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Portraits in Leadership: Six Extraordinary University Presidents (ACE/Praeger Series on Higher Education) Hardcover – April 30, 2005
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written and contains a solid presentation of the leadership process. The chapter summarizing leadership research is the best I've seen and provides an original framework around which to read the case studies. There has been a lot of academic research on leadership over the last twenty years and much of it is incomprehensible and so specific as to be relatively useless but the author's original synthesis of this work
is excellent. The cases studies are not only very entertaining but they follow this basic leadership framework developed in the theory chapter. The chapter on the University as a complex organization is also very good and highly readable. I recommend the book both as an essay on leadership and as an analysis of university presidency.
The book provides brief biographies of six college presidents who served as leaders of institutions with distinct problems and opportunities. The example I found most interesting was the perspective on Clark Kerr, detailing how he rose through the ranks to President of the University of California then was "Fired with enthusiasm" by the governor of California, Ronald Reagan. Although his influence on the California Master Plan for higher education is well known, the last minute brokering involved in getting it passed provides insight into why the plan has withered with age. Other examples focus on how athletics problems can doom an otherwise successful president, political pitfalls of countering powerful alumni, and other challenges.
These biographies provide interesting perspectives into success strategies and potential pitfalls of university presidents. However, I was less convinced by the argument that the leadership skills of these presidents was determined by their childhood experiences -- a set of commonalities that may simply reflect the timeframe of their presidencies vs a script for nurturing future leaders.