Interest in administrative roles is often held with suspicion by academics. And yet, many high functioning faculty find themselves well-suited to leadership and wonder how they might do more. In fact, academic institutions and disciplines thrive only because of this inclination, however ambivalently held.
Faculty are drawn toward leadership for a variety of reasons.
Making a Difference
“Influence and efficacy, that’s my addiction – knowing that I can get something done.” It’s efficient to be in a role that is mandated to change things, fix problems, respond to needs. Without this mandate, faculty can face significant frustrations as they attempt changes with too few resources or simply cope instead of being able to make change.
Filling an Institutional Need
Sometimes it’s enough just to be asked – or to step in simply because there are no better alternatives. Faculty agree to administrative roles in order to shepherd a specific vision, advocate for a vulnerable population, create a bridge from one steady state to another, be a voice of/for diversity, carry out a difficult but necessary change, and more.
Laying a Foundation
Administrative experience is a significant education about the institution. As such, leadership creates networks that can be used as a foundation for scholarly goals and success.
Leadership as a New Challenge
While research seldom loses its attraction, its methods can become familiar, and the politics and funding landscape can lessen its appeal. For some, effective leadership and the challenges of the university can become the new frontier, drawing on and fostering faculty curiosity and a drive for excellence.