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ACE Report Seeks New Definition of Dynamic Presidential Leadership

March 07, 2011


As nearly 1,500 college and university leaders gather for ACE's 93rd Annual Meeting, a new report examines what kind of leadership higher education will need for the future and how to best develop it.

Released today, Presidential Leadership in an Age of Transition: Dynamic Responses for a Turbulent Time is the product of a recent roundtable which convened leaders from higher education, industry, the military and nonprofit organizations. The purpose of the daylong summit, held in June 2010, was to create collective insight into current leadership challenges, articulate the type of leadership needed to serve higher education in the future, and define steps necessary to ensure effective future presidents are cultivated.

Participants discussed key challenges, including the significant number of current college and university presidents approaching retirement age, a continuing lag in the diversity of campus leadership, and a lack of desire among current senior administrators to pursue the presidency. Also considered were questions of the types of skills and character traits needed to lead institutions in the 21st century.

The group concluded that higher education's traditional approaches to preparing new leaders will likely be insufficient in the future. Instead, higher education must intentionally seek those with leadership abilities, especially in nontraditional places; make leadership development a strategic institutional priority; rethink ways in which leadership is currently discussed (i.e., pipeline and ladder metaphors); focus on building leadership teams; and reshape the search process.

"The understanding of what constitutes effective presidential leadership has not kept pace with the dramatic changes in the role of the president," said Peter D. Eckel, director of ACE's Center for Effective Leadership. "The higher education community clamors for dynamic leaders for the future but has no easy answers about how to best identify and cultivate it. We hope this conversation—and the resulting report—will spur a larger discussion."

Presidential Leadership in an Age of Transition: Dynamic Responses for a Turbulent Time was written by Eckel and Matthew Hartley, associate professor at the University of Pennsylvania's Graduate School of Education. It was produced with generous support from TIAA-CREF Institute, which pursues a broad range of initiatives designed to foster leadership excellence in higher education, including research, signature programs and awards, and convenings of scholars and decision makers.

Click here for information on how to order the publication.

MEDIA CONTACT: Erin A. Hennessy ▪ 202-939-9367 (office) ▪ 202-664-4205 (cell) ▪

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