Faiza Adil Gonaim


The academic department is a fundamental unit for transforming the university's visions and goals into reality. In contrast, higher education undervalues administrative positions in general and department chairs in particular, believing that an administrative role is a temporary task. Little investigation has been conducted into effective leadership approaches in departmental leadership in higher education in general and in higher education in Saudi Arabia in particular. Therefore, the overarching purpose of this study was to identify effective leadership practices, characteristics and behaviors that contribute to the effectiveness of female academic department chairs and the challenges that they face. A qualitative approach informed with grounded theory techniques was used in this study. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with former department chairs, current department chairs and faculty members. Vignettes were the basis of the faculty members' interviews to avoid any ethical concerns and to allay any fears of repercussion from their department chairs. The findings of the study indicate that effective chairs are distinguished by a combination of skills, knowledge, behaviors and attitudes. Although leadership in Saudi Arabia is based on a centralized system, the findings demonstrate the tendency toward more collaborative leadership that promotes collegiality and collective interest. Specific recommendations were made to better prepare department chairs for this crucial position in institutions of higher education. The study came at a time when the country is taking significant reforms in women’s issues.


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leadership; challenges; Saudi higher education; women leadership; departmental leadership; effective leadership


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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.46827/ejes.v0i0.368


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