In 2003, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation awarded AACC a grant called Leading Forward to address the national need for community college leaders. AACC hosted a series of four leadership summits with different constituent groups to build consensus around key knowledge, values, and skills needed by community college leaders and to determine how to best develop and sustain leaders. Experts in community college leadership from AACC affiliate councils, college and state "grow-your-own" programs, colleges in underserved areas, and university programs convened between November 2003 and March 2004.
ACT submitted an AACC-commissioned report in 2004, A Qualitative Analysis of Community College Leadership, from the summits. It provided AACC with a wealth of qualitative data, providing a broad picture of the competencies. This data was refined and contextualized to fit more closely with the community college environment.
- In fall, 2004 AACC designed a survey to ensure that the critical areas of leadership competencies required by community college professionals had been addressed. The survey was distributed electronically in December 2004 to participants of the leadership summits and to members of the Leading Forward National Advisory Panel.
- Out of 125 surveys, 95 were returned resulting in a response rate of 76 percent. This response was accompanied by extremely positive support for the six competencies for community college leaders. The competencies represent current best thinking as well as provide a forum for continual updating and improvement in thinking about community college leadership.
One hundred percent of the respondents noted that each of the six competencies was either "very" or "extremely" essential to the effective performance of a community college leader. Respondents also provided suggestions for minor modifications.
Respondents were also questioned about how well they were formally trained to apply each competency. Those respondents who work for leadership development programs were also asked how well their leadership program prepares students to apply each competency.
The average response to these two questions was significantly lower than when asked how essential the competencies are—there were more responses of "minimal" or "moderate." In other words, these respondents, who make up a significant percentage of U.S. community college leaders and leadership development program personnel, feel that each of the six competencies are essential to community college leadership but that the integration of these competencies is not as well established. These findings provide evidence for the crucial need to establish this framework and to promote these competencies in the curricula of community college leadership programs.