The following four strategies and fourteen skills should help any faculty member achieve a rewarding life of leadership.
Increase your visibility. Most campuses offer plenty of opportunities for faculty to venture beyond their departments. Join the faculty senate. Request assignments that require you to meet cross-campus colleagues. Apply for inter-departmental professional-development programs. Volunteer to help with campus-wide events. Diversify friendships and stay visible.
Identify role models and learn from them. Certain people demonstrate admirable skills, behaviors, or attitudes that warrant careful study or even selective emulation. Buy them coffee. Socialize with them. Learn from them. If they’re historical figures, read about them. Never under-appreciate life’s many models for success.
Assume challenging, but not overwhelming responsibilities. Specifically, seek responsibilities that encourage you to read about and develop the following fourteen skills:
1. time-management skills: leaders organize their complex schedules to decrease strains on their working memories and increase their workflows, with scheduled times to reflect.
2. stress-management skills: leaders first and foremost apply intentional strategies to reduce the likelihood of stress on the front end, scan for early warning signs, and then have tactics ready to lower stress in the moment.
3. interpersonal skills: leaders interact positively with others, even when disagreeing with what they say.
4. listening skills: leaders go out of their way to truly understand what others need and want.
5. collaborative skills: leaders ensure everyone has a voice, role, and stake by appreciating differences and emphasizing commonalities in pursuit of co-authorship.
6. teamwork skills: leaders utilize their personal strengths to complement the strengths of others.
7. motivational skills: leaders interpret others’ motives and harness their vision by appropriating their language and values when articulating project or organizational goals.
8. conflict-management skills: leaders manage the conflicts that can yield positive changes and either mediate unproductive conflicts or coordinate more productive arrangements.
9. mentorship skills: leaders help others develop and reach their goals.
10. ceremonial speaking skills: whereas not all leaders give speeches, most routinely introduce others and say a few poignant words in public settings.
11. research skills: leaders investigate pre-existing models and other points of comparison, as well as the project’s history, context, stakeholders, and their needs and concerns.
12. project-management skills: leaders organize long-term responsibilities into clear stages, processes, benchmarks, and deadlines with equally clear communication structures and scheduled updates.
13. budget-management skills
14. fundraising skills
The first nine skills do not require a formal position to acquire or use, and they can help you access opportunities to develop the rest. They are the foundation for success.
Venture out, to bring more in. Leadership opportunities and their many intrinsic rewards extend far beyond campus. They are in your disciplinary fields and local, regional, state, national, and global communities. Moreover, off-campus connections and insights can broaden your range of problem-solving skills and resources on campus. They make you a more knowledgeable and skilled resource to the university.
The success of the students, campus, and community depends on your success. Improving yourself improves the lives connected to you. Take the time to be the best you can be — for you, for them, for everybody.