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Five Signs Of A Great College Leader

By bringing the college together, inspiring cohesive, effective and enthusiastic work groups and moving everyone toward a powerful Vision, great college leaders guide their organizations into a better future.

The best leaders:

1. Have A Clear Vision Of Where They Are Trying To Go

a. Create The Vision – The best college leaders create a Beneficial Vision of the future and work to make that future come true. A clear and concise Vision Statement is communicated to everyone. With that Vision Statement as a guide, each department, group and individual can identify and pursue missions that will move the college closer to the ideal. Together, all of the missions will enable the college to achieve their Vision of how things should be.

A College Leader’s Vision Statement:

A 100% student graduation rate with a 100% employment success rate.

b. Solve The Problems Of Today – What problems are holding the college back? Great leaders are courageous. They are not afraid to address the tuff issues: people, politics, finances, bureaucracy, resistance to the changing world, competition and student needs.

c. Anticipate The Future – The best leaders focus on the issues that enable a college to serve its students better than the competition. Leaders who see the future clearly and move their organizations in the right direction will be rewarded by more students who achieve success and notoriety. Whatever a college becomes tomorrow is determined by what the college leaders are doing today.

d. Move Forward – All successful colleges change their direction, people and services to meet the needs of their customers (students). They also change in order to improve performance, stay competitive and ensure financially stability. Any college leader who does not recognize the need to continually improve and adjust to a changing world is leading the college nowhere.

2. Are Highly Effective Communicators

a. Communicate The Vision – Effective leaders generate emotion as they clearly and enthusiastically communicate the Vision and its importance to everyone in the college community. They know that the Vision must be embraced and highly valued by everyone who will carry it out. That is why they carefully explain how much better things can be when the Vision is achieved. To that end, they make a personal and powerful appeal to each and every employee asking them to help the college achieve something great.

b. Clarify Individual Roles – To achieve the Vision, all members of the college community must know the roles they play and how those roles contribute to the Vision. It is the leader’s job to ensure that all employees have the right capabilities and do their best to support the Vision, the College and the Students.

c. Make Time For Employees and Students – The best college leaders regularly make time to talk with and listen to employees and students. They attend meetings and events where employees and students will be present to see and hear what is going on. Employee and student ideas and suggestions are appreciated and valued. Good ideas are implemented, no matter where they come from.

d. Reinforce Good Performance – Great college leaders find a variety of ways to visibly reinforce performance that supports the Vision. They may praise, recognize or promote employees who are doing a good job. They may also make presentations, write about or even brag to others about employee performance, the results that have been achieved and the milestones that have been passed.

3. Put The Vision, Their Employees And Students First

a. The Vision – Great leaders know that the Vision cannot be theirs alone. It must be shared with the people who will take the college to the right place. These leaders make certain that every member of the college community knows exactly where they are trying to go and how employees can help. When employees are not clear about where the college is going, why the leader is taking them there and how they can contribute, they feel left out, fail to buy in and lose interest. That’s why exceptional leaders keep the Vision fresh, alive and always in front of their employees.

b. Employees – Effective leaders know that employees want to contribute to the success of the organization. These leaders see their jobs as that of making it as easy as possible for employees to complete their assignments successfully. They always make certain that employees have the training, information, tools, resources and support needed to get their jobs done well. They realize that employees are usually the happiest when they can take pride in doing something that is important.

Great leaders expect employees to use the Vision Statement as a guide to carry out their missions. With the Vision Statement as a guide, employees are encouraged to use their judgment, initiative, creativity and decision-making skills to get their jobs done, help their students and support the Vision without always having to check with someone else.

c. Students – Exceptional college leaders recognize that colleges exist to serve the academic, experiential learning and job search preparation needs of students. These leaders value their students and understand that without students there is no college. Therefore, they make certain that the college meets or exceeds the needs of their students.
To serve students effectively, college leaders must listen to their students and utilize their best ideas and suggestions.

d. Leaders – Great leaders put the most important things first. College leaders must lead their organizations into the future by addressing the needs of their campus communities. The best leaders carefully and deliberately plant the seeds of success by making employees feel valued and appreciated before they ask them to fulfill their missions and pursue the Vision.

