4 Successful Leadership Styles and Strategies

Posted by Katie Brown on 22 November 2016 |

4 successful leadership styles and strategiesDrive, inspiration, objectivity—these are just a few of the qualities we expect from our leaders. Whether leading our country, campus or classroom, not all leaders are alike. Some may be more authoritative, and others more compassionate. Some leaders may be more goal-driven, and yet others focus more on conflict resolution.

Regardless of the leader’s style, goals or objectives, they have an important, and often difficult, role.

Challenges for Campus Leaders

On college campuses, the student affairs administration is tasked with leading the entire student body, ensuring a quality educational experience and preparing them for a successful future.

In addition to the educational and developmental aspects of their jobs, student affairs administrators are also responsible to overseeing the campus culture. This can include acting upon instances of gender and race discrimination, sexual assault or subtle discrimination, such as unconscious bias, stereotypes and microaggressions.

Jerome T. Murphy, author of “Dancing in the Rain: Leading With Compassion, Vitality and Mindfulness in Education,” says there are “three debilitating habits” that all administrators and faculty members face as leaders:

  1. "Resisting the discomfort of leadership and trying to get rid of it."
  2. "Ruminating excessively about flaws and failures and future foul-ups."
  3. "Rebuking ourselves for not measuring up."

Having served as both a faculty member and administrator, Murphy notes that leaders of students must exercise realism and patience. Additionally, it’s important to take time for personal reflection to re-focus their goals and direction, which often requires them to step out of their norms.

Strategies for Successful Leadership

According to Inc.com, there are ten skills every good leader must possess:

  1. Inspires and motivates
  2. Displays high integrity and honesty
  3. Solves problems and analyzes issues
  4. Drives for results
  5. Communication powerfully and prolifically
  6. Builds relationships
  7. Displays technical or professional expertise
  8. Displays a strategic perspective
  9. Develops others

10. Innovates

But how do these necessary leadership skills translate to higher education? Whether an administrator or faculty member, you can improve your leadership style on campus, through these three strategies:

Listen to Identify Student Needs

As a leader, it’s important to accept feedback and direction from students, just as you do colleagues or other professionals. While not every request, question or suggestion is just or plausible, students need to feel that they are heard, appreciated and influential members of the campus community.

Communicate Clearly and Contrarily

In order to lead students successfully, you must communicate successfully. Understand their backgrounds, goals and learning styles. To keep students motivated and engaged, frequently communicate with them, verbally, visually and digitally. One method of communication will not work for every student, so make sure you translate material and information in multiple formats. Don’t solely rely on speeches and lectures, but instead implement interactivity and entertainment-related communication.

Understand the Millennial Generation’s Upbringing

Many students of this generation have been raised by what has become known as “helicopter parenting.” According to an article from the Association of American Colleges & Universities, “Respecting the power of relationships is critical to student motivation. Today’s students appear to be the recipients of a great deal of family involvement and attention, and it is not unusual for the expectation of this involvement to continue after they enroll in college.”

Questions Create Quality Leaders

The article goes on to point out that asking questions is one of the most important ways to lead, as it enables students to formulate their own thoughts, perspectives and ideas. “Whether in the classroom or in a leadership experience outside of class, this use of inquiry forces students to make the educational experience their own by requiring that they reflect on the challenge at hand and develop a solution of their own. The energy generated by these students’ realization motivates them to take action where providing the answer would not.”


Each situation, campus and classroom will be different, so it’s important to implement different leadership styles based on your individual audience. While many of the qualities of a good leader are innate, many skills can and should be developed and enhanced over time through leadership training, manager training, mentorship and, sometimes, a little tough love.

For more information on performance management and manager training to improve leadership skills, take this Campus Answers course here.

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