Resources for Chairs/Heads


Department Chairs and Heads: CCAS Recommended Reading |


Chair as Leader

Buller, Jeffrey L. Academic Leadership Day by Day: Small steps that lead to great success,
San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2011

This unusual book offers 365 daily ideas for reflection and action. October 5, for example, is a day to “Look Around You,” by taking a fresh look at your workplace environment to see how it appears to others. This book may be especially useful to an experienced chair who wants to refresh his/her perspective and approach.

Davis, James R. Learning to Lead: A handbook for postsecondary administrators,
Rowan & Littlefield Publishers, with the American Council on Education, 2011

An engaging overview of higher-education leadership, aimed primarily at new deans. The author approaches his topic by taking us through the experiences of new dean Mary Williams in her first year in the job by introducing her to all aspects of administration and leadership. 

Gmelch, W.H. and Miskin, V.D. Leadership Skills for Department Chairs, 2nd edition,
Madison, WI: Atwood Publishing, 2011

Billed as an “individual leadership seminar,” this book includes numerous exercises and inventories for chairs. The approach is suitable to those seeking a thorough study of the role of the chair and a benefiting from developing action plans to maximize their success in the job.

Roper, S.S. and Deal, T.E. Peak Performance for Deans and Chairs,
Rowan & Littlefield Publishers, with the American Council of Education, 2009

The authors believe that too often, deans and chairs fail to perceive what is important about a management situation. To enhance analysis of a problem, leaders should look at all situations through four “frames” or “lenses” – 1) human resources; 2) structural; 3) political; and 4) symbolic – which will guide them in moving forward. The book is structured around lively case studies of typical decanal and chair challenges.

Wergin, Jon F. Departments that Work: Building and Sustaining Cultures of Excellence in Academic Programs, Bolton, MA: Anker Publishing Co., 2003

Wergin argues that the most useful way to build and sustain a culture of excellence (quality) in a department is to create among its faculty a culture of critical reflection and continuous improvement. This book is recommended for chairs who wish to transform a department through focusing on academic quality and engagement with its multiple constituencies.


Duties of a Chair

Buller, Jeffrey L. The Essential Department Chair: A Comprehensive Desk Reference (Second Edition),
Jossey-Bass: A Wiley Imprint, 2012

Billed as a book about the “how” of academic administration, its 500 pages are the most thorough treatment available on the job of chairs/heads. Buller suggests that the book be used as a desk reference to consult for guidance when confronted with a particular problem. Included are dozens of “essential principles” that Buller has derived from 30 years of training chairs.

Buller, Jeffrey L. The Essential Department Chair: A practical guide to college administration,
Bolton, MA: Anker Publishing Co., 2006

Essentially a condensed version of the above.

Chu, Don. The Department Chair Primer: Leading and Managing Academic Departments, Second Edition,
Jossey-Bass, 2012

This basic introduction to the job of chair can be read in one sitting. Chu offers practical guidance to new chairs on a variety of topics. While not offering a framework for leadership, it touches upon the range of duties and responsibilities of all chairs.

Gmelch, W.H. and Miskin, V.D. Chairing an Academic Department, Madison, Wisconsin: Atwood Publishing, 2004

The authors argue that there are four primary roles for chairs: management; leading; developing faculty; and maintaining his/her scholarship. “Your challenge is to weave all four roles together for a rewarding position within a productive department.” This book is a blend of scholarship on the role of chair mixed with practical applications, exercises, and check lists. The final chapter on “Chair as Scholar” is a topic often neglected in other books for chairs/heads.

Leaming Deryl R. Academic Leadership: A Practical Guide for Chairing the Department, Bolton, MA: Anker Publishing Co., 2007

A highly comprehensive treatment of the responsibilities of chairs, more likely to serve as guidance as the need arises rather than a book to read straight through. Includes several useful chapters on personnel issues.

Wheeler, Daniel W. et. al. The Academic Chair’s Handbook, (2nd ed.), San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2008

Written for chairs who want to proactively invest in their faculty and improve their departments. For instance, instead of a chapter on “Budgeting,” there is “Adapt to Funding and Resources Challenges;” rather than “Dealing with Difficulty Faculty,” it’s “Address Personnel Issues of Faculty.” Concludes with a handy “index to strategies.”


