Leading Change: A Phenomenological Study of Presidents Leading Community College Baccalaureate Degree Pilot Programs

The purpose of this phenomenological study was to understand the leadership strategies and processes that California community college presidents employed as they made the decision to participate in the pilot baccalaureate degree program and the subsequent implementation of the pilot program at their institutions. Presidents were selected because of their unique position in the organization to lead change initiatives. In this study, eight presidents in the California Community College Baccalaureate (CCB) pilot programs, who were in their positions when the decision was made to apply for the CCB and remained in their positions through their implementation of the program, were interviewed. Their responses were analyzed using the framework of Kotter’s (1995, 2012) change model. Responses were also analyzed in the context of Fullan’s (2001) model for leading in a culture of change. Implications for community college leadership were identified: 1. Lead with a moral purpose. Presidents should lead change with the intent to make a positive impact on the lives of students, staff, and members of the community. 2. Rather than try to change the culture with a change initiative, cultivate an environment where change can occur. 3. Establish a team and empower the team to act on the president’s behalf is critical. 4. Be prepared to do whatever it takes to make it work. 5. Effective communication is critical. 6. Leading change initiatives can be hampered by the politics of the change. This study was unique in that all the presidents in the study were leading the change, becoming a baccalaureate-granting institution, at the same time, and for the first time in California. Based on the data and analysis from this study three recommendations were made for leading change: (a) create an institutional culture that supports change, (b) lead with a moral purpose, and (c) be prepared to do whatever it takes.


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