What are the three key competencies that higher education leadership teams need today? The environment is unlike any time in our history. Using a term created by the military, VUCA, describes today’s world. It is V-Volatile, U-Uncertain, C-Complex and A-Ambiguous. The approaches university leaders have historically used are tedious, bureaucratic and slow to change. Today’s world is demanding focus, agility and empowerment. How do University Presidents and leadership teams move into this new space? COMPETENCY #1 – FOCUS – As I coach and work with many leadership teams I find them to be overwhelmed and frustrated. They find themselves putting out fires and not getting to the meaningful work. Why is that? First, higher education leadership positions have been downsized over recent years and the leadership positions that remain are very demanding and the work previously done by two or more individuals. Secondly, the external environment is changing rapidly. Thirdly, leadership teams have not paused long enough to determine what is priority work in today’s environment. What work is critical to advance the university and meet the annual and longer-term goals? While this task is not easy, until teams have the discipline and structure to identify core work and hold themselves accountable, the craziness will continue. I have coached teams through this identification process and then held space for them to be accountable to their goals. This process enhances outcomes and supports increased sanity! COMPETENCY #2 – TEAM LEADERSHIP AND TRUST- The ambiguity, complexity and fast pace of university work requires decisions to be made at all levels. If there is a student/faculty issue, those closest to the challenge need to be empowered to review the situation and respond. The quality of the decision does not necessarily improve by deferring to those up the chain of command. Those on the front line need to understand where the team is going, core values with which to perform the work and be empowered to make the best decisions possible. As leaders empower their teams, trust is developed. Trust is the glue that holds teams together and supports true team leadership. If a manager criticizes a front-line employee for making what is perceived as a “bad decision” he/she is not empowering nor building trust. You may be thinking… well not all decision will be right. That may be true, and it is the role of the manager to unpack those situations and allow the front line to grow and better understand alternative approaches. Simply punishing or criticizing does not build the leadership needed. As trust replaces fear and individuals feel empowered student success and employee morale will increase. COMPETENCY #3 – ACCOUNTABILITY – Universities are under pressure to ensure short and long term sustainability. Yet, we know that outcomes are not always a priority. Historically, universities have been much more focused on process and inputs. In today’s world, where resources are dwindling, enrollments are declining, and staff are stressed, leadership teams need to be using an accountability system. The system will include metrics to monitor success on a routine basis and to course correct or adjust work as needed. Celebrations of success and unpacking of failures are also important. These three competencies: Focus, Team Leadership and Accountability will help to create more effective teams in our VUCA world. Act today. Create a support network or hire a coach to keep you on track and remember this work will significantly change your team and ultimately your organization.