4. Have Exceptional People Skills

a. Motivate Everyone – Great leaders turn people on and motivate them to perform at the highest levels, even in the face of difficulties and challenges. They make the Vision real, personal and important for employees at all levels of the organization. They demonstrate the ability to inspire everyone to do their best work. Great leaders are cheerful and animated, tell stories, provide inspiration, answer questions, listen and explain the needs. They never use anger to intimidate subordinates or students.

b. Build Morale – Effective leaders create a work environment and culture that allows employees to demonstrate their capabilities and do meaningful work. They make people feel needed, important and valued. They treat everyone fairly, but not necessarily the same. These leaders give employees what they need to get their jobs done. Importantly, they cheer their employees on and support them, when the going gets tough.

c. Can Be Trusted – To be trusted, leaders must be consistent in their words, behaviors, standards and expectations. Employees need to know what is expected of them and how they will be judged. Additionally, employees must believe that the leader will have their backs, as long as they are pursuing the Vision and acting in the best interests of the college and the students.

d. Trust Employees – Confident leaders trust their employees. They know that their employees are trying to do the right thing. When the leader/employee relationship is not one of mutual trust, employees will never perform at their best.

e. Show Concern – Caring leaders are truly concerned about the college, their employees and their students. They strive to make things better. Great leaders work tirelessly to solve problems, provide opportunities, supply resources and support for the employees who will do the heavy lifting. Their words and actions are genuine and come from the heart.

f. Are Present and Available – Trusted leaders do not hide from employees and students, They put themselves in the flow of employee and student communication. The best leaders know that they will never be successful, if they lead from an ivory tower.

g. Make The Vision Real – Exceptional leaders help employees understand and believe in the Vision. They show them that the Vision is attainable. They work to unleash employee performance beyond normal expectations. Employees will only buy into a Vision when it touches them, inspires them and has personal meaning for them.

h. Give Credit – Great leaders know who deserves the credit for the successes that are achieved. Employees put themselves on the line, fight the daily battles and make the sacrifices that success requires. They are the front line heroes. It is up to the leader to give them the praise, recognition, appreciation, rewards and respect they deserve.

i. Value Integrity – Great leaders are highly ethical. They do not take care of themselves first or treat themselves better than they treat others. Only leaders who are truthful and have a reputation for being men and women with integrity and character are qualified to lead in a college environment. Great college leaders do the things they are supposed to do and behave the way they are supposed to behave, even when there is nobody there to see. They know that they must set a good example by holding themselves to the highest standards.

5. Have A Record Of Success

a. Align The College Community – Among their lists of accomplishments and successes, great leaders can describe the occasions when they were able to bring the college community together to solve major problems and pursue the Vision. To find success, college leaders must effectively and persuasively influence the behavior of everyone involved. Only when large numbers of employees are aligned with the critical issues and goals can the organization move closer to the Vision.

b. Accomplish The Important Missions – Effective college leaders keep the organization focused on the Vision. To achieve the Vision, employees must take on a variety of important missions that go beyond their job descriptions. Great leaders can point to hundreds of individual and group missions that have been completed.

c. Act As A Facilitator – Once the Vision has been established, the primary role of the leader is to serve the employees who will be working toward that Vision. The leader’s job is to provide encouragement, training, resources and also break down the barriers, so that employees can successfully complete their missions.

d. Identify Exceptional People – Leaders are responsible for finding and hiring the best people and developing those employees into talented performers and future leaders. The best leaders carefully create an environment where all employees want to do their best and want the Vision to be achieved. Because these leaders listen to their employees, respect their opinions, give them opportunities to thrive and treat them fairly, employees trust, respect, follow and perform at a high level for them.

e. Move Their Colleges Toward The Vision – For a college to thrive in the future, it must change. The best leaders are able to look into the future, see how the rules of the game are changing and teach everyone how to make the adjustments needed to succeed and flourish
in the coming years.

The success of any college greatly depends on the quality of its leaders. Therefore, college leaders must prove that they are able to align and focus their college communities, move the organization closer to the ultimate Vision, serve employees so they can perform their missions effectively, treat people in a way the maximizes their satisfaction, capabilities, opportunities and potential and move everyone into the future fully prepared compete and win. Because great leaders make everyone around them better, they have no difficulty providing examples and stories of organizational, employee and student success.

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