What does it mean to be a leader? Is it a title that comes with a nice office and a salary to back it up? Is it recognition within a community and organizations? Are you born a leader? – Is it intrinsic? Can anyone learn the traits of a leader if given an opportunity? Research shows that an individual is both born and made a leader, but mostly, an individual is trained more to be a leader than they are born with natural intrinsic traits. Is this good news? Yes, because research shows that anyone can become a leader.
Here at the National Forum we actively engage with leaders in higher education, specifically through The New Leadership Academy Fellows Program, which is a partnership between the National Forum on Higher Education for the Public Good (National Forum) and the American Association of Hispanics in Higher Education (AAHHE). The New Leadership Academy (NLA) Fellows Program changes the expectations that surround leaders and leadership development across higher education. The learning strategies informing the fellowship experience are premised on a recognition that the demographic, democratic, and discursive foundations on which modern higher education has been built on are changing. As colleges and universities respond to these environments, we know that leaders will require specialized knowledge and tools, as well as the personal and professional courage to be effective in what clearly are complex and highly contested environments. The NLA curriculum and learning strategies draw upon traditional leadership theory and recent scholarship that investigates the roles of leaders under highly contested and complex conditions. The NLA curriculum is designed to empower institutional and organizational leaders with knowledge, tools, and courage needed to lead effectively on their campuses and across the system of higher education.
Along with the NLA curriculum, NLA Fellows benefit from attending the New Leadership Academy Mid-Year Retreat, and because I am doing my internship at the forum this summer, I had the pleasure of helping with this Mid-Year retreat! Our Fellows participate in a five-day Mid-Year Retreat at the University of Michigan where they attend sessions on leadership focused on various roles and topics of leadership. This Mid-Year Retreat was taxing and tiresome, yet it was fulfilling to partake in aiding our leaders in higher education to grow and gain skills as leaders to make a better now and tomorrow for students everywhere.
It’s good news that anyone can become a leader, but being a leader means more than a title, salary, and skills. Being a leader means being brave and defending those with no rights or voice. Being a leader means standing up for others and paving a way of opportunity. It means constantly becoming a better version of yourself so you can change the world around you for the better. This is what the Mid-Year Retreat afforded our fellows, and I am glad to be part of this change and growth.