Higher Education challenged by Succession Planning

Higher Education is experiencing a dramatic changing of the guard.

According to an American Council on Education study, nearly half of the Presidents and Chancellors at US and European Colleges and Universities are quickly approaching retirement age. In fact nearly 50% are already age 61 or older.  While many will continue to lead effectively, a dramatic turnover of unprecedented size is imminent in the next few years.

The need for Effective Succession Planning in Higher Education

While Higher Education has made some progress in cultivating and tapping the available talent it is has historically struggled to mine the depth and richness of its talent pool.  Higher Education is full of smart, talented, dedicated individuals who given the proper preparation may emerge as the leaders of tomorrow.

However, in both Higher Education and Academic Medicine internal promotion and national recognition has historically been derived through individual performance, grants, research papers, annual meetings and awards.   Furthermore, there seems to be little if any thought to team based leadership or development of future leaders.

Traditionally, higher education has not valued nor been a hospitable place for team based development.  Faculty are trained to research, teach, seek funding and publish with little interaction or team based. Although this environment is slowly changing, much work needs to be done.

What can be learned form the Corporate Sector

  • Succession planning should not be confined to the process of identifying which person can assume responsibility for a particular job, but rather a broad strategic roadmap for the future leadership development and talent development of the organization.
  • Strong corporations define talent broadly to create the deepest, most diverse future leaders.   With Higher Education now as international as any industry- this must be an imperative.
  • Successful organizations have established comprehensive development strategies to ensure continued success- it is no secret that the backbone of a successful organization begins with high performing talent. 
  • And because the most successful companies have adopted formal leadership development programs as part of a larger organizational strategy, budgets are larger and remain committed, even during times of financial challenge.
  • Successful corporations have developed a robust infrastructure to build leadership talent at all levels of the organization.  The results are an organization that is beomes full of enriched, satisfied talent prepared for the future.

As Higher Education moves further into the new millenium, an increased broad, international view of talent attraction and development will match the changing demographics of the world.  Institutions that stratgically invest and support their emerging leaders will continue to thrive.  Those who do not, will continue to face a signifcant challenge to compete.

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