Quality Educational Leaders: Those Without Realm, Range Need Not Apply
By Dr. Ruby Evans
Based on 1993 data, the Digest of Education Statistics recently reported that roughly 86 percent of all employees in executive, administrative or managerial (EAM) positions in institutions of higher education were White. Careful attention, therefore, must be afforded to diversity, especially as it pertains to inclusion of African Americans in the ranks of higher education administrators. Diversity, which embeds authentic inclusiveness, will play a pivotal role in how African Americans fare in higher education in coming years.
As higher education braces itself for a mass exodus of educational leaders over the next five to 10 years, African Americans who seek to crack the glass ceiling and play, irrespective of the level of the field, must pay special attention to two concepts — realm and range.
To gain greater access to EAM positions in higher education, a new cadre of African Americans must demonstrate the ability to lead or operate within a certain context or realm. Realm encompasses a leader’s preparation to function — one’s intellect, the empirical knowledge to understand what one can and cannot do, and how to do what one can do within a specified time frame.
What’s the range? Simply put, your range is how far you can go with your ability. Range translates to capacity, the most that you can do with what you have. Those who will lead higher education in the 21st century must also demonstrate exceptional range — ability with far-reaching impact.
Core skills essential for effective leadership are generally independent of gender, race and ethnicity. Effective educational leaders must be comfortable in the skin they are in. They must foster and sustain internal organizational collaborations that illuminate institutional, individual and collective accomplishments, rather than highlighting a leader’s halo.
The realm of leaders who form higher education’s 21st century changing of the guard will undoubtedly influence classes and categories of people both internal and external to institutional settings. Effective leaders must engage all stakeholders — whether student, faculty, administrator, board member or other constituent — so that each senses an undeniable and authentic air of inclusiveness.
Quality educational leaders for the 21st century and beyond must outline strategic plans of action for program improvement, and effectively implement these plans within organizational contexts. The range of these new 21st century leaders will potentially impact 22nd century higher education.
Additionally, effective leaders must be unafraid to share the spotlight with quality team members. They must maintain a focus on staffing patterns that support both diversity and inclusiveness. Diversity, in the absence of authentic inclusiveness, has the potential to ignite a spark that fosters an uncomfortable realm and which mitigates the leader’s range. These leadership characteristics are not subject to variations in interpretations, based on the color of the leader or follower’s skin. The characteristics also are fairly robust, and invariant to changes in institutional settings — HBCUs, community colleges or universities.
For those of us who seek to become quality educational leaders for the 21st century and beyond, we must possess and effectively deploy ability, skills and knowledge that can go the distance. We must engage visual, hearing and speaking acuity. There can be no “dream the impossible dream” bravado, no filibuster, no “pie in the sky” dribble. African Americans who aspire to join the ranks of higher education administrators and lead institutions of higher education must fully understand the importance of realm and range.
— Dr. Ruby Evans is an associate professor of higher education and policy studies at the University of Central Florida.
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