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Academic Leadership, What Qualities Do You Need?

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Academic leadership is a broad capability and function across a higher education institution, reflected in leadership in governance, both corporate and academic, and in operations.


Do you feel like you're a natural born leader?

Do others look to both your academic and interpersonal skills when they need help?

Are you interested in learning how to grow your leadership abilities so that you can use them to launch your career or get into the college you've always dreamed about?

If so, then you need to keep reading.

In this post, you'll learn about five of the most important core values needed for excellent academic leadership.

1. Excellent Communication Skills Are Necessary For Academic Leadership

Far and away the most important academic leadership quality that a person can have?

The ability to both communicate their own ideas effectively, as well as listen and prove engagement with the ideas of others.

Let's say you've been nominated by your classmates as the leader of a large group project.

How can you make your expectations clear when it comes to what you expect out of each member of the group? How can you ensure that the people you're working with also get a say, and feel that their own ideas are being heard?

It's all about good -- and usually, frequent -- communication.

Start by asking people about what they love to do. Once you get to know their strengths (and even their personalities) you'll be able to delegate in a way that satisfies everyone. Then, be sure to check in throughout the process.

Set several smaller goals as opposed to one large one, to make evaluating your progress and the process easier.

Above all, remain open to both feedback and criticism, and truly listen to what others have to say.

2. Proactivity

Too many people spend their lives sitting around, waiting for a miracle to happen.

However, they're not actually putting in the work -- instead, they're just relying on "fate" or "coincidence" or "luck" to make all of their dreams come true.

Additionally, proactivity is all about planning ahead and anticipating problems. It means always having a Plan B in place so that you're not scrambling when something unexpected happens.

You might create a study schedule for an upcoming exam, in order to prevent cramming the night before.

You might start researching and applying to summer academic programs months before the summer vacation actually starts so that you can be sure to pick the best one for you.

Of course, being proactive means that you'll also have a list of other possible ways to spend your summer, just in case you don't get into the program of your choice.

Proactivity means having the ability to recognize which tasks are the most essential, and creating a prioritized list of what needs to be accomplished first.

Above all, it's about being prepared for the worst while still hoping, planning, and staying positive about getting the best results.

3. Knowing When To Take Risks

Strong academic leadership is not about playing it safe.

Of course, there's a difference between knowing when to take risks, and acting in a reckless manner. The quality of a good leader is knowing which risks are worth taking.

This means that you'll need to evaluate the potential losses and gains of each risky decision you're considering making. What is the worst thing that could happen -- and are those worst-case scenarios something you can recover from?

Alternatively, are the possible positive outcomes simply too great to pass up? And do you have a determined team of people around you that can lessen your chances of failure?

Remember, leadership (and life) is all about getting out of your comfort zone.

4. Resilience

One of the most important qualities when it comes to academic leadership?

Being able to get back up when you're knocked down -- and not letting the feeling of "failure" scare you off from trying again.

People aren't going to like your ideas. You're going to make some missteps along the way. Your proposals will get rejected, you won't win every election, and you won't ace every exam.

What matters is your ability to learn from your mistakes, and to appreciate the errors you've made as an opportunity for growth.

Adopting a resilient attitude won't only prevent you from talking down to yourself and underestimating your abilities. It will also inspire those around you to dust themselves off and get back out there.

Embrace rejection, and count every failure as one step closer to a success.

5. Passion For What You Do

Let's get one thing straight: if you don't truly love what you do, chances are that you won't be motivated to keep working at it for much longer.

Think about something that brings you joy in life. Maybe you're obsessed with traveling, maybe you love the feeling of winning a competition or game, or perhaps you've always wanted to follow a certain career path.

Whatever you're passionate about, think about how your academic performance and even extracurricular activities will help you to feed that passion and improve your skill set.

If you love what you do, you won't think twice about staying up late to get things done. Staying in to study as opposed to going out with your friends to a big party won't feel like a sacrifice because you know you're on the road to a larger goal waiting down the line.

Once you figure out what makes you tick, stick with it -- and share your love with others so they can be inspired by your passion.

Ready To Start Practicing Academic Leadership?

In this post, we've outlined just five of the many personal and professional qualities needed for academic leadership.

Now, you just need the ability to put these ideas into practice in your own life.

That's where the Honor Society can help.

We're dedicated to fostering and recognizing the top student leaders from across the country. Every day, we work hard to ensure that you continue to stay on the path to personal, academic, and professional success.

Spend some time on our blog to learn more about how to stay motivated, how to lead others effectively, and how to get one step closer to achieving your dreams.

Little modification from the original writer HERE.

Being an author and researcher can often feel like a juggling act at the best of times, and if your role includes a management or leadership role, it’s easy to feel frustrated or overwhelmed. One of the biggest surprises to confront new academic leaders is how much conflict and negativity they're called on to deal with.  Almost as soon as people become department chairs or deans, they're thrust into the middle of ongoing quarrels, personnel problems, and dysfunctional personalities. They want to get important work accomplished, but they spend most of their time putting out fires, which can leave them with a sense that the job just isn't worth it. Surely, there has to be a better way.

What is Positive Academic Leadership?

The solution is what is known as positive academic leadership. The word positive in the title comes from two traditions. The first is the movement known as positive psychology. Unlike traditional psychology, positive psychology isn't about making sick people well (or “making miserable people less miserable,” as Martin Seligman, one of the movement’s founders likes to say), but how to make good people better and happy people happier.

Positive reinforcement

The other tradition that positive academic leadership draws on is the practice known as positive reinforcement. Punishment, which causes people to suffer because of what they did wrong, only tells people what not to do.  Positive reinforcement, which rewards people for good behavior, shows people what they should do.  In the words of collegiality expert Bob Cipriano, “What gets rewarded gets repeated.”  Positive academic leadership puts that principle into practice.

Focus on strengths, not weaknesses

In short, positive academic leadership is about building on an academic program’s strengths, not fixating on its weaknesses.  It's about helping people do more of what they do well, not making them feel bad because of their limitations. To take a specific example, suppose a department chair had a faculty member who was not showing up for committee meetings, keeping required office hours, or submitting course syllabi on time. The typical administrative approach would be to view this situation negatively: as a problem that needs to be fixed. Positive academic leadership views the challenge as an opportunity: How can the chair achieve the results he or she needs without alienating the faculty member, ruining morale, or making what appears to be a bad problem even worse?

Turning challenges into opportunities

Positive academic leadership would say that what the department chair has is an opportunity to move forward in a constructive and meaningful way. For example, rather than seeing the faculty member as doing something wrong because of those missed meetings and office hours, is it possible to do something positive by filling an unmet need? Perhaps the faculty member is having problems finding or affording daycare for children, taking care of a sick parent, or going through another type of personal crisis.  Putting the faculty member in touch with the resources of an Employee Assistance Program or other agency can be a tremendous help.  Perhaps the faculty member is becoming disengaged and needs some help in renewing his or her commitment to and excitement about the program.  Perhaps there is an interpersonal issue between the faculty member and another member of the department that could benefit from mediation.  By seeing the situation as an opportunity to help a valued faculty member improve rather than a chance to punish an underperformer, the positive academic leader helps achieve desired results at the same time that morale improves and people’s commitment to the program increases.