Connecting to leadership

Leadership is a topic that I think about every day. Good leadership is vital to the success of our students and is a popular topic in conversations with college presidents. Leadership is not just about college administration — it is a topic as diverse as our community college students. 

Previously, I have focused this column on the need for current CEOs to ensure they are empowering the next generation of leaders. That generation, in my opinion, is one of the most connected and resource-rich that we may ever have.

If you consider the options for leadership development today, you may be overwhelmed. From rigorous doctoral programs to informal networking and everything in-between, today’s community college leader is better connected than I ever was.

My first foray into leadership happened because I was in the right place at the right time. I did not have formal training until well in to my career in education. I’m sure many of you were a little nervous when tapped to step up and fill the need for a leader.

While I had excellent mentors and opportunities, I wish I was able to take advantage of the vast resources available today. Technology has made it easier than ever to stay connected. Utilizing the power of technology, it is easy to maintain connections made with colleagues, communicate with each other and share best practices to a broader audience. To the next generation of leaders, technology has always allowed them to connect, multitask and to give (and receive) instant feedback. Today’s leader uses technology to build relationships and social media to communicate a vision.

The next generation of leaders also has the advantage of more formal leadership and professional development programs. I was honored to work with aspiring leaders recently at the American Association of Community Colleges’ (AACC) Future Leaders Institute and Future Presidents Institute. These two programs bring together seasoned veterans, experts in the field and our AACC staff to cover topics like advocacy, fundraising and media relations. Participants also have access to community college leaders who have been successful presidents. Both retired legends and sitting presidents spent time discussing current issues as well as more personal topics including board relations, CEO contracts and presidential interviews. Most importantly, the participants formed bonds within their respective cohorts that I know will serve them well as they navigate their own careers.

I believe strongly in the power of mentoring and professional development. I know it works. But, I am also learning from these future presidents that there are new and exciting ways to gather knowledge, connect with others and build a network of relationships. I am confident that the next era for community colleges is in good hands.

Editor’s note: This article comes from the August/September 2017 edition of the Community College Journal, the flagship publication of the American Association of Community Colleges since 1930.

About the Author

Walter G. Bumphus
is president and CEO of the American Association of Community Colleges.