysis of the interview material. In addition, four portraits of the leadership orientations were composed as composite examples of the use of leadership frames.

The structural frame in program directors’ work was seen as a consistent pursuit of rationality attempting to tighten the couplings between the organizational sub-systems. The primary change-making mechanism for a program director in this leadership frame is planning. The human resource frame in program directors’ work was manifest by their consistent efforts to pay individualized attention to every faculty member and to promote co-operation in multiple ways. The primary change-making tool in this leadership frame is the pursuit of shared leadership. The political frame in program directors’ work is evident in their persevering attempts to balance the needs of different interest groups. Change can be accomplished, but due to the loosely coupled nature of the organizational sub-systems, it is acknowledged that the outcomes are not necessarily exactly what was hoped for. The symbolic frame was manifest through the program directors’ efforts to build significance for the degree program and faculty members’ work. The primary change-making mechanism for the program directors in this frame was seen in their consistent attempts at joint sensemaking.

All program directors interviewed were interpreted to use the structural and the human resource leadership frames. The reframing theory suggests that effective leadership is achieved if a manager is able to multiframe, i.e. to use three or four leadership frames. This study indicated that multiframing can also be found in program leadership. However, the multiframing activities could be further supported.

The recommendation of this study is that the work of a program director, or anyone in a similar position, should be thoroughly discussed within each UAS. The emphasis on multiframing leadership might be one of the solutions to support UASs’ capacities for change.


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