Future Leaders Institute

To be or not to be

By Angel M. Royal

Senior leaders seriously question whether they want to become CEOs.

The leadership crisis. We knew it was coming. We knew that once the economy recovered, there would be a significant number of retirements in the field. Even with the number of great doctoral and grow-your-own leadership programs, we knew that the pipeline would not be robust enough to keep up with the exodus of seasoned leaders. We knew that in some cases senior leaders would begin new presidencies not having a fully developed repertoire of competencies required to be successful over the long haul.

What we did not know or count on is that senior leaders would seriously question whether they want to become CEOs. After all, we believe community college presidencies represent the best 1,108 jobs in the country. Why wouldn’t everyone aspire to them?

The presidency is influenced by complexities that either did not exist or were not as prevalent 20 years ago as they are today. There is a need to still do more with fewer or no dollars. Success was once measured by enrollment numbers, and now is measured based on retention and degree completion. In some cases, boards, faculty and administration have different views of what shared governance is, and their roles in it, which causes much friction. There are the dreaded no-confidence votes, which prevent leaders from implementing much needed, drastic change. On top of these issues, are the political pressures and intense media attention that leaders face.

This “new” reality has senior leaders questioning if the rewards of being a community college CEO outweigh the intense and ongoing scrutiny and challenges that one will face in the position.  If your goal in seeking the presidency is accolades, then the answer should be a resounding “no.”

If your passion is to impact the lives of the people, including the underrepresented and underserved, then “yes,” the reward will outweigh the risk. After all, if not you, then who…

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Angel M. Royal

is chief of staff for the American Association of Community Colleges.