10 Dos and Don’ts for New College and University Leaders


As the academic year progresses, a wave of announcements heralding the appointments of new presidents, provosts, and deans sweeps across campuses.

These leadership roles, now more demanding than ever, require strategic planning and careful execution to ensure a successful tenure. Drawing from over two decades of experience in higher education, Marissa Quinn outlines ten crucial dos and don'ts for incoming academic leaders to navigate their new roles effectively.

10 Dos and Don’ts for New College and University Leaders

(Photo : PEXELS / Clay Elliot)

1. Don't Do It Alone

Navigating a new leadership role in higher education is a complex endeavor. Institutions invest heavily in search firms and committees to find the right candidates, but once appointed, new leaders often face unfamiliar environments. It's vital to have a trusted transition advisor-someone who understands the institution's unique culture, processes, and potential pitfalls. This advisor can provide invaluable insights and guidance, helping new leaders avoid common mistakes and build strong relationships from day one.

READ MORE: 5 Crucial Roles For University Boards Amid The Palestinian-Israeli Conflict 

2. Do Capitalize on Day One

The first day in a new role is a prime opportunity to set the tone for your leadership. Use the day to communicate your vision and eagerness. Prepare a strategic communication plan, including an introductory letter or video, an updated website, and a robust social media presence. Engage with both the campus community and external stakeholders like civic leaders and community partners. This proactive approach can build initial goodwill and establish your presence as a forward-thinking leader.

3. Don't Assume Resources Are in Place

New leaders often inherit structures and teams from their predecessors, but these may not always align with their vision or needs. Evaluate the existing resources and identify deficiencies. Determine if you need additional support, such as a chief of staff, communications expert, or data analyst. Building a well-functioning team early on can prevent the need for reactive measures later and ensure you have the right support to implement your initiatives effectively.

4. Do Engage in Continuous Communication

Effective communication is crucial for new leaders. From formal speeches to casual interactions, every opportunity to speak is a chance to reinforce your message and values. Be clear about what attracted you to the role and what your priorities are. Regular, transparent communication helps build trust and ensures that all stakeholders understand your vision and how they can contribute to its success.

5. Don't Be Passive

While new leaders will receive many invitations to engage with various campus and community groups, it's equally important to take the initiative. Reach out proactively to key constituencies, including students, faculty, alumni, and local leaders. These early interactions are opportunities to listen, learn, and build relationships that will support your leadership.

6. Do Immerse Yourself in the Institution's Culture

Understanding and embracing the institution's traditions and rituals can significantly enhance your credibility and connection with the community. Learning the alma mater, attending cultural events, and participating in long-standing traditions show your commitment to the institution's heritage and can help foster a sense of belonging and respect among stakeholders.

7. Don't Overlook Social Media

In today's digital age, social media is a powerful tool for new leaders to connect with their community. Ensure that your social media profiles are up-to-date and actively managed. Use these platforms to share your vision, celebrate successes, and engage with the community. A well-crafted social media strategy can enhance your visibility and accessibility, fostering a more engaged and informed campus community.

8. Do Prioritize Professional Development

Even seasoned leaders need to continue learning. Engage in professional development opportunities, attend industry conferences, and participate in leadership workshops. Staying informed about the latest trends and challenges in higher education not only enhances your skills but also demonstrates a commitment to growth and innovation.

9. Don't Neglect the Power of Collaboration

Building a collaborative environment is essential for effective leadership. Encourage open dialogue and inclusive decision-making processes. Create forums where faculty, staff, and students can share their ideas and concerns. Collaboration fosters innovation, improves morale, and strengthens the overall sense of community within the institution.

10. Do Foster Strong External Relationships

Building relationships beyond the campus is crucial for the success of any higher education leader. Engage with local businesses, civic leaders, and community organizations. These external relationships can provide valuable support, resources, and opportunities for collaboration. Hosting community events and participating in local initiatives can enhance the institution's reputation and foster mutually beneficial partnerships.

Navigating the complexities of a new leadership role in higher education can be daunting. However, by following these dos and don'ts, new leaders can set the stage for a successful and impactful tenure. Strategic planning, effective communication, and a commitment to continuous learning and collaboration are key to thriving in these challenging yet rewarding positions.

RELATED ARTICLE: Inspiring Stories Of Self-Made Careers: 7 Steps On How They Created Their Own Jobs 

© 2024 University Herald, All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.
Join the Discussion
Real Time Analytics