During the last 18 months, American institutions of higher education have grappled with an unprecedented combination of global and national crises, including the COVID-19 pandemic, a period of racial reckoning, an economy in recession, and other events of critical importance.
During these turbulent times, the need for strong leadership in higher education “has never been more imperative,” argue SC&I Distinguished Professor of Communication Brent D. Ruben, Richard De Lisi, and SC&I Part-Time Lecturer Ralph A. Gigliotti, who have just published “A Guide for Leaders in Higher Education: Concepts, Competencies, and Tools, Second Edition.”
The overarching message of the book, the authors said, is to “highlight the need to think broadly about the purposes of higher education and the dynamics of organizational excellence, and to apply these insights effectively in goal setting, planning and change leadership, outcomes assessment, addressing crises, and continuous improvement at both the level of the individual and organization.”
In addition, the new edition includes tools to help leaders learn to better connect and engage with colleagues and students and communicate and collaborate more effectively with external constituencies in order to shape decisions and policies.
“Leadership in higher education today is complex and challenging, but also rich with opportunities for those committed to advancing the quality and effectiveness of their institutions,” said Ruben, who is advisor for strategy and planning in the Office of the Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs, and senior university fellow at the Rutgers Center for Organizational Leadership, both at Rutgers University-New Brunswick. “Beyond the expertise in their own disciplines or specialty area, effective leadership requires a broad range of organizational competencies. These competencies do not come naturally, nor are they necessarily acquired through formal education. It has become well recognized in all sectors that becoming an effective leader requires a special commitment to learning core leadership concepts, the landscape in which leaders operate, and reflective practice and continuing improvement. We wrote ‘Leaders in Higher Education’ to address these needs.”
Much of the book has been revised to focus “on the current higher education landscape. As a part of this updating, we devoted much greater attention to issues related to diversity, inclusion, equity, and belonging, along with addressing the impact of recent crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic,” said De Lisi, emeritus university professor, emeritus dean of the Rutgers Graduate School of Education, and senior fellow at the Rutgers Center for Organizational Leadership.
These revisions are particularly timely, said Gigliotti, assistant vice president at the Rutgers Office of University Strategy and Director of the Rutgers Center for Organizational Leadership, because “during a time of unprecedented challenges facing higher education, the need for effective leadership—for formal and informal leaders across the organization—has perhaps never been more important. Since the first edition of ‘A Guide for Leaders in Higher Education’ was published in 2017, there have been a variety of significant changes in the higher education landscape. We wanted to capture these changes and describe evolving practices for addressing these challenges effectively.”