This research used an interpretivist exploratory case study design to examine how
thirty nursing deans, directors or chairs (nursing deans) from 28 English language
Canadian universities led institutional operations, set future direction and facilitated organizational decision-making. Leadership in universities has been described as a hybrid mix of traditional and entrepreneurial approaches (Collinson & Collinson, 2009). The administrator as conservator (Terry, 2003) and entrepreneurial public servant (Rowley,
Lujan & Dolence, 1997) leadership models, which together form a leadership continuum,
served as the foundation for describing, analyzing and interpreting this study’s findings.
The nursing deans were found to use forty-nine leadership practices, thirty-seven (76%) of
which reflected entrepreneurial public servant leadership. This signifies that these nursing deans used a blended leadership approach with entrepreneurial public servant practices being dominant. Personal values, globalization, university systems, structures and priorities, internal relationships, academic networks and mentors influenced the nursing
deans’ entrepreneurial public servant leadership practices.
The researcher also examined the amount of time that these nursing deans spent
completing tasks in eight role function areas associated with the deanship position
(Salewski, 2002). Approximately seventeen hours (30%) and eight hours (14%) of their 62
hour work week were spent completing tasks in the human resources/personnel and professional leadership/research role function areas respectively.
This first national study of the Canadian university nursing deanship substantiated
the shortage of nursing deans in Canada. At the time they were interviewed, 30 per cent of the nursing deans were holding acting or interim appointments. The turnover of nursing deans approximated 30 per cent between 2007 and 2009 and increased to 60 per cent by 2011. Senior university leaders can use the findings of this study as one foundation for reshaping the nursing deanship so that it becomes a more viable career option. The research also fulfills long-standing scholarly recommendations to study how university deans lead faculties (de Boer & Goedegebuure, 2009; Boyett, 1996) and offers a glimpse into the Canadian university deanship, which is understudied (Boyco & Jones, 2010).