You may have noticed recent controversy regarding rules changes promulgated by the State Board for Educator Certification, giving flexibility to school boards to hire superintendents with no teaching experience.
Here's an article by Melissa B. Taboada, in the Austin American-Statesman. Here's a follow-up with a new wrinkle by Kiah Collier, in the Texas Tribune. Not surprisingly, teacher organizations object to the change.
As we all know, administrative leadership positions in higher education are not under such hiring restraints. Consequently, it is common to find colleges and universities led by individuals with no direct teaching experience.
The question for us, therefore, is not legality, but utility. Does it matter stubstantively if, say, a community college chancellor, president, or dean has never taught?
Teachers generally like the idea of supervisors who have done (or still do) what they do. You will find the same stance with nurses, cops, and firefighters—not to mention academicians at research-oriented universities. Civilians may not understand, the reasoning goes—street cred, as some put it. Obviously this stance applies primarily to the pertinent positions, such as vice president or dean of instruction, rather than business manager or registrar.
The very top leadership of a very large institution must possess skills that resemble those of a CEO. A chancellor reports to an elected board of trustees, which is a whole other deal from teaching. But mention "CEO" around some faculty and they detect the tentacular reach of corporatism—not an unreasonable inference these days. The issue is laden with symbols, complicating any rational resolution.
We can certainly all agree that good teachers and good administrators are good communicators. One might add that the ability to compartmentalize is also crucial—to face a variety of situations with a fresh face and an open mind. Administrators who have never taught must be especially good listeners to faculty, it would seem. You will find such praiseworthy qualities out there, as well as the opposite. With administration, details must be nailed by others or there is trouble. With instructors, maybe.
We have all known gifted teachers who have made (or would make) horrible administrators. Similarly, there are excellent administrators who would be lost in a daily classroom. Some may have tried teaching for a while and moved on, or up. (Disclosure: Your humble scribe endured a brief spell as an administrator—a period known personally as the Dark and Unholy Interlude, and to colleagues as the Unfortunate Era of Shame and Abomination.)
While certain traits are universal, teaching and administrating are very different jobs.