Higher Education Recruitment: The Proactive Approach to Hiring a President
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The recent spate of high-profile dismissals of college and university presidents indicates a fundamental disconnect between higher education leaders and their boards. In many cases, the issues creating friction could have been vetted and resolved when the president was first brought on board, believes John Thornburgh, co-leader of our Higher Education practice.

Much of the guesswork can be taken out of presidential selection and higher education recruitment by making both qualitative and quantitative improvements to the search process, he believes. Writing earlier this year in an article for University Business“Right Leader, Wrong Campus?”—Thornburgh notes that these improvements include engaging boards more in the development of their institutions’ leadership agendas as well as making greater use of well-established and objective candidate assessment tools.

John Thornburgh

John Thornburgh

Another recent article in the same publication—“The Tumultuous Presidency”—shares more ideas from Thornburgh and other experts on how all key stakeholders within colleges and universities can be more proactive in anticipating and avoiding problems in higher education recruitment. There is no substitute for due diligence and efficient, focused search committees, he notes.

Reimagining higher education recruitment is critical as the leadership stakes in academia continue to grow and the challenge of finding the right leaders for the right campuses increases. As Thornburgh wrote previously in this blog, we are in the era of the 24/7 president, in which the responsibilities of the job can be overwhelming. It’s up to the rest of the university leadership and support network to carefully select a president who is up to this monumental challenge.

By Paul Thomas, Witt/Kieffer Senior Writer (@PaulWThomas)

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