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Leadership Under Fire, Second Edition

Leadership Under Fire, Second Edition: The Challenging Role of the Canadian University President

Copyright Date: 2015
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  • Book Info
    Leadership Under Fire, Second Edition
    Book Description:

    While the role of the university president has evolved dramatically in recent years, the recruitment pool and selection process have changed little since the 1960s. In Leadership Under Fire, Ross Paul combines leadership theory, interviews with eleven of Canada's most successful presidents, and thirty-five years of personal experience to shed light on the complexity and importance of leading a university and identifies some of the critical challenges and opportunities facing Canadian universities today. Paul illuminates some of the ways in which Canadian universities are unique and uses these differences to make clear the importance of organizational, cultural, and institutional fit for leaders confronting critical academic issues such as academic leadership and accountability, student success and support, university funding and fund-raising, strategic planning, government and community relations, and internationalism. His analysis reaffirms some long-standing practices, while arguing that changes are badly needed in others. While much has been written about university leadership elsewhere, Leadership Under Fire focuses on Canada and some of the men and women who have made a real difference to the quality of its post-secondary institutions. Paul builds on their stories to offer useful perspectives and advice at a time when the quality of universities was never more critical to the country’s economic, social, and political success.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-9726-6
    Subjects: Education

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Introduction to the Second Edition
    (pp. vii-xxiv)
    Ross Paul

    When I wrote the first edition of this book, I was fresh from eighteen years as a university president and stimulated by the interviews with eleven of my most outstanding colleagues. Now, some five years later, I am less in the forefront but have the advantage of distance and perspective. During that time, Canadian universities have been in the news more than ever and some of the most challenging issues for their presidents have become even more predominant. This introduction offers my perspective on the most prominent of these.

    The job of a Canadian university president is more challenging than...

  4. Preface
    (pp. xxv-xxviii)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xxix-xxx)
  6. Abbreviations
    (pp. xxxi-xxxii)

    • 1 Distinguishing Characteristics of Canadian Universities with Implications for Their Leadership
      (pp. 3-22)

      At first glance, Canadian universities are much like their counterparts in the United States, the United Kingdom, and many of the Commonwealth nations. As is the case with so many other Canadian institutions, however, there are significant differences, and these are critical to an understanding of the challenges faced by Canadian universities as well as to their governance and management. Any discussion of the role of the president of a Canadian university must begin by taking into account the distinguishing characteristics of the higher education system and the national culture within which it functions.

      A good place to start is...

    • 2 Canadian University Presidents: Who They Are and How They Are Selected
      (pp. 23-46)

      Universities have become more central in the knowledge society. They no longer focus only on grooming the elite for future leadership but increasingly seek to provide equal opportunity for all, as society has recognized the importance of higher overall levels of educational attainment and the value of research and scholarship that will drive our future economic and social development.

      One result of this change has been a greater interest in the position of university president, and a greater sense of the importance of this position, not just to our universities, but to Canada as a whole. This draws particular attention...


    • 3 Organizational Culture and the University
      (pp. 49-71)

      While none of the rich and growing literature, primarily American, around organizational leadership is yet definitive or conclusive, the most elusive studies of all concern the leadership of colleges and universities. Leadership studies are central to the management of a private sector organization, but efforts to apply them to universities have had to wrestle first with such prior questions as, What are the goals of a university and who should be responsible for their realization? However optimistic or cynical the approach, the results are inevitably the same – universities are among the most difficult of all organizations to lead.


    • 4 Setting the Direction: Institutional Vision and Strategic Planning
      (pp. 72-81)

      Like Frank Rhodes, many writers see the most important task of a university president as being to manage the “big picture” – to develop and communicate a mission, vision, and long-term objectives for the institution. There is a huge body of literature on strategic leadership, notably for the private sector. More than anyone else in the organization, the chief executive officer is expected to be preoccupied with the long term, to look at the strengths and weaknesses, the opportunities and threats facing the institution, and to forge an action plan that realizes the vision that emerges from the whole exercise....

    • 5 Academic Leadership: Getting the Balance Right
      (pp. 82-98)

      Almost every book about the challenges of being a university president recognizes the delicate balance that a successful incumbent must find between understanding and respecting the academic culture that defines a university and working through and around it to initiate change deemed in the long-term interests of the institution. While such leadership should be easier for an internal appointee to the presidency, given that he or she knows the key players and understands how things work in the particular institution, this advantage is often offset by the much shorter honeymoon period that exists for an insider. It may be no...


    • 6 Student Access and Success: Confronting a Declining Undergraduate Experience
      (pp. 101-118)

      One of the inherent dangers in the role of a modern Canadian university president is that the incumbent becomes so preoccupied with government and community relations, fundraising, collective bargaining, research productivity, institutional reputation, and governance issues that he or she overlooks the crucial issue of the evolving student experience on campus.

