Change Minds, Behaviors, and Outcomes Through Effective Leadership
Today’s community college landscape is evolving, and change seems to be a constant—particularly at institutions embracing innovation as part of their culture. That is why it is imperative for all community college leaders to be mindful about how their teams handle the change required to remain relevant in the postsecondary sector. For each of us to successfully execute our unique missions, we must lead with focus toward an end goal.
Much of my professional development has focused on leadership studies, and I’ve learned that community college leaders come in all shapes and sizes. In addition to the presidents, chancellors, and CEOs, there are formal and informal leaders throughout our campuses. And regardless of titles, specific tenets must be followed to lead effectively. These include having a vision for what the organization is working to accomplish, an ability to motivate others to work toward the goal(s), and the skills to manage resources effectively.
I’ve found that promoting the organization’s vision is the first critical step to leading effectively. Too often, individuals in formal leadership positions assume others have a clear understanding of priorities and the work necessary to accomplish objectives. When a vision is not clearly defined, even the best and brightest team members can second guess how they contribute to the college’s goals. A leader’s vision needs to be about more than just achieving a desired outcome. It’s imperative that the case is made for why the work must be done. Making this case requires the utilization of both impactful stories and meaningful data.
Once a vision is set, leaders must ensure buy-in exists from key stakeholders. This includes confirming that everyone understands their role and how they will impact a desired outcome. Team members may need help prioritizing their responsibilities so new work does not hinder their regular responsibilities. Successful leaders encourage others to embrace the work by recognizing previous accomplishments and rewarding calculated risk-taking. Individuals motivated by emotional thoughts need to be compelled just as much as those motivated by rational thoughts. Efficiency and budget constraints are rarely enough to inspire a team to change. Employees want to believe their work makes an impact on others, and sometimes just need a helping hand to understand their influence.
With the team on board, effective leaders allocate their resources appropriately to accomplish their goals. When everyone is behind a cause, and it is derailed due to lack of personnel or budget resources, confidence in an organization can be quickly lost. It can also be difficult to earn future buy-in. Leaders must be knowledgeable about their progress toward a goal and prepared to make appropriate resource adjustments as needed. Reallocating resources effectively requires the ability to assess situations and outcomes, as well as the courage to change direction when necessary.
Although lack of vision, inability to motivate others, and poor resource management are the primary reasons initiatives fail, they should not prevent organizational leaders from fostering an innovative culture. And it is important to note that even when following the necessary tenets for leadership, if a goal is too ambitious, the most effective leaders and teams may not succeed. What separates innovative cultures from those stifled from previous failures is that they learn to move forward together. Hopefully, as leaders follow these critical tenets, their teams will choose to support and work toward a collective goal. After all, the success of our students depends on effective leadership and improved outcomes.
This issue of Leadership Abstracts first appeared in the Winter-Spring 2019 issue of Innovatus, the magazine of the League for Innovation in the Community College, available to the public here.
Randy Weber is Vice President, Student Success and Engagement, at Johnson County Community College in Overland Park, Kansas.
Opinions expressed in Leadership Abstracts are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of the League for Innovation in the Community College.