Effective Practices for Academic Leaders
Stress Management Strategies for Academic Leaders
Volume 1: Issue 1

Journal: 978 1 57922 150 8 / $20.00
Published: January 2006  

E-Publication (PDF): 978 1 57922 379 3 / $10.00
Published: January 2006  

Publisher: Stylus Publishing
16 pp., 8 1/2" x 11"
Series: Effective Practices for Academic Leaders Archive
Executive Summary
This briefing is intended primarily for department chairs, but is also of utility to all academic administrators. It offers a diagnosis of the common causes of stress experienced by Chairs—stresses inherent in a job that requires that office holders continue to discharge their roles as faculty researchers and teachers while also taking on new leadership and management duties for which they may not have been prepared and for which the expectations are not entirely clear. For academic administrators this briefing offers tools for managing that stress. While there is an extensive literature on occupational stress, there are few studies of academic administrator stress or specifically of the stress faced by department chairs. This briefing draws on several national and international studies of academic leaders to achieve the following objectives: (1) understand what stress is, and what it is not; (2) dispel common myths surrounding the concept of stress; (3) propose a stress cycle that, if understood, can help to manage stress; (4) identify common stresses of academic leaders; (5) explore how stress impairs and enhances performance; (6) suggest techniques to master stress; and (7) explore academic leaders’ potential tradeoffs and payoffs in their administrative careers, in the light of their objectives and intended legacies as leaders. The framework for this discussion is the four-stage Chair Stress Cycle. Stage I is concerned with identification of stressors faced by academic leaders. These stressors can include excessive meetings, conflicting calls on their time, and confrontation with colleagues. The individual’s perception (Stage II) of demands determines the degree to which stress is experienced. Stage III of the stress cycle presents seven categories of response for coping with stress. Stage IV describes consequences of inappropriate responses to stress. Coping involves developing an action plan that will identify one’s most serious stressors and the causes of stressful events, and generating a set of possible solutions and a personal management plan to remedy them. In addition to this systematic approach to stress reduction, this briefing provides strategies for balancing tradeoffs in academics’ personal and professional lives. Finally, readers are asked to prioritize their activities in the context of the legacy they would like to leave behind as academic leaders.

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