Gender Equity/Faculty Worklife

Philipsen, Maike I. and Bostic, Timothy B. Helping Faculty Find Work-Life Balance: The path toward family-friendly institutions, San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2010

Helping Faculty Find Work-Life Balance provides useful recommendations toward achieving a work-life balance within academia. The book aims to navigate the challenging intersection of one’s personal and professional life throughout each career stage by utilizing case studies and discussing common work-life obstacles typically encountered by academics. Policies and programs are looked to as tools that will aid in finding an effective life balance for all faculty lifestyles.

Touchton, Judy; Musil, Caryn M. and Campbell, Kathryn P. A Measure of Equity: Women's Progress in Higher Education, Washington, DC: Association of American Colleges and Universities, 2008

Wolf-Wendel, Lisa; Twombly, Susan B.; Rice, Suzanne. The Two-Body Problem: Dual-career-couple hiring practices in higher education, Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003

The Two Body Problem offers assistance to institutions in recruiting and accommodating dual-career couples. The book discusses strategies for finding employment for a spouse/partner, presents policies and procedures that can be implemented and/or utilized by institutions to recruit, and later retain dual-career couples by anticipating and meeting their needs.

Gender Differences at Critical Transitions in the Careers of Science, Engineering, and Mathematics Faculty, Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2009.


Personnel Management

Cipriano, Robert. Facilitating a Collegial Department in Higher Education, Jossey-Bass, 2011

Based on the belief that chairs set the tone and culture in a department, Cipriano stresses the importance of fostering a collegial environment among members of the faculty and offers concrete strategies for chairs to use to deal with toxic colleagues. Includes short cases and a chapter on case law regarding collegiality in higher education.

Gunsalus, C.K. The College Administrator’s Survival Guide, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2006

A highly popular book written by a long-time university legal counsel who believes that “if you approach your job [as department chair] with a clear mind-set and consistently apply a set of concepts and principles of academic administration, you will be able to diffuse many difficult personnel situations. Deep analysis of case studies is used to probe each topic (negotiation, complaints, bullies, violations, etc.). 

Higgerson, Mary Lou and Joyce, Teddi A. Effective Leadership Communication: A guide for department chairs and deans for managing difficult situations and people
Bolton, MA: Anker Publishing Co., 2007.

The underlying premise in this text is that a key strategy for managing conflict effectively is proficiency in moving between the first-person and third-person perspectives. Mastering this skill, assert the authors, can dramatically influence one’s comfort and willingness to serve in a leadership position. The authors recommend “working through” this book in order to become skilled at managing difficult people and conflict.

Leaming, Deryl R. Managing People: A guide for department chairs and deans, Bolton, MA: Anker

The chapters of this edited volume deal with everyday people-issues faced by chairs: how to create consensus among faculty, using meetings to create cohesion, winning over your detractors, handling conflict with difficulty faculty, and the like. As a “guide,” the chapters can be read and referred to as the need arises.


Practical Skills

Allen, David. Getting Things Done: The art of stress-free productivity, Penguin Books, 2001

This book is for those seeking a highly detailed approach to managing tasks and workload. The approach requires focused consideration but has the potential to transform the way you approach your work.

Hansen, Christian K. Time Management for Department Chairs, Jossey Bass, 2011

An short, excellent guide to finding enough hours in the day to be an effective chair and still have a life. Along with strategies for training your faculty and staff to understand that there are periods on your calendar when you do not want to be disturbed, the book includes guidance on running meetings, delegating tasks, and so forth.

Shipley, David and Schwalbe, Will. Send: The how, why, when, and when not of email, New York: Canongate, 2007

An engaging volume on email protocol, dealing with topics such as “how to write the perfect email,” and “the emotional email.” The authors are British but their guidance is universal.

Vicker, Lauren A. and Royer, Harriette. The Complete Academic Search Manual: A systematic approach to successful and Inclusive hiring, Sterling, VA: Stylus Press, 2006

This handbook contains clear and succinct steps for a hiring process from A to Z. Sample checklists, feedback forms, and sample questions are included. Users will need to confirm that these procedures conform with those on their own campuses, however.



The Department Chair, $106/4 print issues/yr. To order:



ADVANCE portal website for the Advancement of Women in Science and Engineering Careers,
linking activities and resources of NSF Advance Institutional Transformation Grant recipients,

Gender Equity Project, Hunter College, City University of New York,

American Association of University Women. Why So Few? Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, Washington, DC: AAUW, March 2010.

Beyond Bias and Barriers: Fulfilling the potential of women in academic science and engineering, Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2007.

Boise State University. Creating Work-Life Flexibility: A toolkit for chairs and deans, August, 2009.



Department Chairs and Deans, sponsored by The Chronicle of Higher Education,


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