How To Become a Strategic University Leader

Higher Ed Leadership Series

The role of a leader in higher education is not just about managing day-to-day operations but is also about navigating complexities, fostering innovation, and driving impactful change. Becoming a strategic leader requires specific skills & abilities – things that you may feel you were never taught. Where’s the manual on “how to be a strategic leader,” anyway?

That’s where Lead by Design Lab can help! In this guide, we’ll dive into what it means to be a strategic leader, how to embody the qualities of a strategic leader, and how doing so can empower women of color to thrive in their roles, leaving a lasting legacy and staying true to your values. 

What Is A Strategic Leader? 

Strategic leadership goes far beyond mere management; it embodies vision, foresight, and adaptability. A strategic leader is someone who not only understands the current landscape of their institution but also anticipates future challenges and opportunities. 

It’s about making decisions that align with the long-term goals of the institution and aligning your team with those goals as well. For women of color stepping into higher ed leadership roles, being strategic means leveraging your unique perspectives and experiences to drive inclusive growth and positive change within your institutions. 

Standout Qualities Of A Strategic Leader

Entering a leadership role requires a specific set of skills. Strategic leaders possess a combination of vision, resilience, empathy, and decisiveness. They are adept at fostering collaboration, empowering their teams, and championing diversity and inclusion. 

For women of color in leadership positions, these qualities are not just essential; they are transformative.  To learn more about how to become a strategic leader, also check out this blog post. By embodying these traits, you can inspire others, break down barriers, and pave the way for future generations of leaders. 

How To Be A Strategic Leader

Think strategically – Strategic leaders gather information from diverse sources, analyze trends, and anticipate future needs. For women of color in leadership roles, this means embracing your unique perspectives and leveraging them to drive innovation and positive change within your institutions. 

Act strategically Understanding organizational interdependencies and aligning actions with institutional goals is crucial for strategic leadership. By fostering consistent communication with their teams and students, strategic leaders can ensure alignment and drive collective action towards shared objectives. Delegating effectively and empowering others to take ownership of tasks is also essential for scaling impact and fostering growth.

Influence strategically Building networks and relationships is key to influencing change and driving impact. Strategic leaders cultivate authentic connections, seek out diverse perspectives, and champion inclusivity in all aspects of their leadership. For women of color, this means leveraging their unique networks and experiences to amplify their voices and drive meaningful change within their institutions and beyond. 

Strategic Leaders Ask The Right Questions

Asking the right questions is essential for strategic leadership. By challenging assumptions, seeking out diverse perspectives, and fostering a culture of curiosity, strategic leaders can uncover new insights, identify emerging trends, and drive innovation within their institutions.

For women of color in leadership roles, asking the right questions means challenging the status quo, amplifying diverse voices, and driving meaningful change that reflects your values and aspirations. 

Challenging the status quo can be a source of contention for many leaders, especially women of color. Maybe you’ve spoken up in meetings or expressed ideas in conversation and have been met with skepticism or even outright dismissal, making it difficult to drive meaningful change. 

Having the confidence to use your voice in the face of resilience is so important because you’ll inspire others, dismantle systemic barriers, and create space for diverse perspectives to thrive, but that can be so much easier said than done, right? This is something we focus on with our clients at Lead by Design Lab. We help teach you the tools you need to use your voice effectively and navigate the politics of meetings or workplace situations. 

It’s time to recognize the inherent value you bring to the table and refuse to be silenced or sidelined in the pursuit of progress. 

Ready To Take The Next Steps?

Becoming a strategic university leader is not just about mastering a set of skills; it’s about embracing a mindset of continuous learning, growth, and impact. For women of color in these leadership roles, it’s about owning your place at the table, embracing your unique perspectives, and driving positive change within your institutions and communities. 

By embodying the qualities of strategic leadership and staying true to your values, you can inspire others, break down barriers, and leave a lasting legacy that transcends generations. 

Are you ready to take the next steps on your leadership journey? Consider exploring our higher ed leadership coaching program at Lead by Design Lab, tailored specifically for women of color in leadership roles, where you’ll receive personalized support, guidance, and tools to unlock your full potential as a strategic university leader.

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