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Working Assumptions of the Preparing Leaders for the Future Toolkit

December 30, 1899


Leadership Development Is a Shared Responsibility of the Institution and the Individual

Ultimately, people must take responsibility for their own learning and growth. They must seize and create opportunities—no one else can do it for them. Yet the institution has a responsibility to create a climate that fosters professional growth and to view leadership development as a responsibility of leaders and an effort that is integral to institutional planning and development. Because the benefits of leadership development accrue to both the individual and the institution, it is fitting that the beneficiaries share the responsibility.

Diversity Strengthens Institutional Leadership

Effective teams include a diverse group of individuals whose different strengths complement one another. This diversity may include differences in style, temperament, and intellectual strengths, as well as race and gender. Too often, diversity is seen as an obligation—a numerical goal to be achieved or a symbolic act indicating institutional commitment to social justice. This view obscures the real contribution that difference can make. Identifying promising leaders of diverse backgrounds and cultures, and providing them with opportunities for growth and mobility, will both enrich the institution and help it operate in a changing demographic environment.

Leadership Is Dispersed Throughout the Institution

We tend to equate high positions with leadership, but that is an incomplete vision. Certainly, board members, presidents, and persons with significant administrative responsibilities should be leaders, but no title necessarily implies the ability to lead. Leadership, especially in higher education institutions, is not a function of administrative rank. It can be found at every level of the academic hierarchy. Faculty leaders are powerful individuals. Program directors and mid-level managers can shape the course of their units and ultimately influence institutional policy. Some program units work directly with the community, allocate resources, and determine new directions—all without specific directives from higher levels of administration. Because power and decision making are decentralized and dispersed, leadership is needed at all levels, in all parts of the institution.

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