Balancing Your Many Roles as a Higher Ed Leader

Higher Ed Leadership Series

As a higher ed leader, you’re likely wearing many hats. You are an educator, an advisor, a representative for your department, a leader of a team and the university, and an external thought leader.

Phew! It’s no wonder if you’re struggling to balance it all. When do you prioritize each role? And how do you approach getting it all done?

Here are a few tips:

1) Identify Your Roles

Make sure you are clear on the roles that are expected of you. Write a list of all the roles that you’ve stepped into. Then, speak with your boss or other stakeholders to align explicit and implicit expectations (hint: they are probably unaware of all the hats you wear).

For example, in addition to being an educator and department chair, you may take on the role of being an unofficial advisor to another colleague. Write it all down. It’s important to see everything in one place.

2) Delegate!

Once you have it all down, rank each role based on its level of importance to you and your career goals. Then identify what, if anything, can be delegated to someone on your team as a growth opportunity.

This point should not be missed: It is essential that as a leader, you see a critical part of your role as preparing future leaders. So, giving your team the opportunity to develop is extremely important.

Finally, what do you need to say no to at this time? Be realistic about your time and bandwidth to do it all.

3) Prioritize

Now that you have clarity on this list of roles, take a closer look at each of them. There is likely seasonality to when a particular role is in high demand. So, pay attention to the trend and align your time and energy accordingly.

For example, at the start of the semester, you’re probably deep into the “educator hat” as classes begin and students loom with curiosity and fears. As much as you can, reduce your availability to meetings around the other roles (e.g., external thought leadership) to create space for your students and staff at this time of year.

4) Develop Yourself as a Leader

While you can’t be all things to all people all the time, you will be expected to wear all these hats at different points in time. Be prepared to show up confidently in each of your roles. For tips on developing yourself as a leader, check out our recent blog post here.

Most importantly, remember that it’s normal to feel overwhelmed as you step into your role of higher ed leader. The transition from individual contributor to senior leader isn’t always easy.

Hopefully, following these steps will help you gain your footing. And if you need additional support, learn more about our leadership coaching programs here.

Looking for additional resources to help you navigate senior leadership in higher ed? Download our free University Leadership Roadmap: 7 Steps to Jumpstart Your Leadership Journey for Women of Color in Higher Ed.

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