Academic Leadership Day by Day: Small Steps That Lead to Great Success
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More About This Title Academic Leadership Day by Day: Small Steps That Lead to Great Success


It can seem at times as though all of academic administration today is focused only on the need for continual change and the endless pursuit of "the big idea." But most academic leaders, from department chairs and program directors through university presidents and chancellors, are far too busy helping their institutions flourish for them to divert critical energy and resources to yet another untried theory or management principle. Academic Leadership Day by Day takes an entirely different approach to developing your proven academic leadership: It introduces one practical and field-tested idea each day for an entire academic year. Rather than requiring you to devote days or even weeks to administrative training (which may prove to be of little use in the end), this manual gives you no-nonsense suggestions that you can consider on even your busiest days. Experiment with the suggestions made each day, discover what works for you, and then build on your successes for the benefit of your institution and its programs. Significant improvements often result from small, gradual, and consistent efforts, and Academic Leadership Day by Day is your guide to becoming a more accomplished, confident academic leader a few minutes at a time.


Jeffrey L. Buller is dean of the Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College at Florida Atlantic University and author of The Essential Department Chair, The Essential Academic Dean, and The Essential College Professor.



1 September.

1 Take advantage of new beginnings.

2 Know your limits.

3 Read the biography of an exemplary leader.

4 Attend a meeting just to listen.

5 Review your program's publications.

6 Reorder your tasks.

7 Be a coach.

8 Waste time.

9 Learn from a bad decision.

10 Reflect on respect.

11 Provide an outlet for dissent.

12 Tell your supervisor what you need.

13 Learn more about today’s college students.

14 Convey some good news and some bad news.

15 Describe your supervisor.

16 Stop—at least for a moment.

17 Remember that it's not all about you.

18 Share someone else's dream.

19 Learn from what others teach.

20 Evaluate without making value judgments.

21 Be the change you want to see.

22 Respect other people's time.

23 Consider the first thing you do at work every day.

24 Find the weakest link.

25 Go back to the future.

26 Lead by serving.

27 Simplify something.

28 Study interactions.

29 Seek your own satisfaction.

30 Read a boring book.

2 October.

1 Take stock.

2 Ask questions.

3 Exhibit candor.

4 Remove one obstacle.

5 Look around you.

6 Convey confidence.

7 Attend a campus event.

8 See people, not tasks, as your first priority.

9 Nominate someone for an award.

10 Discover new ways to manage stress.

11 Move on.

12 Assess your telephone style.

13 Learn from a case study.

14 Practice self-doubt.

15 Speak to a chronic latecomer.

16 Put agendas on your agenda.

17 Recommend a good book.

18 Raise awareness.

19 Plot an escape.

20 Be unique.

21 Show someone you care.

22 Question an assumption.

23 Define leadership.

24 Stay on message.

25 Celebrate something.

26 Open yourself to persuasion.

27 Ask, “Why?”.

28 Make time fly.

29 Become your own life coach.

30 Decide how you make decisions.

31 Be frightened.

3 November.

1 Do something that really matters.

2 Spend time with your best faculty members.

3 Use only positive words.

4 Discourage end runs.

5 Know your legislators.

6 Improve your telephone log.

7 Envision a better future.

8 Think holistically.

9 Learn something new about academic freedom.

10 Raise the bar.

11 Expand access.

12 Stop and smell the roses.

13 Think like a novice.

14 Seek common ground.

15 Don’t take it personally.

16 Establish boundaries.

17 Accommodate differences.

18 Identify your biggest challenge.

19 Make the first move.

20 Reflect on the relationship between students and faculty members.

21 Examine workload carefully.

22 Discover new sources of administrative insight.

23 Be a broken record.

24 Embrace your greatest frustration.

25 Build a team.

26 Share your story.

27 Clarify responsibilities.

28 Change your environment.

29 Take a chance on someone.

30 Provide context.

4 December.

1 Prepare for the home stretch.

2 Identify an opportunity.

3 Remember that having fun matters.

4 Be transparent.

5 Learn something new about tenure.

6 Embrace uncertainty.

7 Stop being busy.

8 Notice where the shoe pinches.

9 Redouble your efforts.

10 Think like a student.

11 Book-end your day.

12 Consider the law of unintended consequences.

13 Mix it up.

14 Build flexible time into your schedule.

15 Remember that you're a symbol.

16 Identify your favorite word.

17 Simplify your focus.

18 Support those who support you.

19 Identify your brand.

20 Write an article on academic administration.

