new academic leaders
Ongoing problems within a department can have profound consequences, including difficulty in recruiting and retaining faculty and students, loss of funding, and even program termination. While the health of a department cannot be the responsibility of a single person, the department chair plays a pivotal role in getting departments out of trouble and maintaining a healthy, positive direction.
The transition to a new academic leadership position is full of complexities, unwritten rules, and new challenges. Whether the new provost, dean, or chair is new to the institution or has years of institutional knowledge, a simple orientation is not enough to get him or her off to a successful start, says Anne Massaro, project manager and organizational development consultant at The Ohio State University.
Over the past few years, I have realized that most of the preparation for academic leadership is focused on how to effect institutional change and make a positive difference. These certainly are the “big ticket” items. The truth is, however, that such broad topics don’t really hit on the blocking and tackling of daily management. With that in mind, here is a little collective wisdom that may prove especially useful for those who are beginning their journey in academic affairs.
While entering the administrative ranks of academia might seem a formidable task, staying there presents a whole other series of challenges. The average length of stay for a dean, vice chancellor, or chancellor can often be fewer than five years and in some programs, the duration of leadership has been known to be considerably shorter.
It’s been said that no one dreams of someday becoming an academic administrator. It’s a tough job that’s only gotten more challenging as budgets shrink, public scrutiny rises, and responsibilities continue to grow. But what does it really take to be an effective leader?
Given the rate of department chair turnover and the skills and knowledge required to do the job well, it makes sense to consider ways to smooth the transition.