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Presidencies Derailed: Why University Leaders Fail and How to Prevent It Hardcover – July 10, 2013

4.4 out of 5 stars 21 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

This book should be read by presidential search committees and purchased by vice presidents worried about their president’s success.

(New England Journal of Higher Education)

Individuals concerned for the welfare of their institution should have an awareness of change in leadership and its consequences for the university. Presidencies Derailed is a good resource for those serving on search committees, aspiring presidents, and others interested in leadership transitions. This book certainly offered an overview of many timely, practical examples of derailed presidents.

(Review of Higher Education)

A book with relevance far beyond academe.

(Harvard Business Review)

The authors provide a thoroughly researched account of career fiascos.

(Sara Michael Johns Hopkins University Gazette)

Every derailed presidency has its own story. The risk of failure is high.

(Washington Post)

This is one of the best professional books I have ever read.

(John Boswell johnboswellblog.com)

Without qualification, this book is and will remain the classic on why university presidents succeed or fail. Not to mention the lessons also apply to all top leadership!

(Warren G. Bennis, University of Southern California)

There are few university presidents like Stephen Joel Trachtenberg―at once knowledgeable, creative, commonsensical, likable, and aggressive (indeed, relentless, even outrageous) in the pursuit of institutional uplift and excellence.

(Jose A. Cabranes, U.S. Circuit Judge (New York) and trustee of Columbia University, former trustee of Yale University and Colgate University)

From the Back Cover

"We all err," write Trachtenberg, Kauvar, and Bogue. "As academics, we must also believe that we can all learn how to reduce the chance for error. But human beings are endlessly imaginative and will no doubt continue to find new, innovative ways to mess up and also to do well and good."

In this mordant account of why university presidents fail, these authors show us why leadership in higher education is fraught with peril. Relying on first-hand testimonies from "derailed" university presidents, sixteen case studies in four sectors of higher education, and reviews of the scholarly literature on leadership failures in the public and private sectors, this book shows how good presidencies go bad. Stephen Joel Trachtenberg, Gerald B. Kauvar, and E. Grady Bogue organize, classify, and explain patterns of leadership failures and offer key advice on how institutions, their boards, and their leaders can avoid these acrimonious battles.

Presidencies Derailed provides a menu of best practices designed to forestall, if not prevent, future leadership failures. With incisive commentary drawn on years of insider experience, this book offers clear examples of derailments and precise advice on how to prevent these institutional disasters at research universities, liberal arts colleges, master's level institutions, and even community colleges.

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Presidencies Derailed is the first book to explore in depth why university presidencies fail and how university and college leadership can forestall, if not prevent, future leadership failures. Former university president Stephen Joel Trachtenberg, along with professor Gerald B. Kauvar and former chancellor E. Grady Bogue organize, classify, and explain patterns of leadership failures, drawing on firsthand testimonies from "derailed" university presidents, sixteen case studies in four sectors of higher education, and reviews of the scholarly literature on leadership failures in the public and private sectors.

"A book with relevance far beyond academe."― Harvard Business Review

"This book should be read by presidential search committees and purchased by vice presidents worried about their president’s success."― New England Journal of Higher Education

"Every derailed presidency has its own story. The risk of failure is high."― Washington Post

"A good resource for those serving on search committees, aspiring presidents, and others interested in leadership transitions."― Review of Higher Education

"Without qualification, this book is and will remain the classic on why university presidents succeed or fail."―Warren G. Bennis, University of Southern California

