Breaking up is hard to do in higher ed leadership
- The rate of turnover in the college presidency is increasing, with a number of departures creating public controversy for institutions.
- Many incoming presidents seek to negotiate financial security in their initial contracts, understanding that these positions are vulnerable to dismissal for reasons beyond executive control.
- The costs of severance, and the controversies associated with the position, make hiring a difficult proposition for boards, and it makes defining an institutional vision nearly impossible.
The challenge of higher education is that colleges and universities are a big business run by accomplished business people with no experience in the industry of higher education. Typically, boards react to numbers and trends, but are not conditioned to identify talent which aligns with the needs or the strengths of a campus.
The lessons in leadership begin with the presidents and chancellors, who must find ways to navigate the political and interpersonal realities of working with boards which will always be right, and will always have the final say on big decisions. It is up to presidents to lead their boards to become higher education experts, and to not publicly or privately denounce them for things which they do not know, or things they are politically inclined to avoid knowing.
- Inside Higher Ed Messy break ups make more noise