Perhaps the time has come to split the presidency down the middle, or into thirds, such that we have a couple or trio of Presidents who handle the different aspects so that they are able to do it more effectively, efficiently, and each person doesn't have to abandon their personal lives to be successful. This can be done at little or no change in cost to the institution as the exorbitant salaries University Presidents make could quite easily be divided into half or thirds and divided by job function.
1) Over time, the job of college or university president has become an all encompassing, 24/7 position where the President is expected to be an expert in relating with students, alumni, donors, politicians, staff, faculty and a whole host of other stake holders all the while living on the campus and being entirely accessible to the masses. Would Steve Jobs subject himself to such continuous buffeting?
2) Much of the job of college or university president has become slanted toward one aim - massive capital fund raising, shaking hands with donors and closing the deal for securing multi-millions of dollars by wining and dinning people such that it pulls them away from the things that most college presidents should enjoy, working with and for the students.
3) Beyond fund raising, which tends to be the easiest aspect of a president's job to judge success, there is an expectation that this person be a top performer in all categories of the job description, which much like expecting expert researchers to be excellent teachers is more myth than reality.
4) If a president is a fantastic fund raiser, that person is rarely seen on campus.
Now, some will say, what? Aaron, are you nuts? We already have provosts, vice presidents of all stripes, and you want to add more complexity at the top level? Well, indeed, we do have such posts on college and universities across the USA and the globe, but who's to say that this model or design for how to organize our operations is the correct one. I'm suggesting the job sharing idea as a means of cracking the frame of how we organize educational operations on the whole, because, clearly as we can tell, they are not altogether efficient or effective means to an end.
Alternatively, we can suggest that we push the leadership down a level. Instead of having a college president as the titular or figurative head of the institution - some one to preside royally over the commencement and ceremonial aspects of the institution - perhaps we make the division of and job sharing happen immediately by simply removing the presidential layer altogether and empowering those at the vice presidential or provost level to step up and really lead in those categories, and govern the college as a collective rather than have one person at the helm.
Perhaps more importantly, you would get better attention and more satisfaction of the people who work and live under each of the service or job function areas.
If we remove the presidential role - and we empower the vice presidents and provost to lead the whole operation, you already have division by functional area, and you have saved the salaries for your president, and that could be a win for the whole institution.
- re-craft your presidential job description into two or three functional areas of responsibility
- divide up the salaries appropriately - evenly is my suggestion in order to ensure that people view themselves on the same level
- Open up the positions to the active job market
- If you enjoy your current president, allow that person to apply for one or more of the posts
- If you find your president over paid and under productive, fire her or him and let the process work
Action Plan B:
- Alternatively, you could elevate the status of the Vice Presidents and Provost positions by:
- firing the president
- removing the vice from the titles
- requiring the group of newly appointed presidents to meet regularly to discuss overarching concerns and set the strategic direction for the whole operation
Regardless which plan you activate, you should ensure that your strategic plan is built in a wiki format, and if you are brave enough to open it up to all - keeping true to the wiki format - you could open source the whole operations...which will lead me to my next post.