Stephen Joel Trachtenberg was a long-serving president of George Washington University and the former president of the University of Hartford. He is the author of Big Man on Campus: A University President Speaks Out on Higher Education, Reflections on Higher Education, and Speaking His Mind: Five Years of Commentary on Higher Education. Gerald B. Kauvar is a research professor of public policy and public administration and the special assistant to the president emeritus at George Washington University. E. Grady Bogue (1935–2013) was the chancellor of Louisiana State University in Shreveport and the coauthor of Quality and Accountability in Higher Education: Improving Policy, Enhancing Performance.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 184 pages
  • Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press; 1 edition (July 10, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1421410249
  • ISBN-13: 978-1421410241
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #509,150 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
First, this is a superb read. . .articulate, clear, sensible, and timely. Second, this book is a must read for an audience much larger than the title implies. Although its focus is university presidents who left their position prematurely it applies as well to any new leader in a complex operating system such as large business entities. Third, with clarity, and eloquence the dynamic interaction between the president and the entire range of stakeholders is presented both theoretically as well with true life illustrations. Thus, undoubtedly these crucial participants in the college/university setting engaged in the selection and evaluation of an academic president should read this book. These include board members, faculty officers, alumni leaders, benefactors, engaged community and political leaders. The book not only relates importantly to the college/university presidential selection process, but also to the ongoing evaluation of the executive. It illustrates dramatically how unexpected crises can test the entire system--president and stakeholders alike, emphasizing all the more the essentiality of their reading this. Important guidelines involved in all phases of the process are included. A final thought, if only the candidate had sufficient humility to read this book before applying for the executive position, be it a college presidency or other, there is no doubt the benefit to be gained all around.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
While the conclusions of the 6 factors that can derail a presidency are applicable to any leadership position, the insight into the subculture of higher education including the complexity of managing up (boards), down (faculty, staff, students) and out (donors) is fascinating and right on
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Format: Hardcover
This book is every bit as relevant to university presidents as it is to corporate CEOs, K-12 heads of school, social sector Executive Directors, and leaders in other organizations, hence it should be required reading for all boards and new executives.

Chapters apply the results of interviews with various firsthand observers to examine derailments in private and public institutions, community, master's and research levels, in diverse areas of the US. The personal narratives of two presidents are also included. The introductory and concluding chapters provide insightful analysis of attitudes and behaviors that tend to lead to greater or lesser success and identify six primary causes of presidential derailment: ethical lapses, poor interpersonal skills, inability to lead key constituencies, difficulty adapting, failure to meet business objectives, and board shortcomings. Some of these would be impossible to foresee, computerized personality inventories notwithstanding. Change management appears to be one of the most treacherous dynamics for presidents to navigate, as the alumni and some trustees wish to preserve, while others see the need for innovation. Trustees would do well to engage in a thorough self-assessment of the board prior to engaging in any search in order to ensure that they are actually following best practices in their internal dealings and to identify their expectations and the strategic priorities that the new leader must address. Naturally, effective communication on the part of all constituents, but particularly between the board and the president, is key to successful and productive tenures.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Although its cover is a touch melodramatic, something Steve Trachtenberg and his colleague-writers probably didn't select, the book is timely and terrific. It's exceptionally well conceived, written, and useful -- packed as it is with good advice for all incumbent and would-be chief executives. The authors recognize that that the seemingly high incidence of turnover in the academic presidency is prevalent in all sectors of the economy, in all sectors of not-for-profit and "investor owned" enterprises. Although the presidencies of twenty and more years are rare indeed today, across all kinds od organizations, turnover rates have not changed very much in the past two or three decades. Being "president" of anything these days seems to be very difficult to sustain much past the ten-year mark. Sustaining effective leadership, especially in the same organization, is beyond the reach of most of us. Especially useful and interesting in this little volume is how the reasons for falling off the track are categorized. For many readers who are new to their presidencies or about to enter them, it could save them from falls from grace,

My only surprise (and disappointment) is why Trachtenberg refers to one failed president at the University of Hawaii some years back as a victim rather than as a maker of his own demise. For one huge example of misplaced judgment, this short-lived, public university president actually thought it appropriate to publically support one of the candidates then running for governor. (He lost, too.)
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Very good book. The authors actually talk about "dysfunctional" boards, one of the best kept secrets in higher education.Graet information. A must read for all presidents and especially board chairs.Well done
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The authors did a solid job of assessing why a number of presidents failed. Of greater importance is their ability to design a template for governing boards to use to reduce their contribution to presidential failure. The book is readable; its references are complete.
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