Quality and Productivity Database

Descriptive Title of Proposal: Mobilizing Collaborative Leadership in Response to Modern Challenges in Higher Education: Carleton Leader
Year Submitted 2018
Person(s) Responsible for the Idea
Name / Nom Title / Titre
Cindy Taylor Director, Office of Quality Initiatives
Name of Institution Carleton University
Office Address 1125 Colonel By Drive
2016 Dunton Tower
Ottawa, Ontario K1S 5B6
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Telephone: 613-520-2600 ext 7847
Email Address: Email hidden; Javascript is required.
Name (Senior Administrative Office of the Institution) Michel Piché
Title (Senior Administrative Office of the Institution) Vice-President (Finance & Administration)
Office Address 1125 Colonely By Drive
503 Tory Building
Ottawa, Ontario K1S 5B6
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Telephone: 613-520-3804
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Universities are facing numerous emergent challenges in the higher education landscape that require us to challenge our thinking of traditional constructs and notions of leadership.  The establishment of Carleton Leader five years ago demonstrates the university’s intention in setting an innovative course in developing its leadership capacity, and in so doing, a commitment to a long-term strategy consistent with its institution-level values and goals.  Central to the vision, the strategy and to driving institution-level impact was implementing leadership development that brings together faculty and staff within the same cohort.  This integrated approach was the first of its kind in Canada.

Carleton Leader has earned its reputation as leading practice in leadership development, embodying  defining characteristics, as set out by pre-eminent organizations such as the Centre for Creative Leadership[1].  Anchored in philosophies and principles of collaborative leadership, Carleton Leader emphasizes that developing the next generation of leadership in modern organizations must embrace innovative leadership practices.  Through their rich development journey, faculty and staff are equipped to thrive in complexity, exercise their leadership across changing contexts, create the conditions for teams to thrive, build strong, diverse networks across the university and to be stewards of organizational leadership through the development of self and others (Appendix A- website and video references- Carleton Leader website).

As of January 2018, 325 faculty and staff from across the institution have participated in Carleton Leader.  The impact is palpable; one cohort at a time, it has transformed our understanding of leadership at Carleton University, and alongside this, our culture.  Leadership is understood as everyone’s domain, strengthened by contributions from faculty and staff at all levels across the university.  As an institution, we have developed momentous leadership capacity to address complex, or in the language of Carleton Leader, wicked problems[2], in innovative and collaborative ways.  It is evident that the university as a whole, its programs, departments, faculties and its community are flourishing as a result of Carleton Leader.


[1] Petrie, N. (2014) “Future Trends in Leadership Development” [White Paper].  Retrieved June 2017 from the Centre for Creative Leadership: www.ccl.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/futureTrends.pdf

[2] Grint, K. “Wicked Problems and Clumsy Solutions: the Role of Leadership”, 2008

Criteria Please submit one paragraph describing how the proposal fulfills each of the evaluation criteria.

The process by which Carleton Leader was developed speaks to its highly transferable nature.  Following an extensive research and discovery process, Carleton University partnered with The University of Sheffield to adapt its leadership development offer and customize it to the identified needs at Carleton.  Key to developing Carleton Leader has been internal resourcing of the management, delivery, support, evaluation and ongoing development within an existing department focused on organizational excellence, the Office of Quality Initiatives.   This strategic business decision has allowed the university to gain invaluable experience, knowledge and capacity in the provision of leading edge leadership development in higher education.  Carleton Leader is recognized by global colleagues as an innovative, aspirational model for leadership in higher education, reflective of leading practices.  This is evident in the immense interest expressed by universities from across Canada and around the world.  Most recently, Carleton University is hosting colleagues from institutions of higher education in India, to explore the possibility of partnering together to bring the richness Carleton Leader to their institutions.   

