Great leaders, whether in the education sector, business, healthcare or elsewhere, all have something in common – the ability to inspire, innovate and effect positive change. In education, this is true more than ever as institutions seek the very best candidates to fill leadership roles. There is also an increasing trend toward educational leaders who have taken an unconventional career path to get to their dream position. The variety and flexibility they have demonstrated in their career so far means that these leaders can offer innovative strategies in their new positions.
In this article, we’re going to take a look at this phenomenon, discovering how non-traditional educational leadership career trajectories – both before and after taking on such roles – benefit candidates and the organizations they work with.
Non-traditional education leadership career trajectories
Not all educational leaders have followed a conventional trajectory to get there. In fact, those who come to educational leadership after working in unrelated fields bring a wealth of experience to the role.
One of the cornerstones of educational leadership is nurturing and promoting a community in order that it may thrive. This will resonate with anyone who has worked in a community-based role, such as a youth worker, social worker or in primary healthcare. A sense of community is also acute in anyone who has worked in voluntary or charity-based establishments, in pursuit of a higher cause.
People who have previously enjoyed a career in any of these fields make ideal educational leaders, transferring valuable skills such as communication, relationship building and teamwork. Once candidates are in position as educational leaders, their career pathways may continue to follow equally non-traditional routes. If they have come from a healthcare background, they may have a passion for empowering patients and so a role as director of patient education could be the perfect fit for them. Or, if they have previously worked in business, they may opt for a role as a corporate trainer and gain great satisfaction from seeing others reach their potential.
The range of educational leadership roles is broad, so there is certain to be a position to suit every candidate, from every background.
Innovative leadership strategies
This broad experience that non-conventional candidates bring informs innovative leadership strategies.
For those who have come from a community-based background, the ‘servant leadership’ strategy is a natural fit. This model is based on nine main attributes: service, empowerment, vision, integrity, honesty, trust, modeling, appreciation of others, and pioneering. With a focus on trusting those working under your care to do their best job and fostering their empowerment and wellbeing, it makes for a positive workplace where employees and service users thrive.
Educational leaders who have already gained experience in unrelated fields – for example, healthcare – may also apply emotional leadership to their role. This involves using intuition and emotional intelligence to gauge the feelings of employees, empathize with their point of view, and engage them to achieve common goals. This helps to nurture a motivated workforce that is loyal and committed to a universal cause, producing positive results.
Unconventional pathways adopted by successful educational leaders
Educational leaders, whether they have reached their position through a traditional or unconventional route, may pursue surprising directions exactly because these offer the chance to achieve more through originality and innovation.
For example, an educational leader may have switched careers from the business sector, rejecting traditional ways of working in the process. Inspired by the new knowledge and perspectives they have gained from their studies, instead of using top-down techniques to make decisions, they may involve their entire organization, encouraging employees to share their thoughts, feelings and beliefs about the issue at hand. This is a valuable way of gleaning information from the ‘frontline’ and having access to insights that would previously have been unknown.
When it comes to their own career pathway, thanks to fresh perspectives acquired from further study, successful educational leaders will understand that their choices are not limited. Studying to become an educational leader opens an unprecedented number of options to graduates, who can transfer their skills from one sector to another.
So, a recent educational leader graduate may step from a role in a school to a district administrator who has a strategic vision for all schools in the district to achieve excellence. Or, a business leader may take a different turn in their career and accept a role as an HR director, leaving behind the cut and thrust of commerce to work more closely with employees and see them reach their potential.
Educational leadership is an area that lends many opportunities to switch direction, innovate and inspire in this way.
Study to become an educational leader
There are many routes to becoming an educational leader. An educational leadership career path could open up if you have the right qualifications to begin with. If you have a master’s degree in any field, then you are eligible to apply for the Online Doctorate in Education and Leadership (Ed.D.) offered by Rockhurst University. This convenient online program offers the Ed.D. qualification in four different concentrations, so you can select the area that appeals the most to you: Higher Education, Healthcare Education, K-12 Leadership or Organizational Leadership.
The course offers a stepping stone to your future career as a leader, whether you wish to innovate in the higher education sector, inspire the healthcare professionals of tomorrow, help shape primary or secondary education, or advocate for ethical change in a different sector. Because this program is online, it offers you the flexibility to study at your own pace and in a location that’s convenient to you. Each concentration requires a capstone project, rather than a dissertation, which means that you get the chance to carry out research that could benefit a real-life challenge. Also, as the program can be completed in just two years, you could be stepping into an exciting leadership role sooner than you thought possible.
A new career path, full of satisfaction
Educational leadership is an area that needs change, original thought and innovation in order for it to thrive. If it’s an area that appeals to you, then know that you don’t need previous experience in education to fulfill your career goals. Consider the online Ed.D. by Rockhurst University for a flexible program that will prepare you for a whole new career path, full of excitement and satisfaction.
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