The responsibilities for higher education today are greatly expanded. Institutions of higher education are the last bastions of intellectual, economic, cultural, technological and social life for the global community. These obligations create enormous pressure on higher education institutions (HEIs) to proactively position themselves on the leading edge of strategic change and innovation. To do this, HEIs must have visionary leadership. Higher education has many traditions that it staunchly works to protect and preserve. For many HEIs, change is not a comfortable concept. However, it is a myth to believe the status quo can be perpetuated indefinitely. Higher education leadership needs a paradigm shift from a proudly amateur role to one of strategic management and vision. The postmodernist leader must celebrate innovation and change. HEIs are undergoing radical self-invention and being challenged by issues related to productivity, cost containment, quality improvement, outcomes assessment and the social relevance of academic offerings. There is a concern for better use of resources and improvement of institutional performance among legislators, public officials, parents, funding agencies, media, civic organizations and society at large. The public is demanding strategies from HEIs to confront their environment and embrace change. This would seem to be a clarion call for visionary leadership. This chapter will discuss the contemporary global environment higher education leaders must confront and proactively engage. It will analyse comparatively the European and American contexts. It will emphasize the need for visionary leadership to navigate the necessary change and transformation needed. The chapter will address the qualities inherent in a visionary leader in higher education, and offer recommendations on how the enterprise must change in order to meet its urgent agenda for the future. An integrated concept of leadership will be developed based on the characteristics of colleges and universities as complex organizations.