I was reading an old issue of the Harvard Business Review when I came upon a passage that sounded awfully familiar: "Boards, once the dependably cautious voices urging management to mitigate risk, are increasingly calling for breakthrough innovation in the scramble for competitive advantage." That observation — made about the corporate world in 2017 — could just as easily be describing higher education today.
Across academe, the calls for innovative, "transformative" leadership have grown louder as the financial, political, and demographic waters have gotten choppier. In the recruiting process, trustees say they want a president with the creativity and conviction to do what it takes for the institution to survive. But once hired and on the job, are trustees really willing to support a "transformative" president?