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Leadership. The word evokes powerful http://bok.appa.org/images. Often, those http://bok.appa.org/images are of history's great military, political, religious, or industrial leaders. Those leaders, faced with incredibly difficult challenges or crises, led people, organizations, and sometimes entire societies toward a vision of the future that only they could see. More often than not, the resulting outcomes were of significant benefit to humankind.

On an equally important but less monumental scale, the power and importance of leadership is also demonstrated each and every day. Large and small businesses, clubs, churches, and political groups would not be successful without the leadership of individuals in their organizations. With leadership, these groups are able to attain outcomes that benefit both the people within the organization and the people served by it. In fact, so important is leadership in the success of any endeavor that it is not difficult to find numerous examples of organizations, no matter how wealthy or progressive, that eventually failed because they lacked the people with a vision and the willingness to lead.

Higher education, an institution created to improve human self-awareness and ability, is facing a significant period of change in its own development and evolution. Serious financial constraints are making it difficult for higher education to continue to serve an ever-expanding population with wide-ranging needs and requirements, using its historic business model. These constraints have challenged all segments of the higher education delivery system, including the provision and management of facilities.

Leadership in the management of land, buildings, and equipment is of critical importance to the future of higher education for a number of reasons. First, many senior officers in higher education institutions lack the training and knowledge necessary to understand the role that facilities play in the future viability of their institution. Second, those in charge of facilities services are finding success increasingly difficult to achieve if they follow the same approaches and techniques used by previous facilities managers. This difficulty has created great pressure to devise and test new approaches and techniques. Third, facilities managers must team with others both within and outside higher education to deploy new management techniques necessary to support higher education's emerging facilities requirements.

Because the need for leadership in higher education facilities management is so critical, APPA is devoting a separate chapter of the Body of Knowledge to this topic.  There are hundreds of theories and treatises on the subject of leading and leadership, so a full discussion of these concepts is not possible here; however, a brief overview of some of the more important ideas applicable to the field of facilities management is necessary.  The primary focus is the practical aspects of leadership: its characteristics, its traits, and its activities. The three fundamental areas in which leadership is important are (1) setting direction, (2) building the management team, and (3) team leadership.

To help readers understand why being a leader in facilities management is important to the future of higher education, a brief history of modern higher education and the role of facilities in its evolution provides some context.

The Evolution of Facilities Management

The development of higher education in most modern societies evolved through three phases: formation, expansion, and maturity. In many European countries, these phases extended over periods of many decades and may have cycled between periods of expansion and maturity. In the United States and Canada, the three phases generally can be grouped in three time periods. Beginning with the establishment of Harvard in 1636 and continuing through the early 1900s, the United States formed much of its present higher education system. Until World War II, higher education institutions grew slowly and generally were stable in their organization, curriculum, and systems of management. In the 1940s through the early 1970s, a period of unprecedented expansion occurred. Beginning in the mid-1970s, higher education reentered a period of maturity, again marked by slowed growth and little change in administrative approaches or program organization.

During formation of institutions, facilities issues consisted of little more than finding property; building or buying the institution's first building; and hiring the staff, tradespeople, or contractors needed to operate and maintain these small, cloistered college campuses. Then things changed dramatically. Fueled by the GI Bill and the post-World War II baby boom, colleges and universities found themselves with a burgeoning demand for their educational products. Between 1950 and 1975, higher education experienced a building boom in the United States, with building area more than quadrupling, from 570 million to more than 2.3 billion gross square feet. In this period, entire new campus planning and construction departments were created, often separated from the buildings and grounds department. Positions such as campus planner and university architect emerged to manage the expansion; these positions often were filled by people who had little, if any, practical experience in the operation of buildings, let alone college campuses. Original campus master plans were discarded, new concepts of site development and building design were enlisted, and campuses as we know them today were constructed. Higher education emerged from the expansion phase with few resources in reserve; almost everything had been spent to expand programs and campuses. In addition, operating costs were increasingly fixed, with required payments for energy bills and debt service consuming a large percentage of the budget.

Although the end of the 1970s could be labeled as the start of a period of maturity for U.S. higher education with regard to programs and campus size, the accompanying socioeconomic environment has been anything but stable. The pace of technology change has quickened. Changes in demographics, the economy, and societal needs and expectations have dramatically affected the way in which colleges and universities must operate. With regard to management of the facilities organization, laissez-faire attitudes toward facilities and their management are no longer possible.

Growing Need for Effective Facilities Management

The design, construction, use, maintenance, and even demolition of facilities should not be left to novices. Significant forces are driving the trend toward more sophisticated facilities management practices. These forces are technology, regulation, and economics.


Technological change has affected every aspect of modern life and higher education. First, technology drives changes in what and how things are taught. This drive is manifested in an escalating demand to modernize every type of facility on ever-decreasing time cycles. Second, technology has changed the way facilities are designed, built, and maintained. The current lexicon is quite different from a historical perspective: CAD (computer-aided design), smart buildings, LAN (local area networks), WLAN (wireless LAN), network engineering, and fiber optics, to name a few. Third, technology is intensifying the problem of obsolescence when constructing fixed assets during a period of rapid technological change.


Laws and regulations abound to protect workers, the public, the environment, business, students, parents, historical artifacts, faculty, administrators, and just about everything else. They affect every facet of facilities design, construction, and operation. If codes and laws are not followed, any resulting damage, injury, or death can be catastrophic. An overly cautious adherence to regulations, however, can unnecessarily burden an institution's operation or waste its scarce resources.


For many reasons, higher education has not been able to shed costs as have for-profit businesses faced with declining or inelastic revenues. The normal life expectancy of buildings has been eroded by the failure to make timely repairs. Thus, the expected useful life of facilities has been shortened, and total costs of ownership have increased. These costs come at a time when revenues are being constrained by the inability or unwillingness of higher education's customers and benefactors to continually pay more. Higher education is currently experiencing the difficulty of having to replace its prematurely aging facilities at a time when costs for operating and maintaining those facilities are higher than expected. The three forces of technology, regulation, and economics are creating the need for substantial reinvestment in higher education facilities. However, this increasing demand for capital is curtailed by a limited supply of funds, caused by declining revenues. The ability to set aside reserves or increase debt service requirements is therefore limited. These conditions are likely to affect higher education well into the twenty-first century.

Taken alone, these conditions are more than enough to demand better decision making and management of higher education facilities, but even more critical is the increasingly important role that facilities play in determining the quality and success of higher education. Several studies have established the relationship of facilities to customers' perceptions of the quality of educational outcomes1. The management of facilities is becoming increasingly important and, therefore, "doing things right" in managing facilities will no longer suffice. Managers must begin to "do the right things." This is the essential challenge facing those who are in charge of higher education's facilities.

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