Quality Impact

From its inception five years ago, Carleton Leader has undergone rigorous evaluation.  Participant feedback is gathered following each module, and interviews are conducted with each participant six months following their formal engagement with their cohorts.  The Office of Quality Initiatives has been actively involved in evaluating Carleton Leader and reporting on the impressive results to the university community for five years.  This extensive evaluation work has allowed the institution to capture common, qualitative outcomes in the form of a value proposition (see Appendix D), which describes the impact that participating in Carleton Leader has had on staff and faculty.  Faculty and staff consistently describe an experience that is transformative, bringing a new mindset for leadership that impacts them individually, the teams, departments and collegial networks they belong to, their affinity to the institution as a whole  (see Appendix A- website and video references- qualitative impact).  Carleton Leader has proven to be an asset in retaining faculty and staff and developing them to meet their full potential.  In times of growth and change at the university, the Carleton Leader community has provided an invested, capable group of leaders who have risen to institutional needs, meeting both short and longer term succession planning demands in the academic and administrative portfolios.  Speaking at the Carleton Leader Fifth Anniversary in the fall of 2017, Interim Provost and Vice-President Academic, Jerry Tomberlin, shared these reflections on the impact of Carleton Leader:  “I was skeptical at first but as Carleton Leader has evolved over time I have seen a change in faculty and staff.  People are stepping up to leadership roles with a better sense of who they are and a better sense of  their strengths and abilities.  The connections that are built across the campus as a result of Carleton Leader would never have taken place otherwise.  We have had significant leadership changes at Carleton University this past year, with several Interim Deans as well as others who have moved into leadership positions who have benefited from their Carleton Leader experience.  I truly believe that this initiative contributes to making Carleton an even stronger institution."

Productivity Impact

As part of Carleton University’s Strategic Integrated Plan, a key performance indicator was established to assist in measuring institutional impact, “within six months of completing Carleton Leader, 60% of participants recognize that they are taking on more of a leadership role.” ( see Appendix A- website and video references- Strategic Integrated Plan).  Currently, 68% of participants report that they agree or strongly agree with this statement.  In addition to this indicator, several quantitative benchmarks demonstrate the impact of Carleton Leader, and how this renewed culture of leadership is driving results at the university.  

As a result of participating in Carleton Leader, participants report the following:

  • 95% feel that they have improved networks and relationships
  • 94% are satisfied with their Carleton Leader experience
  • 94% would recommend Carleton Leader to their colleagues
  • 81% have acted on new opportunities for collaboration

The catalyst for Carleton Leader was the recognition in 2011 that the existing means of developing leadership within the institution had outlived its usefulness and did not resonate with the needs of staff and faculty. Carleton actively sought out bold, innovative practices in leadership development befitting a modern, leading edge organization.  This vision has not only been realized, it has been validated. Carleton Leader accomplishes this innovative vision through fostering a Leaderful institution[1]; one in which leadership is practiced as a collaborative endeavor, inviting new ways of thinking, working and advancing our strategic goals together.   The participant experience is structured around leading edge content, interspersed with critical reflection, which together facilitate a profound development experience. Locally, the innovative nature of Carleton Leader has gained attention from faculty colleagues who have invited engagement with Carleton Leader in academic settings, as a means by which to extend the reach of Carleton Leader to their students’ experiences.  Externally, as part of Excellence Canada’s extensive verification process for the Healthy Workplace and Excellence, Innovation and Wellness Standards, Carleton Leader has been cited as a leading practice, not only in higher education, but across the public and private sectors (see Appendix B Exc Cda verifications).  Carleton University has built upon its reputation as a leader and innovator in this field by expanding its horizons and co-hosting the inaugural Higher Education Leadership Forum (HELF) on its campus in spring 2017 (see Appendix A- website and video references- Higher Education Leadership Forum).  The first of its kind, HELF attracted 90 delegates from four continents, bringing together practitioners, research faculty and senior leaders engaged in the development of leadership within the higher education sector.  The significance of this undertaking was recognized nationally, receiving accolades from the Right Honourable Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada, through a personal letter (see Appendix C) to all delegates and a video message (see Appendix A-website and video references-Prime Minister's video message).  


[1] Raelin, J, ‘Creating Leaderful Organizations’, 2003


Supporting Documents