Meeting the Challenge of a Janus Job
Academic Leadership - Online Journal,
Vol. 6 No. 1 (2005): Vol-6-Issue-1-January-2005
No one becomes an academic department chair in higher education without first having been a faculty
member. After eighteen years as a faculty member at the same university, I was named interim
department chair in 2005. With this administrative appointment came the assumption of what I
perceived as a Janus job. In Roman mythology, Janus was the god associated with doorways and
gates. He was frequently portrayed with two faces–one looking forward and one looking backward.
Rather than being viewed as two-faced, Janus is more accurately described as vigilant. This image
seems to fit aptly the role of academic department chair, which Rud (2004) has identified as an
understudied administrative role. In this essay I describe this particular leadership role and present
questions for self-assessment.