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The Role of the Department Chair in Supporting Effective Leadership

After 25 years in the field of educational leadership I find myself pondering where we need to focus our efforts as a learned society/consortium of doctoral programs. Should we ensure that we prepare the best group of potential professors who are representative of the children in our schools? Should we offer the best preparation programs? Should we offer the best preparation for professors to prepare the future ones in our field? The list of priorities keeps on growing and the questions listed above definitely point to a critical agenda for us. With all this there is one other area of concern, an individual who is critically important—that of the leader of leaders—the chair of the educational leadership programs. I strongly believe that another subject that that deserves our focus is the preparation of faculty in educational leadership to be/become great chairs.

Without good chairs our programs, faculty, and students cannot be successful. What is needed is the individual who can balance the various exigencies of this position and that balance needs to lead to positive results; especially, now that our field is under such great scrutiny. The individual needs to understand the general areas related to the politics of higher education as well as their own context. They need to also understand the area of k-12 education both at the national/international levels as well as that of their surrounding districts. They need to be a “super” faculty member who can be a role model for both junior and senior faculty. All this, and did I mention that they also to mentor and support their faculty? They also need to lead the continuous improvement efforts in their programs as well as understand how to assess if those improvements are preparing the best, the brightest, and most representative of candidates. In summary, they have to be advocates of their departments and know their programs, faculty, students, and the field very well. But the major question is how can we as UCEA help support their efforts and build the skills of those who may be interested in what I consider the most challenging position in higher education—the chair’s position?

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