What professional leadership academician model is appropriate to be develop in education for sustainable development (ESD) for higher education in Malaysia?


Leadership in the classroom is an issue that is rarely brought up in the context of higher education (HE). The TL sector is vital to the performance and survival of universities because of structural changes that connect a portion of university funding to characteristics including the number of completed study units and degrees, the quality of teaching and supervision, and the employability of graduates. As the field of TL grows more professionalised and regulated, strong leadership is essential. Despite the well-known conflict between the research sector and the TL sector (Ekman et al., 2017), leadership in HE is still widely debated and investigated without an emphasis on the unique problems of TL. The goal of this study is to dive into how recent studies have structured the administration of TL in higher education. Two major studies from the Anglo-American world over 15 years ago suggested that the TL sector held keys to HE leadership. Authors of a large Australian survey study, Scott et al. (2008), identified characteristics that distinguished leadership of TL in university from leadership of research, including a strong focus on external results and extensive collaboration with a wide range of peers.

The characteristics of an effective TL leader were identified by the authors to be crucial for the head of a higher education institution. The following year, Fullan and Scott (2009) also argued for an integrative, TL-centered approach to HE administration in their article. Putting TL at the centre of transformation would transform universities into complex junctions similar to major highways. Transformational leadership (TL) would serve as the unifying force in the institutional change process across all disciplines. The findings did give some reason for optimism that the TL sector would receive more attention from the top administrators in HE, notwithstanding the current discussion on the change leadership method proposed by these research. Since the findings were published, more and more academics have been asked to assume formal and informal leadership roles (Gronn, 2011; Jones et al., 2012; Youngs, 2017). While conducting their research, Scott et al. (2008) and Fullan and Scott (2009) drew on the rich practical knowledge of the ever-evolving TL sector at universities and international developments in change leadership practise. It has been argued that both dispersed leadership studies and the critical scholarship of new public management (NPM) are crucial to understanding the full picture. NPM has been striving to make public administration more like the business sector since the 1970s (Hood, 1991).

In the realm of higher education, these traits are referred to as excellence, quality, and efficiency (Bleiklie, 1998; Santiago & Carvalho, 2012). Several recent papers have investigated the processes of leadership transitions brought about by the increasing influence of market mechanisms, corporate organisational structures, and principles of accountability and responsibility in today`s academic institutions (Ahlbäck berg et al., 2016; Ball, 2003; Ekman et al., 2017; Teelken, 2012; Hallonsten, 2016). In addition, NPM is promoted in schools as an example of effective collaboration between the Ministry of Education and the local community. Institutions of higher education have a responsibility to adapt their recruitment tactics and curriculum to meet the demands of an ever-changing economy and society. In response to significant academic unhappiness with the NPM model, the distributed leadership strategy is advocated. Distributed leadership requires a mental shift, from viewing leadership as an individual responsibility to viewing it as a collective effort (Davis and Jones, 2014). Some of the first advocates of the more malleable "work of leadership" over "a leader`s work" are Gibb (1954), Heifetz and Laurie (1997), and Gronn (2000, 2002). Distributed leadership involves everyone from appointed, positional academic and professional leaders to those who lead by expertise to anyone whose action attributes influence among colleagues (Gronn, 2000; Jones et al., 2012, 2014).

Under the dispersed leadership paradigm, all members of the community are eligible for leadership positions. Previous studies have demonstrated, however, that the term "distributed leadership" can be used in a variety of ways and is sometimes employed as a rhetorical technique to characterise leadership as dispersed when it is not (Bolden et al., 2009; Gosling et al., 2009). For example, Chipunza and Gwarinda (2010) suggest that transformational leadership can be utilised to discuss and manage large-scale changes in higher education, such as institutional mergers. Both distributed and transformational leadership seek to enlist the help of the community as a whole in effecting change.

Background Study

The fourth Sustainable Development Goal (SDG4) aims to "ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote opportunities for all to learn for life" (United Nations, 2015). The quality and accessibility of education, as well as substantive, rather than merely distributive, definitions of equality, have all been overlooked in the establishment of global indicators for SDG4 (Unterhalter, 2019), despite their importance. There is a strong focus on many different benchmarks, indicators, and targets in the current discussion on education policy, and this is directly related to the importance of the SDG 4 aims for excellent education more generally (Boeren, 2019). When an organisation creates and distributes value to its many constituents, it also creates both positive and negative externalities. Achieving sustainable development (SD) can be hampered by unfavourable ones, which can have an impact on economic, social, and environmental systems (Benmira and Agboola, 2021). A number of charters and programmes, such as the Principles for Responsible Management Education (PRME), have given HEIs the impression that they play a significant role in promoting sustainable development (Stoller, 2020). These schools are shifting gears and refocusing their efforts to become more instrumental in advancing SD, which includes prioritising the development and education of tomorrow`s leaders for positions of influence in business, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), and government, as well as caring about their educational system and top management teams, staff, professors, and researchers as sustainable leaders (Stoller, 2020) .

