10/08/2013 09:27 am ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

Leadership in Education -- Enhancing the 'Other' Pipeline

As a sector K-12 education is a $600 billion industry responsible for the second largest workforce in the United States. And for the past 50 years the ratio of teaching to non-teaching positions has remained steady at 1:1. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, Digest of Education Statistics, in 2010 non-teaching positions accounted for 50 percent of the education jobs. Up from approximately 30 percent the staffing in the 1950s. Increasingly programs are taking a closer look at improving the education system by strengthening the non-teacher half of the house.

The timing is critical because of the forthcoming gap in leadership talent in the social/non-profit sector. It is projected that the social sector/non-profit sector will need 640,000 new executives by 2016, and the education sector alone will need 250,000 leaders and managers by 2020.

How do you bridge this gap? The challenge is both quantitative and qualitative. Quantitatively, the number of candidates for leadership positions will need to expand. Organizations will continue to cultivate their home-grown talent and where possible build an organic leadership pipeline. But the targets are not stagnant. New positions will emerge and with them, a diversity of required skills will surface.

The complexity of "leadership" is increasing exponentially as the skills needed are evolving. They are less tactical, increasingly more diversified, strategic and multifunctional. Deloitte's Human Capital Trends 2013 listed seven emerging threats and opportunities. Number six, "Debunking the Superhuman Myth," states:

Many companies have spent decades trying to identify and clone the mythical 'perfect leader.' But it turns out there is no such thing. Businesses today face a virtually unprecedented variety of challenges, from harvesting profits in mature economies with flat or declining growth, to establishing toeholds in emerging countries, to creating the next wave of disruptive innovation, to working through the complexity of changing regulations -- and everything in between. Each of these unique challenges requires a unique kind of leader. One size does not fit all. So the focus is on building a broad and diverse bench of leaders that gives your organization the strategic flexibility to react quickly to any change.

These types of challenges are not limited to the private sector. The New York City Department of Education serves over 1.1 million students daily, in 1,700 locations with an annual budget of $24 million dollars. Education systems throughout the nation face many of the same issues that any major business would: resource allocation, budget concerns, talent management and a system, that at times, struggles to embrace reinvention.

Talent Acquisition and Transition

Increasingly there is momentum to bring private sector and non-traditional resources (non-education) into the education sector. One example is the Ely and Edythe Broad Foundation. One aspect of the Broad Foundation education program is to augment the leadership pipeline with private sector talent. The Broad Residency recruits, trains and assists in the transition of management talent seeking a career in education. Executive placements range from state and federal departments of education, urban school districts and management positions in charter schools, among others. Programs like Teach for America, Education Pioneers and Harvard's Strategic Data Project also offer paths of transition for professionals seeking an entry point into the field of education. Harvard's SDP Fellowship,

is a two-year program that places and develops talented data strategists in partner agencies where they can have an immediate impact on policy decisions that affect student outcomes. Data strategists are education professionals revolutionizing how data are collected, analyzed and shared with key stakeholders to improve outcomes for student.

With the increasing number of privately managed charter schools other education programs such as online learning and education technology, the diversity of management experience is not limited -- it's growing.

The idea of bringing in external talent is not new but can be frightening and/or evolutionary. In change management a typical roadblock (to organizational change) is the idea that external talent and perspective is seen as a threat or not a credible asset. Therefore programs need to be exacting when recruiting candidates, collaborate and communicate clearly with institutions and address areas that are under-served (administration and management). Placements of talent must either enhance the existing structure or addresses a need not currently met.

Certainly, the education sector is neither immune to change nor simple in construct and regulation. Improving how teachers teach and students are educated can be accelerated by providing a stronger working environment. The infrastructure of education beyond the classroom is gaining more attention and support. Hopefully it is in time to meet head-on the oncoming leadership challenges.