secret of leading a truth-and-beauty business
is leadership in a university? Who does it, and to whom? How is
it done, if at all? I have often remarked that the University
is a $1.5 billion-per-year enterprise in which there is no one
to whom I can give a direct personal order. What kind of order
would I give if I thought I could?
would not be the kind of order that leaders in the corporate world
have been heard to give: "Get out of manufacturing and get
into financial services." What differentiates the corporate
world from the university world in this respect is that in the
corporate world all such orders ultimately rely on one guiding
objective: make more money, or, as we sometimes prefer to say,
increase shareholder value. If your business is making money,
and you think that you can make more money in a different business,
then you go into a different business. The argument is then only
about which business and its feasibility.
University is certainly not in the business of declaring dividends
or increasing shareholder value in the conventional sense. The
University is in what we might call the truth-and-beauty business.
That is not a business that we should want to get out of. And
the underlying logic of such a business is that if we had greater
resources we could produce even more truth and beauty.
job of leadership in this environment is to try to figure out
what might constitute truth and beauty at any given point and
then to align our resources in such a way as to maximize our production
of them. Of course, people will differ on what constitutes truth
and beauty, and they even have some claim to asserting their own
views on this. This is, after all, what we believe about a democratic
society. No one person gets to decide what will pass for truth
and beauty. It will necessarily be a collective decision, in the
making of which, however, we will hope to engage some of society's
most thoughtful and well-educated people.
the University, then, leadership is necessarily somewhat more
in the nature of a collaborative process than it might be in certain
other kinds of organizations. No one person could possibly know
in any detail where truth and beauty are headed in all of the
fields of study that we pursue or which fields are likely to be
the most promising over time. This is a responsibility that must
inevitably be shared. By whom?
the faculty defines the character and substance of the University
and must be allowed (as some of the most thoughtful and well-educated
people in our society) to pursue (and in that sense define) truth
and beauty wherever they seem to be headed. And, indeed, many
decisions about the University's academic life are made by vote
of the faculty, often at the level of the academic departments
and then at the level of the divisions or schools or the College.
But the coordination, if nothing else, of the views of so many
requires a group of leaders that is essential to the functioning
of the University. And since our resources are in fact limited,
there is the regular need to make some decisions about which of
the many things that the faculty might like to pursue we will
in fact pursue and which not. These are the deans. And it is they
who are responsible for much of the most important leadership
that takes place in the University. They are in turn led by the
provost, who has a very hard job.
back to the office of the president. From this little account
of university governance, it follows that one of the single greatest
responsibilities of the president of a university is the same
as that of a corporate chief executive-to pick the people around
one. Even that responsibility is shared in considerable degree
with the faculty when it comes to deans. But it is ultimately
in the exercise of that responsibility-to appoint deans and other
administrative officers-that the president has the greatest role
in affecting the character and direction of the institution.
are the criteria to be brought to bear on these appointments?
If the leadership of the University is inherently more collaborative
than it might be in some other kinds of institutions, it follows
that a willingness to collaborate is an essential criterion. Deans
and administrative officers must believe that, in exercising responsibility
for some part of the institution, they all serve one great institution
that requires them ultimately to act in its interest. That will
require them to trust one another. Also necessary, but not sufficient,
is that they represent personally the high intellectual and academic
standards that the University claims for itself. The president,
then, leads not so much by telling people what to do as by trying
to create the appropriate culture among the people who, by virtue
of their own knowledge and proximity to the daily work of the
University, will actually do much of what needs to be done.
the year and a half since I took office there has been the need
for a variety of reasons to appoint an unusually large number
of deans and officers for such a short period. Readers of these
pages will know that we have in Edward A. Snyder, AM'78, PhD'84,
formerly dean of the Darden School at the University of Virginia,
a new dean of the Graduate School of Business and in Saul Levmore
a new dean of the Law School. In December we were very fortunate
to be able to appoint James L. Madara, from Emory University,
vice president for medical affairs and dean of the Division of
Biological Sciences and the Pritzker School of Medicine. Even
more recently, Susan E. Mayer has been appointed dean of the Harris
School. New administrative officers in the last year and a half
include Beth A. Harris, AB'74, the University counsel; Margo Marshak
(formerly a vice president at New York University), vice president
and dean of students in the University; Robert J. Zimmer, vice
president for research and for Argonne National Laboratory; and
Michael Riordan, president and CEO of the University Hospitals
and Health System. And we now have a distinguished scholar and
experienced dean as provost, Richard P. Saller. They bring to
the University the spirit of collaboration and the talent that
will make us stronger and better. They could even make a president
look good, and for that I am very grateful.
Don M. Randel writes each issue on a topic of his choosing.-Ed.