5 key characteristics of a strong higher education leader

January 27, 2016
  • AACRAO Connect
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There have been countless books and articles covering the topic of leadership. A leader has to possess vision and grit to accomplish goals.  They have to have the ability to work well under pressure, and continuously innovate.  Leaders have the opportunity to impact people’s lives and the organizations they serve. 

"[L]eaders demonstrate five key characteristics: discipline, humility, accountability, perseverance and vision,” writes James Wagner, Vice-President and Chief Information Officer of SCRIP-SAFE International and former University Registrar at Pennsylvania State University, in AACRAO's 2013 publication Leadership Lessons

Discipline – doing what has to be done and doing it continuously.  Being disciplined means having a work ethic to achieve the goals set out by your dept. or institution.  Using a guiding principle that there is a no excuse zone for not completing tasks and assignments.

Humility – avoiding arrogance.  Humility keeps the leader teachable, fosters learning, and helps potential leaders earn respect.  The presence of arrogance often diminishes perspective and staff members are less likely to follow. 

Accountability – taking responsibility for your actions.  Formal authority and associated power may blur the distinction between management and leadership roles.  Taking ownership of decisions made within your sphere of responsibility is one of the hallmark traits of good leadership. 

Perseverance – working hard and demonstrating grit, especially when confronting resistance to change.  People frequently prefer the status quo to change.  They fear the unknown; they may believe their skill sets are no longer needed.  The successful leader is adept at ushering in change without being confrontational and perseveres despite initial resistance and occasional failures along the way.

Vision – thinking strategically and demonstrating entrepreneurship.  In recent years the office of the registrar has changed dramatically. The services registrars provide scheduling course work and class rooms, registering students, recording grades, handling transcripts, managing general processes, etc. have changed little. However, technological innovations and forward-thinking leadership have changed how these services are delivered.  Leaders have a profound impact on organizations as they challenge traditional modes of service. 

Develop your leadership skills

AACRAO is committed to professional development of its members and community, including their leadership skills.

Join our upcoming live, free webinar on Perspectives on the Management and Leadership Role of the Higher Education Registrar, Thursday, February 11, 2016 2:00-3:00pm ET

The webinar will examine questions such as:

  • What do faculty and administrators expect from the registrar?
  • How does the registrar fit into the broader governance structure of an institution?
  • What management and leadership skills are perceived as important for the registrar?

Hear from researchers who explored these questions by interviewing faculty, administrators, and registrars at multiple institutions. The presenters will explain how their research leads to the conclusion that professional development opportunities for the registrar should incorporate an intentional focus on building leadership capacity.  To register, click here.


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