As critical leaders carrying out a school’s mission, department chairs face a plethora of challenges. Chairs must transform visions and policies into actions, lead faculty and support staff, manage resources, implement executive directives, and recruit everyone from students to new faculty, often while teaching and conducting their own research.

With proper preparation and training to manage these many responsibilities, department chairs can thrive in their roles. But this administrator position doesn’t come with a manual, and chairs may not possess prior leadership experiences for maximizing their department’s performance.

That’s where Academic Leadership Programs (ALP) comes in: we facilitate strong leadership of department chairs by developing skills that lead to high-functioning departments – all over the course of just one semester.

Through weekly or bi-weekly program modules and one-on-one coaching sessions, ALP creates an opportunity for chairs to build a network across campus to learn from one another, share leadership practices, develop supportive relationships, and confer about complex leadership dilemmas. Guided by our network of academic experts and facilitators, department chairs will gain guidance and learn lessons from leaders who have firsthand experience, ultimately leaving the program with an enhanced skill set and ability to navigate their own challenges with successful results.

Core themes

While each university and department are unique, chairs face similar types of challenges that require key skills. ALP is designed to address essential leadership functions, including:

  • Leading with your principles
  • Strengthening, motivating and inspiring faculty and support staff
  • Nurturing a culture of respect and trust
  • Communicating effectively and facing conflict constructively
  • Strengthening mindfulness to enhance interpersonal and leadership competencies
  • Building a sense of community among academic leaders
  • Leading change
  • Advancing university and department goals


What makes ALP different from other leadership development programs? Starting with a respectful and confidential setting, ALP is delivered in group sessions and one-on-one executive coaching. Our approach is not about lectures or training. Instead, chairs bring real-life scenarios as case studies to the group sessions, and participants work collaboratively on methods and skills to address them. The program covers issues across the board, including:


  • Mediocre performance of a faculty or administrative staff member
  • Lack of department teamwork and low morale
  • Difficult personalities and interpersonal conflicts
  • Unpopular changes and directives
  • Response to reduced budgets



At the heart of ALP is our team of faculty and facilitators, experts in facilitating conversations that take place in a trusting, safe environment where leaders can be open, vulnerable and find real solutions to the dilemmas they face in their departments. The result? An increasing number of healthy workplace communities, led by chairs with enhanced leadership skills who understand how to optimize the ways they work with their departments and their deans.

“The Academic Leadership Program was a very positive experience. I came into this position thinking, ‘I am alone, I’m not sure how to do this, I’m not supposed to do all the work myself, I don’t have all the answers. How do I get people to look at these issues and collaborate toward a resolution?’ After participating in this program I gained the confidence that I needed. The program also helped me to understand that the other Chairs were undergoing what I was going through. The time commitment to the program was significant and in the end I realized that this program saved me and others lots of time.”