Coaching Tomorrow’s Academic Leaders: Career Pathways in Higher Education

Have you spent most of your career as a faculty member, researcher, or scholar in a university or college setting? Are you thinking about possible career paths in academic or university leadership? Advancement to leadership in higher education can be a bumpy transition. An executive coach with an expertise in working with academic leaders and faculty aspiring to make a change may lessen the difficulty in this career progression.

First, let’s consider why a change in career path is an important consideration.

Faculty are thinking differently about their long-term job prospects in traditional academic roles and considering other pathways for career success. The landscape of academic employment opportunities are increasingly competitive and diminishing every year. Conditions that influence the current environment include:

  • Decreased number of tenure positions
  • Budget cuts with more students per class
  • New teaching and learning models that result in expanded work loads

The pressures and challenges in this environment are a call to action. Below are three inputs to ponder when developing a career strategy:

Aptitude for Leadership  in Higher Education

Deans, department chairs, and provosts’ responsibilities involve complexities related to institutional governance and politics, managing and allocating decreasing financial resources, and providing leadership to faculty, staff, and students. Are you up to the challenge? How do the following responsibilities resonate with you?

  • Set strategy and academic priorities
  • Build and nurture relationships at all levels on campus and beyond
  • Lead and manage in an ever-changing environment
  • Promote collaboration and build consensus in tough decision-making environment
  • Mentor new faculty and be a trusted advisor to veteran faculty
  • Be a master communicator with the ability to have tough conversations with your faculty about performance issues, shrinking resources and budget, and shifting tenure/administrative processes

Next step is to consider how your current strengths align with the above responsibilities and where possible skill gaps exist.

Minding the Emotional Intelligence Gap

This is an area that is somewhat intangible. At the most definitive level, emotional intelligence is how well you use emotional information to guide thinking and behavior. Emotional Intelligence affects how we express ourselves, navigate social complexities, and make decisions – often in stressful situations. Emotional Intelligence, unlike IQ, is based on a set of skills that can be honed and improved over time. I find that the most significant gap between executives and aspiring leaders is Emotional Intelligence.  The foundation for successful leadership is the capacity to inhabit executive presence. Emotional Intelligence is the differentiator between strategic leadership and tactical management.

Seeking Guidance: How can a Higher Education Executive Coach Help?

Four ideas come to mind:

  • As a thought partner in exploring possible pathways to a leadership role;
  • as a guide to re-package academic and administrative experience for an institutional leadership role;
  • to assess aptitude for leadership and to create a development plan to improve positioning for career opportunities; and
  • to provide ongoing support to expand executive presence while ascending leadership ranks within your institution.

Would you like a fresh perspective on your career trajectory from a seasoned higher education executive coach? Let’s get the conversation started – contact me at [email protected].

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