Leadership is the power that unites people and moves them forward to achieve prosperity and goals. Being a leader requires an individual to be an expert in their field and have specific traits and habits to manage subordinates effectively (Fernandez & Shaw, 2020). Higher education administration is the sector where a heading position is an important stage of an academic career. People involved in science can receive their degrees and become departmental chairmen while lacking the leadership traits.
An inappropriate person in charge might severely affect the educational process, therefore it is crucial to determine the qualities and attitudes of a profound leader in the academic settings. I interviewed with a dean of a social sciences faculty in a local university to learn more about higher education leadership experience. This paper aims to assess the characteristics necessary for a chief position based on our conversation and practical leadership demands.
It is complicated to get a job in a leading position in the higher education sector because it requires at least a Ph.D. degree in science studied at a faculty. Moreover, deans and department chairpersons have many university responsibilities due to the demand for signing many administrative papers. However, the leading position in academic structure remains attractive due to its valuable status and opportunities. My interlocutor’s primary motivation in receiving the dean’s posts was to influence the educational program and develop according to the latest trends. The head of a faculty can offer the updates based on the other universities’ experience and request financing from the university’s sponsors.
Leadership in higher education is different from what it might be perceived in business because a person in charge manages decisions. They are also being treated as the prominent experts in science a faculty studies. However, it adds responsibility before the students because the dean’s opinion influences their scientific work and can impact their further education and career choices. The authority of a leader in higher education is not determined by their power of making others do their duties but by their authority in the scientific field. Curiosity and willingness to explore more and educate others in the chosen field are the characteristics necessary for leadership in an academic setting. A person I interviewed holds the dean’s chair for more than five years, and he likes the mentorship ability the most in his leadership position.
A leader in the higher education environment faces challenges in various fields such as managing subordinates, negotiating with the heads of a university, financing optimization, and building a strong community among the students. It is crucial to develop strong traits necessary for successful management of these processes, and my interlocutor admitted that he was forced to establish several new qualities to go through the difficulties effectively. These characteristics are stress resistance, negotiation skills, strategic thinking, and delegation.
The dean I interviewed has recently faced one of the most considerable challenges of his career as a leader. A university was forced to make the educational process fully remote due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and neither the people nor the study plans were prepared for it. Fernandez and Shaw (2020) claim that “transitioning to online course delivery may require radical changes in attitude, values, process enhancements, new strategies, and even new ways of doing business for many” (p. 40). The demand for radical changes required all people in charge to become responsible for the process and make decisions optimal for everyone involved.
Strong leadership in the critical situation is essential, and my interlocutor did his best to decrease the panic and uncertainty. He studied the experiences of other national and foreign universities who already applied remote education and retrieved the best decisions that would work for his faculty. The willingness to let others speak and consider their opinion is a crucial characteristic of a higher education leader. Indeed, all departments, professors, and course coordinators gathered together to evaluate the solutions, selected the most workable, and delegated the main tasks among each other and the subordinates. Moreover, the dean’s negotiation skills helped the faculty receive the proper financial and technical tools to implement the strategy they developed.
Based on leadership experience in higher education, the dean I interviewed determined the three most crucial leader’s attributes: self-awareness, well-developed soft skills, and delegation. All characteristics of a strong person in charge can be built only on these meta abilities. My interlocutor advised how to develop strong leadership attributes and mentioned that working on them is a life-long process. Self-awareness bases on constant analysis of thoughts and reasons for actions a person makes every day. The more a leader is aware of their world, the more responsibility for others they will fearlessly take. Soft skills, such as negotiation, decision-making, and critical thinking, might be developed via reading specific literature, attending courses, and practicing them at work. Delegation is the attribute that can only be enforced by learning how to optimize tasks and giving subordinates chances to show themselves and help.
Leadership in higher education requires such characteristics as curiosity, willingness to learn more and educate others, considering people’s opinions, delegation, stress resistance, and critical thinking. These traits can be developed and enforced if a leader works on self-awareness, improves their soft-skills, and continuously practices delegation in their workspace. The educational process should be appropriately curated, therefore becoming a person in charge should be responsible and capable of making optimal strategic decisions.
Fernandez, A. A., & Shaw, G. P. (2020). Academic leadership in a time of crisis: The coronavirus and COVID‐19. Journal of Leadership Studies, 14(1), 39-45. Web.