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Arkansas State University

Best Practices for Leadership in Higher Education

As higher education challenges like enrollment decline, shrinking funding and rising costs continue in the United States, effective higher education leaders are needed more than ever. If you’re interested in pursuing a leadership position in higher education, a doctorate degree can help you achieve your career goals.

Graduates of the Arkansas State University (A-State) online Doctorate of Education (Ed.D.) in Educational Leadership with a Concentration in Higher Education Administration program are equipped to work as academic deans, provosts, college or university presidents and chief learning (academic) officers. Professionals in all these roles must understand the best practices of higher education leadership, including the rationale for strong leadership and the different leadership styles and essential traits of effective leaders.

Why Is Leadership Important in Higher Education?

Higher education institutions that lack proper leadership negatively affect students, faculty, staff and community stakeholders. Without effective leaders, it’s difficult for an institution to grow, have positive change, be sustainable or be successful.

Being a good leader can help you make major decisions or determine which goals to focus on at your educational institution. Furthermore, when you encounter challenges in this type of job, having leadership skills can make it easier to handle and overcome them.

Whether you believe leaders are born or developed, higher education involves specific leadership styles. Perhaps you’ll find commonalities in how you lead in your current role or personal life.

Leadership Styles in Higher Education

In higher education leadership, there’s no single style that works in all cases or for all leaders. A leadership style is your unique way of taking action, directing, inspiring and managing others. It’s how you make decisions and interact with stakeholders, students, faculty and your team.

According to Academic Leadership Group, common educational leadership styles include:

  • Transformational leadership: This type inspires employees to move past their self-interests to work toward a shared vision and accomplish organizational goals. Oftentimes, a transformational leader serves as a mentor or role model to help employees realize their talents and skills and build self-confidence.
  • Servant leadership: Rather than focusing on their own success and pursuits, servant leaders focus on helping their employees achieve work and personal development goals. This leader builds their team up, creating a collaborative work environment with high job satisfaction.
  • Spiritual leadership: Spiritual leaders inspire and motivate employees through shared values such as respect, teamwork, sustainability of the institution and ethics. This type of leader focuses on developing a work environment that “fosters a sense of purpose, community, and personal fulfillment.”

As you move into a leadership position in higher education, you may naturally prefer one or two of these styles. In the end, the way you lead has an impact on those around you. By developing your leadership style, you can better approach tasks and support others in accomplishing goals.

Essential Traits of Effective Leadership in Higher Education

While effective leaders develop and adapt their leadership style to meet the organization’s goals, they also have essential traits that boost success. According to Academic Leadership Group, effective leaders do the following:

  • Form strong bonds with students, faculty, staff and parents.
  • Develop their faculty and staff into strong leaders with leadership development.
  • Leverage data and resources to make decisions and achieve academic excellence.
  • Create a clear vision and plan to achieve goals.
  • Communicate clearly and compellingly to build trust and transparency.

Higher education leaders must also be passionate about their work and the positive influences made within an organization. This strong passion drives leaders even during the most challenging times.

Become a Higher Education Leader at A-State

A-State’s fully online Ed.D. in Educational Leadership – Higher Education Administration program prepares graduates to be successful leaders through courses like Higher Education Leadership, Implementing Organizational Change in Higher Education and Advanced Organizational Theory & Inquiry.

This program’s coursework helps you develop your leadership style(s) and strengthen essential traits to oversee various elements in a school environment that fosters safety and learning within the classroom and beyond. Additionally, the major accomplishment of earning your doctorate will set you apart from the competition when applying for educational leadership roles.

Learn more about A-State’s online Doctorate of Education in Educational Leadership with a Concentration in Higher Education Administration program.

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