My first post about being a quasi-administrator in a faculty world consists of this quote from Gerald R. Ford, who was Minority Leader in the US House before being appointed Vice President and later ascending to the Presidency. It seems appropriate.

I was in the House of Representatives for 25 1/2 years, and when I disagreed with the occupant of the White House, whether it was Democrat or Republican, I used to say, “How can he be so autocratic, so dictatorial, why doesn’t he understand that the Congress is doing the right thing?” Well, when I moved from one end of Pennsylvania Avenue to the other end and occupied the Oval Office, my perspective changed significantly. And then I would look down at the Congress and say, “What are those people doing over there? How can they be so irresponsible?”

While it is a bit over-the-top to suggest that taking on some small administrative duties is akin to becoming President of the United States, I think I get what Ford is saying here. What has struck me the most is how much even this very, very minor (yet very important) role has changed my perspective on How Things Work In A University.

I don’t know how regular this series will be, but I’m hoping it turns into something.


If you have interests in academic leadership, go read this piece right now. (For further reading, here is the piece he cites.) I’ve had the privilege of working with some wonderful academic leaders in my career, as well as the horror of some bad ones. To a person, the bad ones were all focused on themselves holding the title, not on what they could do as leaders to encourage the growth and improvement of the program.

The way I see it, the person in a leadership/administrative role should be creating a place where the faculty and staff feel like what they do is respected and where they feel they can really do their best work. Dean Dad nails it with this:

Administration is about doing the background work to create the environment in which faculty and staff will bring their best selves to the job. That means rewarding the willingness to experiment, and accepting the possibility that change will move in a direction you didn’t foresee.

Don’t speak to your faculty in a condescending tone. Each and every one of them worked just as hard as you did – if not harder – to get to where they are. The vast majority hold the same degree you do (doctorate) and as such are automatically “on your level.” Your job as an administrator/leader is to create the environment described above.