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How to Create a Leadership Development Program for Higher Education

By Higher Education Recruitment Consortium
April 20, 2017

It’s time to make having a leadership development program at your higher education institution a major priority. As many Baby Boomers who are holding leadership roles in your institution make their move toward retirement, there is going to be a noticeable skills gap. That is, if there aren’t measures taken to fill those voids before they occur.


And at 26% of the workforce, educational services is the #1 industry with the largest percentage of workers over the age of 55. And, as many of those pre-retiree faculty members are white men, their retirement makes room for more diverse candidates to fill their spots. Statistics show that under 20% of the nation’s professoriate consists of persons of color, and in certain disciplines, that number falls to under 10%. Looking at gender, under 10% of STEM professors are women, and for women of color that number falls even more. With diversity in the higher education landscape being a high priority, it’s important to develop the people you have coming up through the pipeline.


Harvard Business School professor Linda Hill released a report focused on this matter. In it, she notes, “There is a crisis in leadership in many sectors of society today, and higher education is not immune to these concerns. We need to build communities of leader-scholars, willing and able to learn and tackle together the challenges of contemporary academic life.” The importance of leadership development to build diverse, supportive, and strong leaders is crucial for implementing change at institutions with so much history and tradition embedded in them. Higher education needs leadership development programs, and it needs them now.


Whether you have a leadership development program in place already or are looking to institute one, there are three key factors you need to address with your program for higher education. These program components are beneficial to filling skills gaps, but also they are things that rising higher education employees are looking for in your institution anyway. By implementing a program that includes these three parts, you are accommodating the desires of your employees as well as building a stronger workforce.



You should be providing participants in your leadership development program with coaches and materials that can help them improve their skills. This coaching should be one-on-one and customized in order to best help your participating employees. A focused attention on reaching goals, improving skills, and addressing problems is one factor that can make your leadership development program actually prepare employees for leadership in the (near) future.



In addition to one-on-one coaching attention, participants in your program should have a mentor. Mentoring programs have been proven to lead to higher job satisfaction, better job retention, and even increased profits. Mentorship gives future leaders people to look up to and help aid their growth. With the Higher Education industry paced to be impacted the most by baby boomer retirements due to the tenure of positions and volume of boomers in roles at institutions, this can be a great way to allow current leaders to shape the future and pay it forward. However, in addition to building positive and productive relationships, mentorship may actually be more important in filling skills gaps than coaching of specific skills. Mentors may pass down skills and knowledge that can not be taught through skill development modules; they expose their mentees to their way of thinking and their insider tips at a personal development level.



It might seem odd to include a rotational program in a leadership development initiative when, in higher education, departments are often siloed. However, In addition to leadership skills training, a program can and should build networks among participants, leading college and university presidents, faculty and senior administrators. Rotational programs should be included in any leadership development program. By exposing employees to different departments within your educational institution, they can learn about the ins-and-outs of the institution. Regardless of which department they ultimately lead, being able to handle different facets of the department will benefit their ability to develop and understand the community they serve for the institution. They do this by 1) seeing the departments do their jobs, 2) seeing how leaders and managers of each department work, 3) how teams in each department function, and 4) gaining perspective of how each department works with the others.


Check out our free infographic download to understand how these three factors can affect your higher education institution and help you create a better leadership development program.


- Submitted by HERC Trustee Partner Careerminds 

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