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A career in higher education can provide a rewarding experience whether you focus on administration or student affairs. If you plan on pursuing this career path, it’s important to work on developing leadership qualities and skills. Being an effective leader plays a key role in having a successful career at post-secondary educational institutions. Learn more about why leadership skills are so essential and what kinds of qualities an educational leader should have.

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Importance of Leadership in Higher Education

Having leadership skills is helpful in many fields, but it’s crucial in higher education. When you work in this field, you might be responsible for supervising employees and staff members or for teaching students. No matter what your specific duties and responsibilities are, you’ll need to put leadership skills into practice in order to be effective. Being a good leader can help you when it comes to making major decisions at your educational institution or determining which goals to focus on. When you encounter challenges in this type of job, having leadership qualities can also make it easier to handle them.

Traits of Effective Leadership in Higher Education

What kinds of traits or qualities should leaders have in the field of higher education? Knowing which traits are part of being an effective leader can help ensure that you focus on developing them. You might possess some of these qualities already, but keep in mind that there’s always room to grow and improve. The qualities of a successful educational leader include:

They Are Passionate About Their Work

Effective leaders in higher education have a passion for the work they do, which might include helping teachers or students improve their performance or setting goals for the school as a whole. These leaders put the skills and expertise they’ve gained over the years into practice to benefit the school or the people they’re responsible for. They also understand that they need to continue learning and growing in order to keep being good leaders. Whether you work as a dean or a department chair, being passionate about your work helps you enjoy a challenging yet rewarding career in higher education.

They Lead by Example

Being a good leader means setting a good example for others. Your actions and behaviors as a leader should inspire and motivate others, whether you’re teaching students or managing staff. Leading by example rather than by rank and title can help you build trust with students and staff to earn their respect. This might mean showing that you’re willing to listen to others, even if they have an issue with your leadership, or taking responsibility when you make a mistake. When you set a good example for others, they’re much more likely to listen to you and work as a team when needed.

They Are Planners

Those who work in higher education must be organized and have the ability to develop short-term and long-term goals. This involves being a good planner, which is a commonly found quality among excellent and effective leaders. Depending on your specific responsibilities on the job, you might have several smaller goals to accomplish or a much larger objective to develop and work toward. You might need to plan these on your own or collaborate with others in order to determine what needs to be done and how to accomplish these goals.

They Are Driven to Help Others

Effective leaders in education don’t focus on the power and authority that comes with this role, such as telling others what to do or how to do it. In fact, these leaders have a strong desire to help others. Those who work in post-secondary education leadership roles tend to focus on helping others in different ways, such as inspiring students to work on areas of improvement or helping teachers receive the training needed to achieve their goals. This desire to help others also plays an important role in establishing trust and respect as a leader.

They Develop Strong Connections

The most effective leaders have the ability to develop strong connections with others, including students or staff that they lead or manage, as well as colleagues. These leaders have the qualities and skills needed to build and encourage connections among students or employees, such as interpersonal skills and communication skills. Being able to form these connections helps leaders accomplish their goals when teamwork or collaboration is needed. These connections can also boost the attitudes of students and staff by helping them feel like they’re an important part of a team or group.

They Encourage Risk-Taking

You might think that good leaders tend to be more on the cautious side and avoid taking risks as much as possible. However, effective leaders are ones who aren’t afraid to take risks when needed, such as when coming up with a long-term objective or brainstorming ways to achieve smaller goals. These leaders are willing to think outside the box in order to come up with new or unusual ways to tackle problems. They also encourage others to take risks in order to accomplish goals or improve their performance.

They Are Data-Driven

When you work in higher education, you can expect to spend time evaluating data for projects or to develop planning objectives and goals. This is why it’s important for leaders in higher education to be comfortable taking on a data-driven approach. Focusing on data can give leaders insight into problems or issues that a certain class or department—or even the school in general—is facing. For example, leaders might analyze data in order to help students improve academic performance or teachers improve their teaching methods if grades have been going down.

