CURRENT ARTICLE • September 18th community advisory council

The Community Role and Challenges of a College Leader

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Strong and innovative leadership collaborations keep the college in the community landscape. Today, the president and the college’s leadership team are invaluable resources to states and to the nation—they educate the many talented people who work in our industries, businesses, and civic sectors. Chief executive officers address the overall balance of education at their institutions by looking at community advisory council input, educational trends, and state needs.

OTHER RECENT ARTICLES

toolbox September 17

More Tools for the New Dean’s Toolbox

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A couple years ago, I wrote an essay for Academic Leader suggesting that new deans should examine the administrative implements in their metaphorical “toolbox” to make sure they were ready for the job at hand: providing leadership to their institution when difficult dilemmas require effective administrative action. Those tools included: (1) a hammer when it was imperative to come down hard; (2) a saw when a dean must decide to cut some program or individual loose from the institution; (3) sandpaper to smooth out the rough spots left by hammer and saw; (4) a drill when a complex issue requires more “drilling down” to reach the substrata of the issue; and (5) tape to bind up the fractures, broken relationships, and disconnected policies and practices needing mending.


introverted leaders September 13

Academic Leaders as Introverts and Extroverts

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In a position such as department chair or dean where interpersonal skills are so important, you might think that all academic leaders would be extroverts. In fact, once while I was out on an interview, a university president (whose wife made a living administering personality profiles) told me that he’d never hire a dean who didn’t have a Myers-Briggs profile of ENTJ. (My own profile is INTJ, and needless to say, I wasn’t offered the job.) That incident taught me a lot about how even experienced academic leaders sometimes misunderstand what academic leadership is all about—not to mention that they sometimes misunderstand what purpose the MBTI (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator) is intended to serve.


department chairs September 10

Department Chairs: Trends and Issues Over Time

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Spoiler alert:  people are serving in the role of department chair for fewer years than in the past. Since 2007, my colleague Richard Riccardi and I have yearly surveyed department chairs across the country in an effort to better understand and appreciate the prominent characteristics of this distinct and unique position. More specifically we were interested in seeking information regarding their tenure, the rank they hold, if they considered themselves a member of the faculty or the administration, the pleasant and unpleasant tasks they perform, their education and training for the position of chair, the skills needed to be an effective chair, the challenges they face, their plans after they are no longer chair, and their thoughts about collegiality. It is interesting to be able to determine if there were significant changes over the 12-years of the study.


leadership behaviors September 6

Leadership Behaviors Improving the Likelihood of Academic Affairs Success

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One of the biggest problems with the general applicability of current leadership theories and successful practices has been that leaders applying their successful behaviors, traits, and dispositions in one academic community do not replicate that same success in another academic position or even in a different time period in the same institution. This strongly suggests that other factors—such as organizational setting, organizational history, informal leaders, the nature of problems to be addressed, institutional readiness for change, and the style and success of previous leaders, especially the preceding leader—are equally or more decisive for leadership success.


challenges in higher education September 4

Current Challenges in Higher Education Leadership

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The start of a new year seems like a good time to scan the higher education landscape and identify a few of the issues that academic leaders will need to deal with in the months ahead. To be sure, all of us will have our own set of issues at our home institutions, and others may identify the current year’s most critical issues differently. But here are my nominees for the top three current challenges in higher education leadership today.


university is too small August 30

Your University Is Too Small

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It is quite possible that the three largest explosions you can create occur if you drop an atomic bomb, set off a hydrogen bomb, or utter the words “students are customers” in the presence of a college professor. Students aren’t really their professors’ customers, of course, and there are plenty of reasons why applying a business model to colleges and universities never works. Still, there has to be some reason why legislators, trustees, and even some parents keep this idea alive. Often, there tends to be the idea that institutions of higher education should pay more attention to the bottom line and stop running sections of courses that only enroll a handful of students—unless, of course, the speaker’s own son or daughter happens to want that particular course. Lately, however, it has seemed to me as though academic leaders can indeed learn a few lessons from business, at least from certain types of businesses that interact with their customers (college professors, please pardon the term) in particular ways.


August 28

Making Progress in Challenging Fiscal Times

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There is something uncomfortable about bringing the topic of money into a conversation about how to best serve our college and university students while preserving the values, integrity, and relevance of our higher education institutions. However, there is virtually nothing we do in the realm of education that does not have a real cost associated with it. Thus, the balance sheet does have a place at the table, especially in recent years as endowment growth has been suppressed by diminished giving and low interest rates, state support has been reduced, and tuition resistance or caps have emerged. Add to this picture the decrease in federal funding for research, and we have compromised all the main income streams upon which our colleges and universities have traditionally depended to advance their missions in serving students in the best way. The question is how do we garner, in challenging fiscal circumstances, the resources necessary to serve our students in a changing world that expects new skills of our graduates?


interviews August 27

How to Talk Yourself out of a Job

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We tend to think of interviews as processes that select suitable candidates for different jobs. But in many ways the purpose of interviews is more accurately to reject unsuitable candidates. After all, by the time a search reaches the stage of meeting a few finalists on campus, the institution has largely been satisfied that everyone being interviewed is qualified for the job. The candidate’s résumé has been examined, references have been contacted, and the candidate has already answered a number of questions appropriately during a phone interview or an off-site at a conference. The critical question now is, Which of these finalists is the best fit for the program and the institution? Seen in this way, interviews are often less about demonstrating the qualities you possess in order to convince the committee that you deserve the position than they are about not demonstrating the qualities that might rule you out from further consideration. It is not uncommon for search committees to discover that a candidate who has all the right qualifications “on paper” acts so inappropriately that one begins to wonder, “Is this person actively trying not to be offered the job?” In fact, this experience occurs often enough that, as a public service, we would like to provide tips on how to talk your way out of a job during an interview. Follow these simple guidelines, and you’ll significantly increase the likelihood that the position will be offered to someone else.