Knowledge Center: Article

Asia Pacific

The Complexity of Operational Leadership in Education

Subscribe to Asia Pacific 6/2/2014 Dan Cullen

Education is now big business. In Asia, both public and private educational organizations have experienced (and are braced to experience) rapid growth. They are under pressure to improve their operational efficiency and maximize their human resources.

The solution for many for-profit and non-profit educational institutions is to focus on their operational leadership and employ experienced executives to help engender best practice and processes to manage the challenges of the 21st century.

For-profit institutions

Operational leadership within for-profit education is often driven by individuals with previous experience in the corporate world. Executives learn the nuances of the education business and combine this with a track record in driving sales, revenue and EBITDA. Within for-profit universities, the trend has also moved towards an operational leader, beneath the President, now also a developing trend in the K-12 sector. Operational leadership maintains a relatively low profile, aware that "brand" success is determined by the education product on offer. This must be at the forefront.

Non-profit tertiary institutions/systems

Leaders in the non-profit tertiary educational system have always been driven by the primacy of research and the strategic long-term education trends and developments at national and regional levels. Nevertheless, subsidy cuts to universities and schools in the West, triggered by the financial crisis have slowly begun to affect Asia too (at least in terms of long-term financial planning) - therefore, sound financial management, fundraising, partnerships and the effective use of endowments have become increasingly important. Sustainability is a message of increasing resonance and this can only be achieved through the financial health of the Institution.

The future

Although approaching from opposite perspectives, there is a developing confluence of skills needed as an operational leader in the modern education institution. With the right combination of academic excellence and business know-how, modern-day educational management teams can be as strong as those in any prosperous corporation and should demand the same operational success. Recruiting the right operational leaders can be a complex task, but it is essential for achieving both academically successful and financially sustainable organizations.


Dan Cullen Partner in Charge +65 63325001

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