Mistakes that Can End a College Presidency
The college presidency is the apex of university leadership. No other role defines the institution’s image like this position.
Getting in this office and staying there takes skill and wisdom. By the time a higher ed candidate becomes a college president, that person has likely held a variety of leadership positions at various colleges and amassed a wealth of experience.
Even then, the college presidency can be a difficult job. Errors in judgment happen. Some mistakes can even end your college presidency.
New college presidents sometimes rely heavily on the advice of close insiders. It’s natural to trust the closest advisers in your cabinet, but doing so limits your point of view, resulting in a one-sided opinion. In essence, it’s like wearing blinders.
Academic Impressions cites heavy reliance on the kitchen cabinet, a counsel of insiders, as one of the common mistakes new college presidents make. It’s tempting to solicit counsel from your most trusted advisors, but doing so can give you tunnel vision.
Nothing fuels gossip and ignites a tailspin like the scent of a scandal.
College presidents are human. They make mistakes, and sometimes those mistakes are scandalous. Scandal can destroy a presidency, especially in this era of transparency. Social media has become the vehicle for sharing this information, and news travels fast.
Affairs, DUIs, and domestic disturbances are the fodder for scandal, and scandalous behavior can derail your presidency.
Poor contract negotiations
Employment contracts may be tedious reading, but the college president who doesn’t peruse his or her contract will be frustrated before the end of the first year. All too often, a candidate is eager to accept the position before taking the time to understand the contract and performance expectations.
Your contract should fit your requirements as well as those of the college. Make sure your agreement includes not only the benefits you need but also the benefits you want.
More importantly, have your attorney review the document.
Failure to take care of money and people
Universities run on finances and culture. College presidents who understand neither will find their career-derailing quicker than university students leaving on holiday. Neglecting finances will signal the demise of a career. Staying on top of financial reports is critical. College presidents personify the culture of the campus at every event, and donors look for an alignment with the college’s philosophy.
Mistakes like these can end your college presidency; learning how to avoid them may lead to your success.