Podcast: Leaders on Leadership with Jay Lemons
Today’s higher education leaders share their stories and insights about leadership in the academy. Join host Jay Lemons and his guests for thoughtful conversations and interesting perspectives on leadership.
In this episode, Jay is joined by Dr. Ronald Rochon, President of the University of Southern Indiana. Dr. Rochon talks about the important attributes he thinks make for a good leader, including empathy, accessibility, and humility – all qualities he saw in his mentors. He also advises new leaders to make time to build their networks, listen widely and well across the campus community, and be patient with change. Interview recorded in December 2021.
Higher Education Chief Diversity Officer: The Toughest Job You Will Ever Love
We have seen an increase in requests for proposals for chief diversity officers and the like, as well as a greater emphasis on consideration of diversity, equity, and inclusion throughout the search process and the desire for candidates with a demonstrated commitment to DEI and the capacity to work across diverse constituent groups. Candidates advancing into the chief diversity officer role in our experience come with a variety of backgrounds, experiences, and titles. When mining our networks for applications and nominations, we are mindful to explore a broad spectrum of individuals from human resource officers, student affairs and even academic affairs, among other divisions. For many, their official job descriptions and/or position titles often do not reflect the work they have been doing in the DEI space. We work with our search committees and hiring authorities to keep this in mind and help them to broaden their lens when developing the key criteria for the position and when evaluating candidate materials.
The Use of Technology in Higher Education Executive Search
Companies across all industries pivoted to more technological approaches to executive search and recruitment when the pandemic began in early 2020. Higher education search might have been less prepared than most. Ours is a field that has not prioritized the use of technology. The unique nature of the shared governance model – decision-making that incorporates input from many stakeholders – creates a culture that values and expects personal connections, relationship building, and human capital. Thus, shared governance impacts the way that executive search is carried out for colleges and universities versus other sectors and industries. This is not to say that technology has not had an impact on the search process, and in some ways for the better. The most significant of which, even prior to the onset of the pandemic, has been the increased use of virtual meetings, interviews and otherwise, at significant milestones in the process.
COVID-19 Impacts on Leadership Transitions and the Search Process
Many institutional leaders who may have been considering retirement or a move decided to delay their plans, and search work came to a standstill late last spring. As the COVID-19 crisis continued on, we did see some thawing of search for positions considered critical to long-term viability such as presidents and provosts. Uncertainty and limited resources made contracting with an executive search firm more challenging for many institutions, resulting in recruitment of position openings being managed internally in many instances. We saw a bit more activity this past fall as some campuses began to open, but the typical search process and more common search calendar has changed in ways that not only accommodate the world in which we currently live but we suspect will become part of the “new normal” in a post-pandemic period.
Strengthening the Foundation: Creating an Inclusive Environment for New Leaders
As an expression of Academic Search’s commitment, and as a complement to the work we do in executive search, we are honored to be engaged currently with the City University of New York System as it facilitates the transition of seven new campus presidents. Chancellor Félix V. Matos Rodríguez recognizes the critical work to be done following the appointment of new leadership, and this is all the more significant during the pandemic. A successful search does not end at the identification, selection, and announcement of the appointee; developing and implementing a well-structured transition and onboarding plan is imperative to ensuring a smooth, successful change of leadership. It is particularly important to keep the challenges of leadership in mind when transitioning and onboarding candidates from traditionally underserved populations, particularly those who are serving as pioneers in the institutions they now lead. Jay Lemons and Shirley Robinson Pippins bring their insights for keeping diversity, equity, and inclusion at the forefront of any transition and onboarding plan.
2020 Vision: Sharpening the Lens for Hiring Leaders
In these turbulent and uncertain times, senior leaders are expected to be more adaptable than perhaps ever before and to have or develop new essential skills to address rapidly changing conditions during this pandemic and beyond. Leaders also need to have an even deeper awareness of systemic injustice, inequality, and privilege. As hiring authorities and search committees select new leaders through national searches or internal appointments, they must sharpen the lens through which they now evaluate candidates. Ginny Horvath, Senior Consultant, and Maya Kirkhope, Vice President for Consulting Services and Senior Consultant, identify how the following ten top leadership qualities and skills have been redefined for current and anticipated changes in higher education:
Financial Acuity • Cultural Competency • Technological Deftness • Crisis Management • Entrepreneurial Mindset • Political Savviness • Empathy and Respect • Multi-genre Communication Skills • High Emotional Intelligence • Agility