Strengthening institutions of higher education through disruptive leadership

Keywords: disruptive leadership, ICTs, COVID 19, resilient, stakeholders, Zimbabwe


The intensifying COVID-19 calamity has caused massive pressure on institutions of higher learning across the globe. Most institutions of higher education closed down in order to protect students and staff from the deadly pandemic. However, it is important to understand that combined efforts by key stakeholders could inform future perspectives on higher education cognisant of the new normal. In view of these developments, this study sought to evaluate how positive disruptive leadership can have an important role in strengthening the higher education system in the face of COVID-19. The study used a case study approach applying a qualitative research design. Purposive sampling was used to select respondents from a private university operating in Zimbabwe. Virtual interviews were used to gather data from the University Board, University Executive, teaching staff and students, referred to as key stakeholders in this study. To overcome the challenges related to the unintended shift from face-to-face to online learning, disruptive approach to issues by these stakeholders has created a resilient institution that can survive during times of uncertainty where drastic changes are necessary as a result of external forces. The study noted that the key stakeholders exhibited positive disruptive leadership roles in their unique ways. The key challenges cited include limited accessibility to internet and lack of affordability in terms of data bundles and other ICT affordances to allow effective learning to take place. The study adds to knowledge different leadership roles played by the University Board, University Executive, academic staff and students to build a resilient and innovative institution in the face of COVID-19.


Download data is not yet available.

Author Biography

Promise Zvavahera, Deputy Registrar-Human Resources and Administration Africa University


Deputy Registrar-Human Resources and Administration Africa University.
ORCID ID https://orcid.og/0000-0001-6984-6475


Blaschke, S., Frost, J., & Hattke, F. (2014). Towards a micro foundation of leadership, governance, and management in universities. Higher Education, 68, (5), 711-732.

Bolden, R. (2004). What is Leadership? Leadership South Wes.t Research Report 1. University of Exeter.

Chandler, G.N., Dahlqvist, J. & Davidson, P. (2002). Opportunity recognition processes: a taxonomy and outcome implications. Frontiers of Entrepreneurial Research, Wellesley, Boston, MA, 38‐48.

Chandra, Y. & Shang, L. (2019). Inductive Coding. In: qualitative research using R: A systematic approach. Springer, Singapore.

Cumberbatch, D. (2020). Crisis and disruption: A framework for leadership. RHR International LLP.

Dopson, S., Ferlie, E., Mcgivern, G. & Fischer, M. (2016). The impact of leadership and leadership development in higher education: A review of the literature and evidence. Leadership Foundation for Higher Education.

Druguş, D & Landoy, A. (2014). Philology and cultural studies. Bulletin of the Transylvania University of Bra (56), 2.

Fernandez, A.A. & Shaw G.P. (2020). Academic leadership in a time of crisis: The Coronavirus and COVID-19. Journal of Leadership Studies, 14, (1) https:/doi: 10.1002/jls

Gill, P., Stewart, K., Treasure, E. & Chadwick, B. (2008). Methods of data collection in qualitative research: Interviews and focus groups. British dental journal, 204, 291-5. 10.1038/bdj.2008.192

Igbaekemen, G. O. (2014). Impact of leadership style on organisation performance: A strategic literature review. Public Policy and Administration Research, 4.

Khajeh, E. H. A. (2018). Impact of leadership styles on organizational performance. Journal of Human Resources Management Research, available at:

McNulty, E.J. & Marcus, L. (2020). Are you leading through the crisis … or managing. Harvard Business Review.

Mukeredzi, T., Kokutse, F. & Dell. S. (2020). Student bodies say e-learning is unaffordable and elitist. available at:, (accessed June 14, 2020)

Nowell, L.S., Norris, J.M., White, D.E., & Moules, N.J. (2017). Thematic analysis: Striving to meet the trustworthiness criteria. International Journal of Qualitative Methods.

Pearce, J.A. & Robinson, R.B. (2007). Formulation, implementation and control of competitive, 9th edition, Boston, MA, McGraw-Hill Irwin.

Pedro S.A., Ndjomatchoua F.T., Jentsch P., Tchuenche J.M., Anand M. & Bauch CT (2020). Conditions for a second wave of COVID-19 due to interactions between disease dynamics and social processes. Front. Phys, Vol. 8, 574514. https:// doi: 10.3389/fphy.2020.574514

Rumbley, L.E. (2020). Coping with COVID-19: International higher education in Europe. The European Association for International Education.

Santamar’a, L. J. (2012). Applied critical leadership in action: Re-visioning an equity agenda to address the community college achievement gap. Journal of Transformative Leadership and Policy Studies, 2, (1), 5-21.

van Ameijde, J.D.J., Nelson, P.C., Billsberry,J. & van Meurs, N. (2009). Improving leadership in Higher Education institutions: a distributed perspective. Higher Education, 58, 763-779. https:// doi 10.1007/s10734-009-9224-y

Abstract views: 335
PDF Downloads: 268
How to Cite
Zvavahera, P. (2021). Strengthening institutions of higher education through disruptive leadership. International Scientific Journal of Universities and Leadership, (11), 181-191.
Leadership and institutional development of universities: trends and achievements