Presidents as Entrepreneurs: How the new higher ed environment has transformed leadership skill sets.

We are living in a new age for American higher ed. Maybe a new era. A future history will tell us the results of this remarkable period of re-invention, re-articulation and re-negotiation of missions and purposes.

In his new book Breakpoint: The Changing Marketplace for Higher Education, Jon McGee, Vice President for Planning and Public Affairs at the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University, expresses the value of the DNA built into every college and throughout higher ed. The higher ed genome has developed over the course through the influence of many factors. You will find this genome imbedded into the ways American higher ed operates and how specific institutions make choices. He writes: “…in the face of disruptive or liminal moments of change, it is particularly important for college and university leaders to consider and acknowledge the anchoring power of their genome and the ways it might constrain their ability to think beyond the temple of the familiar. Failure to think beyond our genome can expose us to a number of important decision-making and leadership traps that can limit our ability to act with dispatch or conviction when changing conditions demand it.” ( 2015, Johns Hopkins University Press ).

We’re in a time of “changing conditions” that demand innovation, rule-bending, creativity and fortitude. Given the substantial shifting tides in American higher education, we need men and women at the helm of our institutions who are willing to brave new waters. We need presidents ready to lead with entrepreneurial thinking, skill and courage.


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Rick Bailey

Rick is the Principal and founding partner at RHB.