February 23 Day 717: In Search of…Effective Leadership

I’ve been thinking about what it means to be a good leader, again. My institution is at the start of the search for a Dean of the School of Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences. We are working on the position description, a job ad, and an assessment rubric. Pulling together the desired characteristics and experiences of an ‘ideal candidate’ paints the picture of a magical administrator, capable of herding cats while serving coffee and tap dancing for the world to see, all without spilling a drop.

Everyone knows that unicorns don’t exist. So what is my non-negotiable? I want an effective leader.

I’ve written about these characteristics before (See for example May 8 Day 61: Leadership) but I think they deserve to be highlighted again. What makes someone an effective leader? In my opinion, they need to have:

  • a clear and well-articulated vision;
  • the ability to inspire others to reach for that vision—building the team and trusting their expertise;
  • a willingness to have ideas challenged, sharpened, and improved by anyone with good reason and common sense;
  • deep listening skills, even to criticism, that lead to appropriate and visible action;
  • the desire to see everyone grow and succeed; and
  • the strength to make difficult decisions in service of the greater good.

That’s what I want to find.

(And that’s what I try to be.)

Published by Jenny Quinn

Mathematician. Mother. Wife. Leader. I am a professor of mathematics at the University of Washington Tacoma. Mother of Anson and Zachary. Wife to Mark. President of the Mathematical Association of America.

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