Servant leadership in higher education: An autoethnographic account of one university teacher’s journey embedding servant leadership and servant teaching in two Australian online enabling courses

PhD Thesis


Todd, Nicholas. 2023. Servant leadership in higher education: An autoethnographic account of one university teacher’s journey embedding servant leadership and servant teaching in two Australian online enabling courses. PhD Thesis Doctor of Philosophy. University of Southern Queensland. https://doi.org/10.26192/z3w31
Title

Servant leadership in higher education: An autoethnographic account of one university teacher’s journey embedding servant leadership and servant teaching in two Australian online enabling courses

TypePhD Thesis
AuthorsTodd, Nicholas
Supervisor
1. FirstProf Patrick Danaher
2. SecondProf Lorelle Burton
3. ThirdDr Frey Parkes
Institution of OriginUniversity of Southern Queensland
Qualification NameDoctor of Philosophy
Number of Pages563
Year2023
PublisherUniversity of Southern Queensland
Place of PublicationAustralia
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.26192/z3w31
Abstract

Servant leadership is a values-driven approach to leadership with significant historical connections. It has mainly been investigated within the academic fields of organisational management and leadership, and not from the perspective of personal leadership. Additionally, there remains a lack of in-situ investigations, and few studies have located servant leadership within higher education. Consequently, this research contributes to the literature by applying servant leadership to a new educational context. However, while the initial focus of this study was on servant leadership, the study also introduces the concept of servant teaching within a higher education context by tracing my journey from initially experiencing servant leadership/teaching, to studying it as an emerging contemporary leadership theory, and finally to developing a personalised model of servant leadership/teaching for my tertiary teaching context, and embedding that model within two online enabling courses in an Australian university. The study proposes that servant leadership enacted in a university teaching context should be framed as servant teaching. This context was an authentic investigative setting for servant leadership/teaching because it provided an appropriate axiological lens through which to question the current status and value imputed to higher education. Servant leadership/teaching may also offer an alternative, viable, and more student-centred leadership narrative that can both critique higher education’s current dominant leadership model of executive governance, and also provide a leadership framework that has the success and wellbeing of students as its main concern. The research was framed through an interpretivist lens, and an autoethnographic study was conducted in order to record and analyse the researcher’s perspectives and experiences. There are three main findings from the study. The first is that in a tertiary educational class setting servant leadership can usefully be re-imagined as servant teaching. By doing so, a new niche area of servant leadership research is introduced that specifically focuses on educational teaching practitioners. Secondly, servant teachers adopt a markedly different relationship with their students, and uniquely view their teaching role as one of hosting students. They create an innovative relational dynamic that enables student needs to be authentically prioritised and heard, and that aims to foster a personalised learning journey for each student. Thirdly and finally, the study proposes that servant leadership can act as a moral conscience to the higher education sector, as neoliberal forces threaten to establish the automated university, which dismisses or simply downplays individual student needs. Servant leadership can consequently ensure that students are not overlooked by those currently leading the sector towards an impersonal and automated university learning experience.

Keywordsautomated university; servant teaching; servant leadership; neoliberalism; higher education leadership
Contains Sensitive ContentDoes not contain sensitive content
ANZSRC Field of Research 2020390303. Higher education
Public Notes

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Byline AffiliationsSchool of Education
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