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International Journal of Education and Practice

February 2019, Volume 7, 2, pp 101-111

Leadership in Higher Education in Saudi Arabia: Benefits, Constraints and Challenges of Adopting Servant Leadership Model by Department Chairs

Faiza Adil Gonaim

Faiza Adil Gonaim 1

  1. Department of Administration and Fundamentals of Education University of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia 1

on Google Scholar
on PubMed

Pages: 101-111

DOI: 10.18488/journal.61.2019.72.101.111

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Article History:

Received: 07 January, 2019
Revised: 20 February, 2019
Accepted: 27 March, 2019
Published: 22 May, 2019


Effective leadership is crucial to the success of every academic institution. In Saudi higher education, the pressure has increased on department chairs to achieve the departmental goals required for the general reform of the country. Therefore, the type of leadership that the chairs adopt and express plays a significant role in the progress of the department. Servant leadership is a contemporary approach that has gained increasing acceptance in leadership and organisational literature. From this point of view, this study aims to identify the possible effects of embracing servant leadership by department chairs, and to determine the strengths and weaknesses that the style could bring to the department. A qualitative inquiry using semi-structured interview designed around a vignette was used to elicit the perspectives of 14 department chairs on adopting servant leadership. The finding indicates that servant leadership has positive impacts in the working environment which can be taken advantage of. However, some drawbacks were noted which could impact the department negatively if the style was not used properly. Some challenges for implementing the style also emerged.
Contribution/ Originality
This study contributes to the existing literature as it depicts the effectiveness of servant leadership practices for department chairs in the Saudi higher education context which currently lack studies that investigate contemporary leadership at departmental level. The study used qualitative approaches which contribute to the methodology of the research of higher education in Saudi Arabia, in which most of the collected data are quantitative in nature.


Servant leadership, Department chairs, Effective leadership, Departmental leadership, Challenges, Positive leadership, Strengths of servant leadership, Weakness of servant leadership.




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This study received no specific financial support.

Competing Interests:

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.


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