Seven Essential Qualities In A Great Academic Dean

A great academic dean is like a skillful captain of a ship. They have the competence of sailing through storms, and under their leadership, the department floats smoothly towards the destination. The designation of an academic dean is a prestigious position where a person reaches after proving one’s mettle for years in the field of education. Staff working in their department are answerable to them and seek their approval for matters of the department. They also oversee budgeting, approve faculty hiring, set academic policies, and perform other administrative tasks. An effective academic dean strives to enhance students’ educational experiences and provides them with the required resources.

The primary objective of higher education institutes is the holistic development of students so that they can gain expertise in their relevant fields. These educational institutes hire qualified yet skillful professionals in pivotal roles. An academic dean holds a critical position in an educational institute and influences faculty and students. For a post of an academic dean, a person should at least have three-plus years of experience in academic administration or familiar fields, with a degree and experience in teaching a relevant subject. And a successful academic dean is a role model for their faculty as well as their students.

An academic dean holds a dominant position, so they must possess certain qualities to be able to operate the department effortlessly. Exceptional academic deans have distinctive character traits that make them a valuable asset to any educational organization. Following are a few must-have qualities in a great academic dean:


1. Leadership

A proficient leader is the one who uses his influence to maximize the efforts of team members towards the achievement of a goal. An academic dean runs a team of faculty members and acts as a leader. The team members of an efficient academic dean follow him not because of fear, but out of respect. They encourage the growth of team members and do not consider it as a threat. They believe in empowering individuals, but keep the reigns of decisions in their hands. They believe in teamwork and never takes the credit of success alone. Educational professionals aspiring to be an academic dean often look for an answer to how to become a dean; the truth is that there is no easy way to it. An adept dean is like a leader who is friendly yet professional, affable yet well-qualified.


2. Decision Making

Decision making is not a one-time thing, but an on-going process. It requires critical thinking skills and a strong presence of mind. An academic dean sometimes has to take some immediate decisions, on behalf of his faculty members. An outstanding dean does not fret and crumbles under pressure; instead, they must process circumstances and then take instant decisions as per the situation. Still, if time proves their decisions wrong, they do not blame circumstances or their team members but takes full responsibility. Deans have both educational and administrative duties, and thus they have to make decisions for affairs concerning both departments. A dynamic academic dean keeps the end goal and betterment of their department into consideration before taking any decision.


3. Empathy

To be an efficient dean means to connect with team members and include them in official matters. A competent academic dean looks for the root cause of the poor performance and puts in their effort to eliminate it. They demonstrate active listening and tries to look into the situation from others’ perspectives. They make sure that the integrity of his students and faculty remain intact. Empathy allows him to put himself in others’ shoes. Moreover, compassion is essential to develop a good bond among team members and helps in gaining the trust of the faculty at large. Team members do not hesitate to share their problems with an empathetic dean who is easily approachable.


4. Communication Skills

Effective verbal and written communication skills aid in every aspect of life, and the same is valid when one has to run a department effectively; Strong communication skills are crucial to avoid misunderstandings. A dean often acts as a messenger and has to take his subordinate messages to a higher authority or vice versa. Many a time, they have to convey unpleasant news, like termination or refusal of leave. They also have to deal with sensitive issues like salary concerns or tenure decisions, which demand keen sensitivity from his side. They communicate while keeping the other person’s emotional state into consideration. Dean has the authority to bring about significant changes. Dean does that by engaging all relevant parties in critical dialogue and convinces them towards his side; rather than imposing a decision on them. An efficient dean has excellent interpersonal as well as intrapersonal communication skills, which play a significant role in running the department seamlessly.


5. Adaptability

Despite holding an authoritative position, there are certain displeasing things, which are out of the dean’s control. An effective dean understands this and adapts to the circumstances instead of fretting over them. They do not make issues out of petty things while keeping the bigger picture in mind.


6. Punctuality

A proficient dean is responsible, punctual, and professional. Punctuality is a quality which shows that you are dependable and reliable, and are someone who understands the value of time. They motivate others to adhere to rules and regulations of the workplace by following those rules themselves. They know that they are role models for their faculty and cannot expect team members to show up on time when they are always late themselves. Furthermore, a punctual academic dean also sends a message that they value the faculty’s time and not just their own.


7. Innovation

An academic dean does not shy away from introducing new ideas and motivating their students and team members to do the same. They always keep the students first, and when necessary, bring about a change in curriculum or educational practices. It is not an easy task to bring out a change in an environment as people prefer to stay in their comfort zone. An effective academic dean can rally people around the innovation because doing things the same old ways will not bring about better results.



The job of an academic dean is no child’s play, as deans generally have to work for long hours. Since they serve both in an academic and administrative capacity, they need to keep an eye on educational as well as managerial matters. A great dean empowers their students, sets a congenial environment, and ensures that their faculty and students have the required resources to succeed.


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