Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Jeria, Jorge

Degree Name

Ed.D. (Doctor of Education)

Legacy Department

Counseling, Adult and Higher Education


Educational leadership; Organizational sociology; Public administration


The bureaucratic red tape governing civil service employment in public higher educational institutions in Illinois can prolong the process to issue corrective action. As swift action to address conduct is stifled by the layers of procedure, a manager may become discouraged from responding to problems in the workplace. When the discouragement becomes the status quo of inaction in the workplace, the misconception that a civil service employee cannot be terminated is further underscored. The acceptance of a laissez-faire management style develops into a steep problem in public higher education, in which a manager who is unprepared for conflict becomes the mechanism for perpetual conflict. Ineffective management of such employees can lead to costly expenditures such as accumulated salaries of individuals involved to resolve disputes, arbitrations, and high turnover. Specific to higher education, hidden costs include disruption to the student experience and loss in confidence from other university stakeholders such as parents, donors, and potential students. A qualitative study was conducted based on the foundations of transformational leadership and the strategic conceptual framework of Sun Tzu, a Chinese military general from 500 BC credited with authoring a treatise entitled The Art of War. The Art of War contains 13 principles that, when used together, provide a strategic advantage for the leadership to overcome obstacles. The subjects of the research included managers of civil service employees in the Campus Operations Department in a public higher educational institution in Illinois. To fully understand the challenges that the management experienced, the research focused on the following questions: (1) What are the obstacles and experiences in managing civil service employees that are unique to the public sector, specifically in higher education? (2) How do these unique obstacles change the way a leader manages a department? And (3) What are problems that civil service employees tend to experience the most from their managers? The researcher conducted face-to-face interviews with six participants over a two-month period at the end of 2016. The first part of each interview was voice-recorded; however, the interviews were continued after the voice recorder was turned off to increase the participants' comfort level. Follow-up discussions that were not recorded added depth and clarity to the interviewees' responses. Based on the themes that emerged a result of the data analysis, the researcher deconstructed and reconstructed the 13 principles from The Art of War to form new tenets in strategic transformational leadership of a civil service workforce that better positions leaders to overcome conflict if it cannot be prevented.


Advisors: Jorge Jeria.||Committee members: Laverne Giant; Cornelius Gilbert; Wei-Chen Hung.||Includes bibliographical references.


147 pages




Northern Illinois University

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