Have you ever felt as if you needed to defend your profession? Let me explain my question with an example. You’re at a social gathering, and people are discussing a topic. When you add your perspective to the conversation, your response is dismissed because of your profession.

Recently, I had a very similar experience. During an event with several friends, I was asked if educational leaders had business acumen. The topic of conversation was the current state of the economy and its impact on their organizations.

As they shared their perspectives and potential impacts of inflation, I shared my perspective on the impact to education. One group member reminded me that education is government-controlled, and it was not the same as running a business.

While the individual’s point was accurate, it was uninformed regarding business acumen in the education arena.

As an educational leader, I felt compelled to explain the business acumen necessary for running a large organization. While our mission is to educate students, not make a profit, we face many of the same challenges as a private business.

I was asked if I believed educational leaders had business acumen. My answer was a resounding yes! I explained that we must implement business disciplines just like every other organization.

At this point, you may be asking yourself the same question. Unfortunately, most people don’t think of school districts as businesses, and therefore business acumen is unnecessary. So let’s start with a definition of business acumen.

According to Elgood, a firm specializing in the design, facilitation, and creation of business simulation games, “Business acumen is a combination of knowledge and skill informed by experience: knowledge about key business issues, the skill to apply knowledge, and the confidence to take action informed by past experiences.”

So what are the critical organizational issues educational leaders face that demand they have business acumen?

Study.com, “an online learning platform that makes education affordable, effective, and engaging with short, fun video lessons created by subject matter experts,” identified the following four key elements central to business acumen:

  1. Planning
  2. Operations
  3. Finance
  4. Strategy

As an organization, educational leaders must effectively implement these four elements.

In today’s economy, Elgood reminds us that organizations in all sectors, public and private, are under increasing pressure and need to be more agile. In addition, they must be good stewards of resources.

“You have to combine instinct with good business acumen. You just can’t be creative, and you just can’t be analytical.”

-Andrea Jung

Like my friends in the private sector, I spend my days planning to implement our strategic goals, overseeing operations, and managing my budget. Educational leaders use business acumen daily to achieve the mission and vision of their organizations.

As a leader in the public or private sector, business acumen is critical to your success and the success of your organization. Therefore, take time to increase your skillset in the four crucial elements of business acumen.

Do educational leaders have business acumen? Absolutely!


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Dr. Kim Moore

About the author

Hi, I'm Kim, Your Leadership Guide. I equip aspiring leaders to lead with confidence, emerging leaders to expand their influence, and accomplished leaders to achieve significance!