October 13, 2011
Posted by Joan V. Gallos
A fan of “Reframing Academic Leadership” wrote to share her enjoyment of the book. The Leadership Professor loves hearing what people take from books – especially the ones she writes.
The message ended with a question: As a female higher education professional who has had much success in the field, what advice would you provide to young women who are just starting their careers in higher education or are transitioning from middle-management to a larger leadership role at an institution?
My answer to the question below – good advice to men and women seeking strategies for proactive career self-management.
Big question for a Saturday afternoon! So, one big thought and five smaller strategies.
Big thought: Don’t be afraid. I see too many people – and quite a few women at all career stages — afraid to speak up, especially if they are with senior folks, the boss, or big name faculty. Now having said that, make sure you know what you are talking about when you do enter the conversation; present what you say in a professional and compelling manner; and use every opportunity for participation to demonstrate that you are the kind of leader that others will want to listen to, learn from, and follow. Emotional intelligence, mindfulness, and executive presence (all of which can be practiced and perfected) play a big role in this. So think – well and deeply, about content and process, about substance and potential impact – before you act and then go for it!
1. Understand the political landscape and learn how to use it to your advantage. That doesn’t mean manipulate. It means knowing how to map the political terrain, understand how to forge good relationships, build coalitions with diverse individuals, solicit the support of allies (and introduce yourself to people who can serve in that role), ask others to help carry your message, see how you can help others (and build your political capital). Form relationships based on trust and give people an understanding the good work that you do. Those relationships will last a lifetime.
2. Network, network, network for the joy of it. I thought I did a lot in my career. Looking back, I wish I had done more. You’ll learn a lot about diversity, organizations, higher education, and human nature – and meet a lot of interesting people along the way. Networking is ongoing – and not just when you need something. If you are shy, write down 5 questions you can have on the tip of your tongue to start a conversation with an interesting stranger. I still do this.
3. Never burn a bridge. The world has a sense of humor, and people you wish you never had to see again will come back into your life for important work. And you never know when you will need to call on someone from your past for support or advice.
4. Find your true talents, have confidence in them, and use them often. It’ll make time fly. The flip is also true – avoid trying to be the person that someone else wants you to be. It’s the fastest route to burnout. That doesn’t mean ignore feedback or opportunities to stretch yourself. It means find the groove that’s right for you. You’ll know it when you find it because it will feel good – and not just hard.
5. Proactively manage your career and work life so that you can grow and develop. Volunteer. Go the extra mile. Ask to serve on committees. Offer to take on an extra assignment. Ask your boss if you can take something off his/her plate. And, of course, deliver more than people expect when you do.
FYI, my blog archives contain a number of posts on women and leadership, as well as other related topics you and your students might be interested in exploring.
P.S. “Reframing Academic Leadership” would love friends on Facebook.