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Leadership Ideas

11 May Posted by in Administration | 8 comments
Leadership Ideas

I had the pleasure recently of talking about my leadership experience with Mason Leads; had a lot of fun. I am frankly diffident about putting forward leadership lessons, but I guess I did like my answer to one key question. So here goes. The question was what advice do I have for others who want to take on academic leadership roles. A number of possibilities occurred: the importance of high energy; the importance of being able to sell ideas and not assume a command hierarchy; the utility of a good memory; the great need to be comfortable with budgets – not details, but broad parameters. And I’ve found more occasion than I would have imagined to think about ethics and principle, particularly in trying to resolve person-to-person conflicts or issues. Finally, it’s obviously vital to be able to form a talented staff and then to trust them – I’ve seen breakdowns on this one also. Here are my top three:

  1. (I once blogged about this one): the ability to be as enthusiastic about supporting and realizing someone else’s good idea or projects as about one’s own. I do find people who are superb at pushing their own stuff, but oddly diffident when the source is other. This just does not work. It’s obviously not a matter of claiming credit inappropriately, but being truly even-handed.
  1. The capacity to combine real commitment to basic academic goals – improving teaching and learning, advancing the process of discovery – while maintaining great flexibility in implementation. Times are not just a-changing now, they were changing 15 years ago, and the ability to adjust – but remain true to mission – is crucial.
  1. The ability to implement, to figure out effective next steps and then the steps beyond that. Of course projects will be presented that just don’t materialize, even when the basic ideas seemed good. But I think there is a difference between approving in principle and actually committing to action. A can-do approach, and not just approval in the abstract, is critical.

I am aware of the risk of hubris, for I obviously think I score pretty well on these three. Others would surely disagree, or would like a different list. But I did manage to survive longer than I expected, and thought that maybe a few personal selections would be useful for other and more informed leadership discussions. My own list, for what it’s worth, is certainly different from what I would have concocted 14 years ago.