Saturday, December 17, 2011

Do You Have What It Takes to Be a Business School Dean?

Have you ever thought of yourself as having the corner suite and leading a top-flight organization?

Have you ever envisioned yourself as being the CEO?

One doesn't have to lead a major corporation to be a leader and one can accomplish an immense amount as the consensus and esprit de corps builder/spokesperson and communicator/top manager/top fundraiser/energizer/moderator/negotiator and hirer of outstanding talent as the Dean of a Business School.

Plus, what could be more rewarding than seeing students getting the best education possible and thriving?!

Those of us in education have seen the best and, perhaps, also the worst, in deans and other administrators, and although we hope to forget the latter, the impact on an institution can be quite damaging especially to the morale and energy and to what is left, if I may say, of "team spirit."

So, what does it take now to succeed as a Business School Dean? The lessons are actually useful for other Deans as well, including Engineering ones (and there certainly has been national press lately about winners as well as losers).

According to the The Chronicle of Higher Education, Business Schools Are Hiring a New Kind of Dean, and the example that is highlighted, along with an interview, is Dr. Sally Blount, the relatively new Dean of Northwestern's Kellogg School of Management. She is a fellow blogger; see Dean Blount's Blog: reflections on Kellogg, management education and life in the 21st century.

The Chronicle of Higher Ed article is motivated, in part, by the release of a Korn/Ferry Institute report, The Business School Dean Redefined, which is a very interesting read. The Institute studies executive recruiting trends, so it has a good perspective.

According to the report: "Managing the 'business of the business school' is a complex job, similar to that of a CEO, yet with challenges that do not constrain private-enterprise chief executives." "Few CEOs, for example, must grapple with the concept of a tenured work force, highly diffused authority, and funding constraints placed by donors."

The report notes that a new leadership profile for business deans has emerged, one that emphasizes:

1. Strategic skills
2. Enterprise management
3. Innovation
4. People and relationship effectiveness.

And, according to Dean Blount,"Instead of simply looking for someone who gets along with the faculty, has a solid research reputation, and gets things done, search committees want someone who can build rankings, as well as market share, and "manage relationships with multiple stakeholders."

I would say that what is needed now is a leader who can manage complexity and optimize the scarcer resources, remembering that any organization rests on its people and without successful and creative people (faculty, students, staff, and administration) that also enjoy working together, and thrive together, one has simply a set of individuals doing what they may perceive is best for themselves and not for the organization.

(Sorry, but with my research in networks, transportation & logistics, and operations, I do view organizations as complex networks and we can have system-optimization (unselfish behavior) or user-optimization (selfish behavior) and with the right incentives, they will coincide.)

Any great leader, and that includes a Dean of a Business School, must have the respect of her/his constituents, must be a team-builder, must recognize talent, and must create an environment in which everyone can thrive (and enjoy the process) in a mutually supportive manner.

And when the successes happen (and they will) the Dean needs to acknowledge them and to make sure that they are communicated to the world beyond.