Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Working With the Board

One of the paramount concerns that educational CEO's face is the never-ending struggle to work effectively with overseers, such as a Board of Directors, or a Board of Education. Micromanagement from the governing council of an organization is a disease that can spread faster than a mutant virus if allowed to fester, unchecked. Of primary importance in any relationship between a CEO and a Board is to communicate, and keep the dialogue open, frank, and honest.

Such was the problem in the University of Virginia this past summer when the President of the University, Dr. Teresa Sullivan was dismissed by the Board of Visitors for the institution without much warning. The faculty and campus community were in shock and dismayed by the decision of the Board, so much so, that through an orchestrated campaign of revolt and protest, Dr. Sullivan was reinstated to her post, two weeks later.

At odds in this relationship between the university president and the board were the differing perceptions that the CEO and the Trustees had for the institution. The Board wanted a more aggressive leader that would venture into dynamic strategic plan. The CEO was an "incrementalist" that adapted to the changing environment within a constrained budgetary climate. The perspectives clashed and caused backroom dialogues and a quasi coup d'etat, so to speak.

In analyzing this situation it is apparent the relationship between the CEO and the Board lacked a true working relationship. A mentoring of the minds that gauged the hopes, fears and goals of a true vision for the university was obviously missing. And, it was not until this crisis that all the parties could address the situation in a constructive manner, creating a new agenda for the university.

How is your relationship with your Board, or if you are a building principal, how is your relationship with your PTA/PTO council? DO you address the open and honest issues that confronts your leadership? Or, do you sidestep controversy in order to keep everyone happy.

In all relationships acrimony and crisis occurs. Leaders need to learn how to support and encourage the process.

Here's hoping to your efforts to cement that positive relationship.

Rice, A. (September 12, 2012). Anatomy of a Campus Coup. New York Times. Retrieved September 12, 2012 on the Internet at