9 Virtues Blog

14 Traits of a Good Academic Leader

by Rob Jenkins


My 31 years of experience with college faculty members suggests that, while they don’t particularly like being told what to do, they abhor a leadership vacuum.

Years ago, the college where I now teach employed deans over each major discipline: humanities, social science, science, etc. Faculty members used to grouse about their deans’ decisions and complain that they didn’t have enough input. Then the administration changed the structure, replacing deans with committees made up mostly of faculty members—and people complained that there was no one to go to with problems, no one to make a final decision. Now we’re back to discipline deans.

So the problem is not that, as faculty members, we mind being led. Indeed, on some level, we want to be led. It’s just a question of what kind of leaders we’ll have, and what kind of leaders we’ll tolerate. Being led is one thing, but we don’t want to be dictated to, we don’t want to be treated like wayward children, and we don’t want to be sold a used car.

Speaking personally, I associate these qualities with good leadership in an academic (or any other) setting:

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