Provost Leadership Program: Developing MU’s Next Academic Leaders

The Provost Leadership Program (PLP) is a professional development program coordinated by the Office of the Provost to prepare MU faculty for academic leadership positions. Throughout the academic year, each cohort meets for eight sessions that include leadership topics, panel discussions, and conversations with MU leaders.

The PLP is designed to help participants learn their own strengths and weaknesses as a leader. Members of the cohort take various assessments and then apply what they learn in different contexts.

Dr. Jeff Bryan, professor of medical oncology in the MU College of Veterinary Medicine, was in the 2020-2021 Provost Leadership Program cohort. He refers to the program’s leadership preparation as the best thing he’s done here at MU so far.

Bryan said he learned a lot from completing both a leadership self-evaluation and a 360 evaluation that his team members completed, which gave him strategies to develop his leadership abilities.

“One thing I learned very clearly from that 360 evaluation is that the team will function much better or more harmoniously with less stress if they feel sheltered, if they feel like the leader is watching out for the icebergs and making sure we avoid them rather than reacting together as a team to things we didn’t expect,” Bryan said.

What was unique about the leadership profile, Bryan said, was that it didn’t just reflect his own behaviors; it allowed him to learn about how others approach difficult situations and how he could better support others as a leader.

Megan Moore, chair of the School of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures, participated in the 2021-22 PLP cohort. For her, the benefit of the self-assessment was seeing the advantages that each team member’s skills bring to the department.

“It’s a great tool for understanding where I sit in relation to my team, and I’m better at mobilizing my strengths and asking for help from those around me who are better at certain kinds of work,” Moore said.

Senior Vice Provost Matt Martens answers questions about leadership preparation from PLP members

Alex Socarides, associate provost for academic programs, and Carrie Nicholson, administrative consultant in the Office of the Provost, built the program together and facilitate the sessions. One of their goals has been to make sure that each cohort gels in such a way that members can openly share the joys and challenges that they face in their current roles.

“Every member of the PLP gets lots of opportunities to learn about themselves, about their strengths and weaknesses, and about how to help the people they work with,” Socarides said. “It’s enormously rewarding to watch aspiring leaders really work through hard issues – like how to manage tough conflicts or how to take on a major change project – and to have them come out the other end of the program more confident in their leadership skills.”

For faculty considering applying to the next cohort, Bryan says you get out of the PLP what you put into it.

“I would just remind anyone who hopes to be a leader that you would never start a new line of research without preparing and putting in the groundwork and having a framework that sets you up for success,” he said. “It’s the same thing if you’re going to be a leader, you need to put in that time.”

Learning more about your own personality and what you discover about your team, will ultimately help your cohesion, Moore said.

“It helped me better understand and predict who would have what kinds of objectives – and objections – in decisions we have to take, and how to assemble a team that will challenge each other to produce valuable work for our department,” Moore said.

Applications are being accepted for the next Provost Leadership Program cohort (2024-2025) until April 1, 2024. View the session dates for next year on our website and apply online.