They Tolerate Grayness

Being a leader in higher education often means having to make tough decisions. In some cases, you might not have all of the information you need in order to make these decisions with ease. Good leaders are able to tolerate this grayness and handle decision-making better. If new information comes to light and shows that they could have made a better decision, effective leaders adapt or modify their decision-making as needed. This kind of flexibility is an important part of leading others successfully in an educational setting.

They Empower Their Colleagues

The best leaders in education aren’t greedy when it comes to having power or authority. In fact, these leaders are willing to empower their colleagues, since they understand that this can benefit the entire school or department. Finding ways to empower colleagues can help ensure that the school or department achieves long-term objectives or begins functioning better overall.

Different Leadership Styles in Education

Different situations and challenges in a higher education setting might require using different leadership styles. While you might spend most of your time on the job using one style, you’ll find that knowing about the others can help you adjust your approach, as needed. For example, you might run into a complex issue that requires you to adopt a different leadership style than you normally use. Being able to switch between styles when needed is part of being an effective and successful leader. Although there are several leadership styles in education, some are more common than others. These are five of the more common types of leadership styles you might use when you work in a post-secondary setting.

1. Transformational Leadership

Collaboration and inspiration are the keys to practicing transformational leadership. This style involves a heavy emphasis on teamwork, which includes delegating tasks to others as needed. In order to use this style effectively, it’s important for you to know how to motivate others and provide ways to empower them. When you use a transformational leadership style, you’ll need to have excellent communication skills and be comfortable aiming higher in terms of setting goals and objectives. This type of leadership style focuses on helping others grow while also encouraging them to work as a team and develop mutual respect and trust.

2. Instructional Leadership

An instructional leadership style is a natural fit for those who want to work in higher education. Whether you end up working with students or managing teachers and staff, this style focuses on performance and progress. Instructional leaders might help students find ways to improve their performance in certain classes or at school overall. Other leaders who use this style in higher education might assist teachers with improving their professional performance or helping them develop and achieve goals for their career. An instructional leadership style involves being able to identify areas of improvement that students or teachers can work on and helping them accomplish this through training, tutoring, or other methods.

3. Emotional Leadership

Emotional leadership involves using emotional intelligence to understand the feelings and emotions of the people you’re responsible for, whether they are students or teachers and staff. This leadership style requires you to be able to identify emotions in others in order to help them work toward goals or make improvements to their academic work or professional work, as needed. Using this kind of leadership style also involves knowing how to effectively motivate students or teachers and staff based on their emotions. Emotional leadership requires you to have outstanding communication skills so that you can get through to others and successfully encourage them to focus on achieving goals or improving their performance at work or school.

4. Strategic Leadership

A strategic leadership style comes in handy when you’re setting long-term objectives or goals in a higher-education setting. This type of style puts a strong emphasis on analyzing or evaluating performance in the school as a whole or in specific classroom settings. These evaluations are done in order to help you determine planning that helps your school or classes improve overall. Strategic leaders should be able to think outside the box, if needed, and evaluate a wide range of data to develop goals and objectives on a large-scale basis. This type of leadership style in education is useful at times when you don’t need to put as much focus on day-to-day issues and tasks.

5. Authoritative Leadership

Authoritative leadership in education is typically suitable when you need to ensure that students or teachers and staff follow strict policies. This style focuses less on collaboration than other leadership styles. With this style, you can use your expertise to earn the respect of students or teachers and staff as a leader. Authoritative leaders usually need to set short-term objectives and goals in order to reach or achieve a larger goal or objective. Being an authoritative leader involves a heavier emphasis on supervision and delegating tasks rather than encouraging a more collaborative approach.

If you’re considering a career in higher education, please contact Post University today. We offer a Master of Science in Higher Education Leadership degree program to help you gain the skills and knowledge needed for this kind of career.

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