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The Basic competencies for the Academic Leaders of the Future

By G. Balasubramanian

There is no denial to the fact that Academic Leadership is becoming increasingly sensitive to social, cultural, economic, and technological changes. As Patrick Dixon points out in his book “The future of Almost Everything”, the term ‘Future’ is acronym for “Fast, Urban, Tribal, Universal, Radical and Ethical.” Each of the adjectives listed in the acronym appear to be contextual to the field of education requiring the academic leadership to meaningfully and responsible respond to these needs. It indeed calls for a radical change in the vision of academic management. The academic leaders cannot continue to structure the future designs of the institutions on their past experiences as the speed with which academics will have to respond to the impacting changes will be mind-boggling.

Giving the importance for a purposeful response to these changes, Michio Kaku, writes in his book “The future of Mind”– “For those who believe, no explanation is necessary; for those who do not believe, no explanation will suffice.” He clarifies further “Your grades in school, your scores on the SAT, mean less for life success than your capacity to co-operate, your ability to regulate your emotions, your capacity to delay your gratification, and your capacity to focus your attention. Those skills are far more important—all the data indicate—for life success than your IQ or your grades.” That indeed calls for a paradigm shift in the thought architecture of ideating, managing, and leading an educational organization, and hence an entirely different set of academic leadership skills.

It may be worthwhile to consider a few of such skills:

1. Idea Management

An educational organization is basically a treasure of knowledge, skills, curiosity, creativity, and innovation. It houses humans who perceive and program mental designs which are unique and futuristic. Any systemic management that would deal with rote learning and unrealistic issues for their furthering knowledge will be met with resistance. Hence, the academic leadership should focus on issues relating to generation to ideas, processing of ideas, navigation of ideas and facilitating ideas to concrete and productive formats. A school head who cannot facilitate convergence of ideas and give opportunities for their maturation may be seen in poor limelight. That really means, the academic leadership should be vibrant, informed, current and logistic.

2. Resource Management

The future academic leadership would not be recognized by their erstwhile qualifications, skills, and competencies. They need to be resourceful and enterprising. A resourceful leader is not one who must be a fountain head of resources, but one who knows the sources of resources and is able to seek, tap, assimilate, bring to use such of these resources. This is a continuous effort calling for both formal and informal engagement of knowledge. This would also mean that they need to be a part of the social construct in which knowledge is accessed, calibrated, and used in context. The academic leaders should be resourceful enough to disseminate the appropriate resources to the team. It means they would have to know the individual and collective competencies of the team working with them so that they are put into best use.

3. Enterprise Management

Educational institutions of the future would be the training centres for the development of entrepreneurial attitudes, practices relating to various domains of enterprise development like concept planning, fiscal management, resource mobilization, market studies and supply-chain management and need management. These skills would cover the entire spectrum of learning disciplines and their entrepreneurial engagements. Preparing the learners for the future would mean giving them a mindset and hands-on skills relating to them. Academic leaders cannot isolate themselves as non-subscribers to the entrepreneurial ideas and their implementation. They need to elevate themselves beyond the fundamental practices of knowledge management to higher levels where they would be able to guide the children to blossom with creativity.

4. Social outreach and social intelligence

Schools are essentially social instruments navigating human resource development. The changing social dynamics impacting family structures, socio-cultural engagements, interpersonal and social relationships need to be understood in the right perspective by the learners. It requires creating a proper atmosphere and climate in which these could be understood, appreciated, and practiced both in the school community and outside. Academic leaders should engage in developing school teams of mentors who would address these requirements both in phased and progressive manager so that there is continuous update of these skills in the learning ladder of the institution. Further, this would also need developing a conducive school community that facilitates and supports in developing healthy relationships and values as enshrined in the constitution.

5. Digital competency Management

In a world which is getting increasingly technologically driven, the academic leaders largely being digital immigrants cannot be mute witnesses to the changes. h. They need to be not only conversant with the dynamics of technological changes but futuristic enough to predict and position themselves to engage with and challenge the changes with comfort and conviction. Progressive acquisition of digital competencies and their contextual applications to learning domains must be understood and updated from time to time.

The following words of Abraham Lincoln should be a constant reminder to us “You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.”