As sustainable leaders, HEIs have a responsibility to foster people who are knowledgeable about and skilled in SD by providing them with opportunities to do so . This means that universities as a whole need to focus on producing leaders who can steer their respective industries towards socially responsible and environmentally benign practises (Ahem and Loh, 2021). Nonetheless, the theoretical connections between sustainable development and schools of thought on leadership like the traits/style school, the context/situational school, and interactionism/contingency school are also explored in this article as a supplement to the definition by Lozano and colleagues (2013). Leadership for sustainability, or sustainability leadership, can be seen of as an amalgamation of various styles of leadership applied to a specific problem (sustainable development) (Ahem and Loh, 2021). Research into leadership focuses primarily on how well a group or individual can direct and influence its followers (i.e., its employees and team members) to achieve its goals [4-6]. Leadership, both as an action and a position, is crucial whenever a system or organisation must undergo change, which inherently introduces uncertainty (Ahem and Loh, 2021). To meet all these challenges and meet all these demands, universities need leadership to develop strategies with a focus on the future and the ability to connect key areas, to involve stakeholders through coaching processes, to inspire people, and to make communities stronger through adaptation (Ferdman et.al, 2020). As a result, leaders should know how their actions affect other entities and the world around them In addition to the aforementioned changes in sustainability leadership conceptions, there is a growing body of literature addressing the significance of top-level management team leaders and the role of higher education institutions (HEIs) in advancing the cause of sustainable development. Humans are pushing social and natural systems well past their sustainability thresholds, as is well acknowledged in the academic literature (Ferdman et.al, 2020).

As a result, everyone agrees that sustainable development is essential, which, according to the Brundtland Commission, implies prioritising the needs of the present without compromising those of future generations. The ideals of equilibrium and stewardship ought to underpin sustainable development. In the pursuit of sustainable management, there are a number of tensions that could cause other goals (such as increased sales, profits, and satisfying investor concerns) to be jeopardised. One of these conflicts stems from the fact that businesses create unwanted externalities and must deal with them in order to generate and retain long-term value for all of their stakeholders (Netolicky, 2020). The debate of sustainability leadership at the organisational level becomes crucial if positive externalities are desired and negative ones should be controlled [1,30]. In this vein, the United Nations (UN) launched a few programmes to encourage SD-related activities in businesses. Together with the recently developed tool known as the SDG Compass, the United Nations Global Compact serves to integrate the strategy and operations of businesses with the SDG (Netolicky, 2020). The PRME (Principles for Responsible Management Education) is a set of guidelines for creating leaders in sustainable organisations that may effect positive social change. These efforts affect not just the long-term viability of the organisation and the HEIs, but also the local and regional communities in which they are implemented . These projects provide a great chance for a wide range of HEI stakeholders to work together to address the pressing issues facing our modern society and advance the cause of sustainability (Netolicky, 2020).In addition to the emphasis on organisational leadership and UN initiatives, the writers also emphasise the role of individual leadership in the pursuit of sustainability. Visser and Courtice (2011) addressed this problem with a situational leadership theory–informed sustainability leadership model , which took into account the following three factors: the leadership context (the internal and external environments of organisations), the individual as a leader (with their traits, styles, skills, and knowledge), and the internal and external actions of the leader. It is well-established that business executives who prioritise sustainability can generate positive externalities in their industries. Students of today who internalise the sustainability culture may one day lead the charge for a more sustainable world (Iqbal et al, 2020).

They may lead businesses through a learning curve that makes them more resilient in the face of ambiguity and competing priorities in the areas of social welfare, economic growth, and environmental protection (Netolicky, 2020). In other words, in order to solve wicked sustainability problems, these leaders need to be competent in systems thinking and creative. University efforts to encourage student leadership and empowerment should be viewed in this context as part of a larger structural and contextual framework. This context is examined in relation to three other aspects of sustainability leadership development (leader viewpoint, actions, and context) (Iqbal et al, 2020).

Research Objectives

The research objectives of this study are as below:

  1. To investigate the need of a professional leadership academician model in education for sustainable development (ESD) for higher education in Malaysia.
  2. To develop a suitable professional leadership academician model in education for sustainable development (ESD) for higher education in Malaysia.
  3. To evaluate the effectiveness of a professional leadership academician model in education for sustainable development (ESD) for higher education in Malaysia.

 Research Questions

Phase 1: Needs Analysis

1. Is there a need to develop a professional leadership academician model in education for sustainable development (ESD) for higher education in Malaysia?

a. What are the problems that can be seen among academician during the implementation of education for sustainable development (ESD) for higher education in Malaysia?

b. What professional leadership academician model is appropriate to be develop in education for sustainable development (ESD) for higher education in Malaysia?

Phase 2: Design and Development

2. What professional leadership academician model is appropriate to be developed for Sustainable Education (ESD) for higher education in Malaysia?

a. Based on the experts’ consensus, what are the elements shaping the professional leadership academician model in education for sustainable development (ESD) for higher education in Malaysia?

b. Based on the experts’ consensus, what are the hierarchical order of elements shaping the professional leadership academician model in education for sustainable development (ESD) for higher education in Malaysia?