Varada is a thought-leader with over 25 years of professional experience working both in India and abroad in the area of Human Resources and Educational Services, Varada is an internationally Certified Leadership and Success Coach (CLC and CEC) from one of the highly reputed training institutions in the United States, certified by International Coach Federation (ICF). He is also affiliated with Certified Coaches Alliance (CCA) and is keen to help people unleash their true potential and make a difference.
It is a challenging yet exciting time for Leaders in the Education Industry with the administration task growing with a huge number of jobs to be filled in a post- pandemic scenario where Covid-19 challenges are still continuing and meeting the needs of diverse student population; be it preparing them for ever-changing corporate needs and helping the students to learn remotely. What is more critical in today’s time is innovation as the industry is taking an entrepreneurial approach to the way students learn, professors teach and increasing collaborative approach.
Leading change, especially the attempt to shift to a learning institution is a huge task for Leaders in Higher Education where most people, after their formal education comes with a mindset that they have done with it. Attempting to change in an Institutional culture requires a vision, energy, focus, and ultimately buy-in from those that are part of an already established deep-rooted culture in an Institute or organization they are working. In fact, Change Management is one of the critical qualities of Effective Leaders as they go through rapid changes in today’s work environment. A rapid change at workplace often leads to conflicts. Effective Leaders prepare for this as it has to be managed in a sensitive way keeping in mind the needs and interests of all stakeholders, including the Institution itself.
Another very important quality of a Leader in the Higher Education is to be an Effective communicator. Communication plays a significant role like in any other Industries. Leaders must be comfortable engaging with a wide range of people; both in and outside the campus and in both public and private settings.
And Intellectual Curiosity – This is another very important quality required to be successful for a Leader in the Higher Education. Although Leaders like Dean, Academic Head or a Chancellor may end up investing a lot of their time in regular meetings in and outside the campus, developing intellectual curiosity is extremely important. It helps Leaders to master new disciplines, understand the needs of their Institute and stakeholders better and create a better learning environment. And of course, in becoming better decision makers as well.
It is very important for any Institute to create a culture within the Institute to develop it as a “Learning Institute”. Therefore, Leaders of Higher Education play a significant role in creating a culture that is essential for its faculty and other employees to cultivate the habit of continuous professional development and this can happen through a culture of paradigm shift.
With the demands and needs of the Corporate Houses ever-changing, it is critical for the Higher Educational Institutes to equip students with the knowledge and skills they will need to succeed in a constantly changing and challenging tomorrow and meet the diverse needs of student population. The old methods or simply lecturing method of teaching would not work today. Faculty members need to update themselves regularly with latest methodologies of teaching and the use of technology in order to engage the students in the classroom more meaningfully and will have to adopt different teaching styles, as learning styles of students differ.
Teachers must develop passion to teach! A Teacher cannot step into the classroom with one style of teaching; she has to wear many hats to connect and engage with all those different types of learners present in classrooms. She must expand her role to a Facilitator to ensure that students enjoy the process of learning and meaningful learning takes place in the classroom.
Leaders in Higher Education must ensure they coach / mentor their faculty to empower faculty and academic staff to develop leadership skills. It has dual benefits; one it allows existing leaders to support those who are keen to becoming future leaders and it enables leadership to focus training and professional development on the most critical needs of the Institution. Today, embracing continuous professional development is critical for Faculty members to survive and succeed.
The need of creating a Learning Institution that can react more quickly to changing external environments to improve student outcomes is essential.
Another very important factor the Higher Educational Institutes need to emphasize today is “Skill Development” of its students. Having just Degrees does not guarantee jobs or success. Degrees with Skills are the need of the hour. Developing essential skills and making them employable is key to their success, and eventually for the Institute’s success as well.
If we closely look history, we observe that the purpose of education during 60s 70s was to make a child “a good human being, good citizen for the nation and to the community” so that the long term problems of nation can be solved with human engineering. But post 1990 and more so in the current century with the boom in private education and the needs of Industry ever-changing, the emphasis should also be on developing employability skills of students.
It is time that Leaders in Higher Education seize the opportunity to create their Institutes “Learning Institutes”, bring positive change, help their employees become progressive and also make them feel that the Management cares for their employees.
Without a doubt, we can say that “Skill development” should certainly be a primary goal of education. Yet it is a question to deliberate that “can the Nation be satisfied if every educated individual only fulfills his/her own economic needs through learning”, and should it not formulate an education policy which can create citizens with the proper approach to “Nation Building”? Perhaps, NEP will address this to some extent!
I conclude by writing that the learning must be integrated with focus on creating future leaders.
- Creating and supporting learning opportunities and continuous professional development for all faculty and other members of the institution to ensure they create future leaders from the classrooms
- Focus on promoting collaborative learning where people work in teams for better and desired results
- Encourage Creativity, Innovation and skill development through holistic approach
- Introduce innovative methods of learning
- Create more Thinkers and Problem Solvers by introducing such skill based syllabus.
- Communication Skills – Developing effective communication and essential Leadership skills are important.
- And create Good and Smart People – Good when I say, “Value side” and Smart on “skills”.