Senior Leadership


  • Definition of senior leadership is not clear (People do not know who the ‘senior leadership’ is, or different groups may think of different people as being senior leaders. Deans are not on the Cabinet, but faculty probably consider their Dean a senior leader.)
  • Inherent distrust, deficits in the “trust bank” (Past senior leaders may have acted in ways that cause the current leaders to be distrusted not because of something they did but because of something done by a prior occupant of their position; learning about the legacy of distrust is the first step to resolving it.)
  • Participation too often is after the fact (Decisions are made then announced when it is too late for any input to be given thoughtful consideration before action is taken. “Input” thus becomes an act of lip service only.)
  • Know what we are going to do – and why (One phrase comes to mind – “keep the one big thing the big thing.” It too often seems that we try to do too many separate things at once which dilutes the effectiveness of any particular plan of action. We need more focus and more clarity about why the “big thing” really needs to be the “big thing.”)
  • Willingness to explain decisions and to adjust in the future is needed (Senior leaders who are willing to “face the music” and explain the reasoning behind their actions, to address criticisms, and to adjust future patterns so that they avoid making the same mistake again will gain confidence from those they lead.)
  • We often “open a can of worms” with little clear direction (We initiated a resource allocation study with an unclear goal in mind and we implemented very few of the recommendations. Why we needed to study resource allocation was never clear, and the goal that was stated kept changing. We launched a task force to study centralized room scheduling software systems without having a commitment to actually take the next step and do something, like purchase it.)
  • Genuine-ness is built by each senior leader (What can each senior leader do to show UMW that they are sincere, can be trusted, and have the best interests of the institution and its people in mind when they make decisions? How each leader will accomplish this will vary based on their talents, habits of work, personal style, and so forth. The key is for each senior leader to assess the extent to which others perceive them as forthright and genuine.)

Recommended Actions

  • Make clear to all who the senior leadership is, and what they are responsible for as a group (Do you know if the university actually knows who is on the Cabinet? De-mystify what goes on in Cabinet meetings. Announce decisions made by the Cabinet. Explain why those actions were taken. Decide whether minutes of Cabinet meetings should be posted for all to see. Have more substantive summaries of actions taken by the BOV. Be clear about what the cabinet does on its own vs. actions that may only be taken by the BOV.)
  • Make a commitment to interacting directly and personally (Maybe senior leaders should figure out ways to have small groups gather together with them in informal settings for open conversation – maybe “lunch with a senior leader.” That type of more personal encounter.)
  • Senior Leadership should meet with small groups of faculty and staff regularly (Why not invite small groups of particularly affected – or knowledgeable – groups in to meet with the Cabinet when a particular issue is being discussed? Giving folks a “guest voice” at the table might at least show that there is serious input in hearing from others before decisions are made.)
  • Make the “vision thing” real by being clear about what it will take and how it will get done (Instead of just announcing broad plans, set a date-specific goal and timeline for getting it done. The feeling in our group was that we seem to study things to death and it shouldn’t take as long as it sometimes does to get an idea moving.)
  • Act now.  Act often (The idea here is that there’s a perception that inertia has us firmly in its grasp and change does not come with the speed needed.)