      The issue of the quality of today’s campus experience is seen in a variety of ways by such different constituencies as students, faculty, alumni, board members, the general public, and the president.

      For the most part, today’s undergraduate students inhabit a campus that is much larger and less personal...

    • 7 International Outreach
      (pp. 119-128)

      We have seen that most Canadian universities were relatively small and even parochial in both their clientele and outlook until well into the 1960s. While there is considerable variation on campuses across the country, almost every university today has made a significant commitment to internationalism through the recruitment of international students and faculty, faculty and student exchange programs, research partnerships, and even mandatory overseas components for specific degree programs.

      Like many of my contemporaries, I benefited tremendously from international experiences as a student. In 1964 I graduated from Bishop’s University, a wonderful institution that was so small (550 students), homogeneous,...

    • 8 Financial Issues: Underfunded or Fat Cats?
      (pp. 129-148)

      No discussion of presidential leadership among Canadian public universities will last very long without the matter of money coming up. In terms of time investment, no issue is more preoccupying for a president, both in terms of ensuring the revenues and carefully managing the expenditures.

      On the revenue side, the president’s challenge starts with having to persuade governments and taxpayers of the vital importance of investing in universities for the future economic and social health of the country. On the expenditure side, it means tight fiscal management and doing everything possible to make optimum use of the resources available. An...

    • 9 Presidential Leadership and Day-to-Day Administration
      (pp. 149-170)

      It is one thing to develop great plans for change in a university and quite another to see them through to full implementation. There are many books on university leadership but far fewer on the day-to-day administration that is necessary to ensure its effectiveness.²

      While leadership styles are many and varied, every university president has to be effective in the day-to-day administration that comprises so much of his or her role. As reflected in cross-section of presidents selected for this book, almost none of Canada’s executive heads had significant management training before assuming the presidency. Most learn to be leaders...

    • 10 The External Roles of the President
      (pp. 171-183)

      As previously observed, the role of university president in Canada has evolved swiftly in recent years away from on-campus leadership to an increasingly busy and important external function. There are mixed feelings about this trend, both within the institutions and among the presidents themselves.

      David Johnston, well known for his many community activities, would have spent more time outside the institution if he could have, while Bill Leggett and Myer Horowitz regret the trend towards president as ceo, preferring the older model of president as academic leader. This is not to suggest that the two styles are mutually exclusive; I...

    • 11 Institutional Governance and Presidential Accountability
      (pp. 184-200)

      As the chief executive officer of the modern public university, the president is hired by the board of governors (in consultation with the senate) to, among other responsibilities,

      help the institution to define its mission, mandate, and priorities;

      ensure the effective management of the institution, its programs, and services;

      ensure the institution’s fiscal health;

      ensure the quality of its academic endeavours – programs, teaching, research and scholarship, support services – primarily through the recruitment and management of faculty and staff;

      ensure a climate of academic freedom and support for the pursuit of knowledge and truth;

      ensure the reputation and effective...

    • 12 Institutional Autonomy and System Diversity
      (pp. 201-222)

      The nearly universal high standard of Canadian universities is a matter of considerable pride within the academic community, but it comes at the expense of system diversity relative to most postsecondary education systems. The Canadian university is an excellent institution, but as set out in chapter 6, it may not be the most appropriate choice for every one of the students (who represent a much wider spectrum) now attending it. Many young Canadians might be better served by an entity more suited to their individual needs and capabilities.

      At the university level, other choices might take the form of a...


    • 13 How Much Difference Does a President Make? The Case for Open Management
      (pp. 225-237)

      As I stated at the outset of this book and have emphasized throughout, the role of university president in Canada is both more important and more difficult than ever. While university presidents might not make as much difference as they often think they do, they are in a position to play a pivotal role at a time when Canada needs both to reaffirm the importance of its universities and to reform them.

      Writing in the American context, where the president usually has more ascribed authority than his or her counterpart in Canada, Cohen and March do not paint a very...

    • 14 Leadership under Fire: Seven Major Issues for Today’s Presidents
      (pp. 238-258)

      This book makes the case that, given an appropriate institutional fit, a good president can make a significant difference to his or her institution, especially if there is some continuity of purpose and direction under successive incumbents. It contrasts the challenges of managing in earlier times with the more complex, public, and multifaceted role of the president in the twenty-first century, and emphasizes that both the context and the role are continually changing, especially since long-standing traditions of university governance are subject to public scrutiny and accountability as never before.

      Canadian universities and their leaders are increasingly under fire from...

  11. APPENDIX A Presidential Profiles: Eleven Who Have Really Made a Difference
    (pp. 259-294)
  12. APPENDIX B Universities Included in the Presidential Recruitment Survey
    (pp. 295-296)
  13. Notes
    (pp. 297-314)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 315-322)
  15. Index
    (pp. 323-333)