Monthly Archives: November 2015

Inside the Bubble?

Our dean recently asked us to take a look at the Chronicle of Higher Education Report on “The View from the Top” on university presidents views of the future of higher education.  One thing that struck me is the deep mismatch in perceptions by those inside higher education compared to those who hire our students.

Figure 7 on the CHE Report focuses on presidential perceptions of how well prepared students are for the job search.  The responses show that just 4 percent say students are unprepared, while 29 percent says students are very well prepared.  Ninety-six percent day students are prepared, well prepared or very well prepared.

Those numbers are actually similar to the perceptions of provosts and even to students.  For example, in an AACU study, 4 percent of students say colleges need to make major improvements in preparing them for success in entry level positions; 74 percent says colleges are doing a good job on this.

In that same AACU survey and in a recent Gallup poll, however, businesses have a decidedly different view.  In the Gallup poll, 17 percent of leaders say students are not graduating with the skills needed, while just 11 percent strongly agree that students have those skills. In AACU, 13 percent of business leaders say universities need to make major improvements, while just 42 percent say they are doing a good job.

As I compared those numbers, I wondered if anyone had surveyed the group that might be best positioned to assess this–recent alumni.  In fact, that data is available.  Accenture, for example, surveyed alumni who graduated in 2013 and 2014. They found that 64 percent of those students felt their education prepared them well. An earlier ACE survey found 80 percent of recent alumni said they felt well prepared for their job.

In general, then, my impression is that young alumni are not nearly as optimistic as those of us within the bubble of higher education, but not nearly as pessimistic as business leaders.  Maybe presidents, provosts, students, and business leaders could all benefit from hearing about where colleges and universities (and businesses!) are succeeding and failing in preparing them for their future work experience.

Managers Follow Rules; Leaders Break Them

Here’s an interesting perspective on leadership and management from Richard Branson. Branson argues that an important difference between leaders and managers is that managers follow rules, while leaders need to creatively break them. He writes:

“Management is about maintaining processes, disciplines and systems — something that doesn’t come naturally to yours truly. Where managers keep the rules, leaders have to be willing to break them, or at least find creative ways around them. As I wrote in my book, “The Virgin Way,” leaders must have vision, creativity, and the ability to influence others to follow and support them into uncharted and often risky territory.”

While I think there’s much truth in that, it’s disappointing that Branson doesn’t mention that this rule-breaking is both a source of necessary innovation as well as a source of unethical behavior.

A critical issue for leaders to understand, maybe more so in education and health care, is that appropriate rule-breaking is bound by morals, ethics, and values. A great leader understands the line where rule-breaking becomes fraud, abuse of power, or worse.

Viewing leadership as rule-breaking, without the boundaries of ethical, value-based leadership, is a dangerous and misleading idea.