June 23, 2020
The Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges (AGB), the premier organization representing higher education governance, today released a new publication, Crisis Leadership for Boards and Presidents: Anticipating, Managing, and Leading Beyond Pandemics, Disruptions, and Ethical Failures. This resource is intended to guide higher education boards as they anticipate, manage, and lead through and beyond difficult crises. As colleges and universities grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic, board members need strategic guidance to aid them not only in this unprecedented situation, but through future crises as well.
The book, written by AGB Senior Fellow Terrence MacTaggart, details how to anticipate a crisis; how to ask, “what if?” and prepare accordingly; how to diagnose an existing crisis; and how to develop an effective response. MacTaggart, a former chancellor of the Minnesota State University System and the University of Maine System, stated that “how a board and president envision the future in the midst of the crisis determines their fate afterwards. Combining realism with a willingness to change leads to far better outcomes than assuming a return to the ‘old normal.’”
The book also outlines three distinct types of crises, each requiring a different kind of response:
- global catastrophes, such as the coronavirus pandemic and the 2008 recession
- local emergencies, such as natural disasters and mass shootings
- fiduciary crises, such as ethical violations, executive malfeasance, and admissions scandals
“Crises, by definition, are incredibly disruptive and radically affect the operations of a college, university, or system,” said MacTaggart. “While not every crisis can be prevented, each one must be managed adroitly. Working together, presidents and boards must take steps to ensure such events are not repeated. I hope this resource will help presidents and board members become more adept at leading their institutions beyond crises to a brighter future.”
Crisis Leadership for Boards and Presidents draws from real-world examples of major disruptions, distilling them into critical lessons that can be applied to many different scenarios. This resource also includes multiple checklists that presidents and boards can quickly use to assess gaps they may encounter when preparing for or facing a crisis. The book draws on the experience of effective leaders who faced major adversity and have enabled their institutions to become stronger and more resilient enterprises. These case studies demonstrate how a president and board, working together, can transform a crisis into an opportunity through strategy and partnership. Additionally, two appendices include hypothetical case studies with questions for boards, allowing readers to practice specific scenario planning and “what if” exercises.
“Given the number of crises that have made headlines, deeply affecting institutions and higher education as a whole, it’s evident that even the most prudent board can expect some kind of emergency to strike,” said Henry Stoever, AGB president and CEO. “AGB has long encouraged governing boards to be strategic partners with their presidents and management teams. Understanding how to approach a crisis is one major component to that end.”
A complimentary e-book version of Crisis Leadership for Boards and Presidents is available for AGB members at AGB.org/CrisisLeadership. It is also available for purchase in hard copy with a membership discount. Both the digital and print versions include tips for board members and presidents.
The Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges (AGB) is the premier membership organization that strengthens higher education governing boards and the strategic roles they serve within their organizations. Through our vast library of resources, educational events, and consulting services, and with nearly 100 years of experience, we empower 40,000 AGB members from more than 2,000 institutions and foundations to navigate complex issues, implement leading practices, streamline operations, and govern with confidence. AGB is the trusted resource for board members, chief executives, and key administrators on higher education governance and leadership.
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