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Crisis Salience Theory: A Framework for Analyzing Community College Leadership during a Time of Three Intersecting, Slow-Moving Crises

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This exploratory, psychological narrative study examines how community college presidents make sense of crisis situations based on their cognitive schemas, and what leadership behaviors, competencies, and traits they draw on in response. The sample consisted of 12 retired community college presidents from a diverse range of institutions based on region, urbanity, and size. Findings informed the proposal of crisis salience theory. This theory suggests leaders make sense of crises on a continuum between immediate events and slow-moving situations. Perceptions of the immediacy of a crisis, informed by how much public scrutiny the event is receiving, influence the leader's response. Leaders emphasize behaviors like taking a front and center role and communicating during an immediate crisis versus using more transformational and adaptive leadership strategies to address slow-moving crises.


Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: March 1, 2021

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  • Since 1993, the Journal of Applied Research in the Community College (JARCC) has served the institutional research and planning professionals in community colleges. JARCC is a semi-annual peer-reviewed journal that features articles relating to the integration of research and theory to practice in community colleges. The journal provides an intellectual space to communicate innovative practices in applied research that supports educational and administrative decision-making at the institutional, state, and national levels. JARCC is published by the San Diego State University's EdD program in Community College Leadership and Community College Leadership Alumni Chapter
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