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 Thoughts About Leadership 

Community colleges, like many other sectors of the U.S. economy, are experiencing a leadership gap as many current leaders retire. Moreover, the leadership skills now required have widened because of greater student diversity, advances in technology, accountability demands, and globalization. Based on its continuing support of the development of community college leaders, the American Association of Community Colleges has collaborated extensively with its many constituencies to identify and endorse a set of competencies for community college leaders.

In order to appreciate and utilize these competencies, the following must be understood:

  • Leadership can be learned. While it can be enhanced immeasurably by natural aptitude and experience, supporting leaders with exposure to theory, concepts, cases, guided experiences, and other practical information and learning methodologies is essential.
  • Many members of the community college community can lead. The competencies will shift in importance depending upon the level of the leader. For example, it is more critical that a president be able to communicate effectively with the board than for a staff assistant to do so. Both, however, can benefit from mastery of the communication competency.
  • Effective leadership is a combination of effective management and vision. Ideally, acquisition of management skills would precede vision. In reality the two skill sets often develop in tandem and are presented together in this competency framework.
  • Learning leadership is a life-long process, the movement of which is influenced by personal and career maturity as well as other developmental processes.
  • The leadership gap can be addressed through a variety of strategies such as college grow-your-own programs, AACC council and university programs, state system programs, residential institutes, coaching, mentoring, online and blended approaches. Important considerations that apply to all forms of delivery include sustaining current leaders and developing new ones.
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