21 Explain the system.

22 Associate with someone you admire.

23 Have a meeting standing up.

24 Trust your instincts.

25 Take a day completely off.

26 Make a wish.

27 Count your blessings.

28 Reflect on your achievements.

29 Share credit.

30 Identify the first major task you'd like to tackle in the new year.

31 Consider why students leave.

5 January.

1 Do an anonymous good deed.

2 Create a leadership journal.

3 Thank someone.

4 Document your successes.

5 Stop procrastinating.

6 Listen to an opposing view.

7 Learn something new about assessment.

8 Reread a favorite book.

9 Pay a visit.

10 Discover time puddles.

11 Continue reinventing yourself.

12 Improve one policy.

13 Find a way to say yes to someone.

14 Talk about research.

15 Balance your life.

16 Set your priorities.

17 Let a student gush.

18 Attack your ignorance.

19 Demonstrate good stewardship.

20 Review your institution's mission statement.

21 Enhance your resources.

22 Dare to dream.

23 Focus on your lowest priorities.

24 Get back in touch with someone who made a difference.

25 Share a meal.

26 Release one frustration.

27 Solve a problem.

28 Be distinctive and concise.

29 Set short-term goals.

30 Reach out.

31 Enjoy a sense of accomplishment.

6 February.

1 Plan for spontaneity.

2 Think metaphorically.

3 Praise sincerely.

4 Identify a possible successor.

5 Update your résumé.

6 Return to the classics.

7 Contact the parent of a student.

8 Immerse yourself in history.

9 Assess your job satisfaction.

10 Celebrate someone else's good news.

11 Study your competitors.

12 Offer encouragement.

13 Review your evaluation.

14 Think about potential donors.

15 Let a faculty member reminisce.

16 Continue your education.

17 Track your use of time.

18 Write yourself a letter of recommendation.

19 Imagine if money were no object.

20 Offer to be someone's mentor.

21 Apologize to someone.

22 Write a note to a prospective student.

23 Consider the needs of an employee.

24 Manage your workload.

25 Articulate your vision.

26 Review patterns of expenditure.

27 Decide what you would change.

28 Read the job listings.

29 Take advantage of a rare gift.

7 March.

1 Be a philosopher.

2 Think of something outrageous.

3 Reread your institution's strategic plan.

4 Invite a member of the staff to lunch.

5 Describe a “typical” student.

6 Take a personality test.

7 Analyze trends.

8 Be your own consultant.

9 Envision your dream job.

10 Explore your faculty's scholarship.

11 Reallocate 5 percent of your budget.

12 Identify your most wasteful practice.

13 Think big Really big.

14 Develop five new interview questions.

15 Challenge your own leadership style.

16 Recall a poor judgment.

17 Relax You've earned it.

18 Identify a pressure point.

19 Remember good administrative advice.

20 Enhance your environment.

21 Review your computer files.

22 Learn something new about strategic planning.

23 Identify a bad habit.

24 Empower others.

25 Find a hot-button issue.

26 Enhance research.

27 Reflect on your proudest accomplishment.

28 Improve your public presentations.

29 Examine your use of pronouns.

30 Explore a few other best practices in higher education.

31 Finish something.

8 April.

1 Do something foolish.

2 Audit your committees and meetings.

3 Reread your institution's disaster plan.

4 Reward yourself.

5 Define your purpose.

6 Assess faculty and staff morale.

7 Sort through a stack of papers.

8 Expand your knowledge of higher education law.

9 Build a bridge.

10 Learn a new software application.

11 Overplan your day.

12 Chart your progress.

13 Check a blind spot.

14 Slow down.

15 Explore your insecurities.

16 Remember your favorite professor.

17 Get excited.

18 Identify a significant problem.

19 Think like a pilot.

20 Jot a note to a member of the staff.

21 Chat with a colleague.

22 Outline a plan.

23 Walk through your facilities.

24 Live in the moment.

25 Be absolutely candid.

26 Ask someone about his or her vision.

27 Ask, “What if?”.

28 Indulge your creative side.

29 Learn more about your students.

30 Identify your Achilles' heel.

9 May.

1 Start something.

2 Evaluate yourself.

3 Fill a need.

4 Engage in hero worship.

5 Spot an elephant.

6 Listen actively.

7 Share a treasure.

8 Reward others.

9 Reorganize a drawer.

10 Reflect on the law of reciprocity.

11 Use your resources.

12 Describe your coworkers.

13 Become disillusioned.

14 Learn something new about budgeting.

15 Make up for lost time.

16 Audit your organizational structure.

17 Practice concision.

18 Brag about someone.

19 Read about academic leadership.

20 Resist the temptation to be cynical.

21 Be a good public citizen.

22 Define who you are.

23 Pay it forward.

24 Take a calculated risk.

25 Assess your network.

26 Set a clear development goal.

27 Change your inner voice.

28 Learn from the fragments of broken promises.

29 Build outward from individual successes.

30 Reinvent the wheel.

31 Start your own daily guide.

The Author.