Report: The Skills Future Higher-Ed Leaders Need to Succeed

group of learners at an Academic Impressions conference

How do you lead when there is no map? When the territory is unknown?

The swift pace of change and the complexity of the challenges facing our colleges and universities is immense, and is testing the abilities of our institutions’ leaders. The playbook of the past does not offer a sustainable path forward for all institutions. Continually finding new revenue sources, discounting tuition to increase enrollment or improve the academic profile of the student body, investing in new facilities to attract faculty and students, etc.—these will not be enough.

Given the prevalence of adaptive challenges facing our institutions, we need a different kind of leader in higher education—leaders who can build bridges from the past to the future, taking the best of our industry and making it more relevant, competitive, and sustainable. The past and current leadership model that prizes vision, academic reputation and track record, communication and charisma, and fundraising expertise is no longer enough to meet our current and future challenges.

In the “permanent whitewater” of higher education, we will need leaders who are:

  1. Anticipatory thinkers.
  2. Risk tolerant and supportive of creativity and innovation.
  3. Effective conveners/brokers/facilitators.
  4. Courageous decision makers.
  5. Resilient and able to “bounce forward” after a crisis or setback.

Drawing on extensive research and conversations with leaders across higher-ed, this 30-page paper is meant to open the conversation. We invite you to read it, discuss it with others on your campus, and continue the conversation. You can reach out to one of the authors, Amit Mrig, at