Effective Education Leaders Define Reality
I remember working at a university that was delusional about its status among America’s universities. From the president and board of trustees down to some of the professors, community members, and alumni, everyone seemed to think that this private university was elite. I think that every university should have a culture of success and excellence, but it has to be grounded in reality. If it is not, you will go on believing that your organization is successful, even though all signs point towards major trouble.
What happens when universities live in a fantasy world?
The person in any organization that has to define its reality is the CEO. If they are not transparent and honest about the organization’s present level of functioning, who will be? The university that I mentioned earlier had a president and board of trustees that painted the picture of a university was highly successful, but this could not be further from the truth. The graduation rate was at 18%, the students that they admitted were not prepared for college-level work, and the residence halls had mold and vermin.
I left that organization about 5 years ago, and although there are signs that some things are improving, they have a long way to go. The new president is selling the same old bill of goods to the community and alumni, and the graduation rate is still the same. Every time I think of the situation, I get a little sad, as the university has a rich history that is being tarnished. All because the former and present leader created a reality that was grounded in fantasy, which ultimately leads it, stakeholders, to believe that the university is already operating at an optimal level.
The university that I am referring too is an HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities). If you do a little research about the current financial and accreditation situations of HBCU’s, you will see that they can ill afford to absorb the missteps of their presidents and trustee boards. Since many have closed in the last three decades and many more will close in the coming decades, these universities need and deserve leaders that will define reality truthfully, instead of painting a rosy picture of the current state of affairs.
If they don’t wake up, in 50 years or so, there will be no HBCU’s left in the U.S. They will be vestiges of an uncivil time, unceremoniously pushed out because of their ignorance and complacency. In the end, they will fail the very people they were meant to protect and uplift.