Presidencies Derailed Why University Leaders Fail and How to Prevent It by Stephen Joel Trachtenberg, Gerald B. Kauvar, E. Grady Bogue
“Presidencies Derailed” is a book about why college presidencies collapse. While it is not the only book on the subject, it comes at a time when college presidents are failing. During 2009 and 2010, presidents of fifty universities, schools, colleges, and educational intuitions either resigned or fired. Presidencies Derailed examines sixteen such derailments and presents six themes for derailment of presidents. It also suggests ways in which such derailments can be avoided. The book talks about the mistakes made not only by the presidents but also by the boards of the institutions. It also includes insights from staff members of selected institutions.
About the Authors
Presidencies Derailed is co-authored by Joel Trachtenberg, Gerald B. Kauvar, and E. Grady Bogue.
Trachtenberg served as president of George Washington University (GWU) from 1988 to 2007. He was the fifteenth president of GWU. He was honoured for his work by the declaration of December 4, 2006 as "Stephen Joel Trachtenberg Day.”
Gerry B. Kauvar is a professor and researcher. He has taught Public Policy, English Literature, and Literary Criticism to graduate as well as undergraduate students. He has also served n the department of Defense and on the White House Commission, and received Department of Defense honors and medals. He has served as senior administrator for three universities.
Dr. E. Grady Bogue, who retired from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville in 1991, passed away on October 30, 2013. He served as the Chancellor of UT from 1991 to 2012, just before his book Presidencies Derailed was published. He was mentor to administrators and is remembered for his service at the UT Knoxville as well as at UT Chattanooga. He was recognized by the Board of Trustees at the UT for his contributions to the University as well as in the field of education.
About the Book
Presidencies Derailed Why University Leaders Fail and How to Prevent It is an account of the reasons why university presidencies fail and what can be done to prevent them from failing. The book focuses on derailments during the first time because, according to the authors, most premature resignations or firings are because of some lapse on the part of the Presidents. These events also reflect a flaw in the selection process. Premature resignations or firings, together called derailments, cost the universities a great deal in terms of time, morale, and of course financial loss. Universities put in a good amount of money and effort in the selection and nurturing of their presidents. All this effort and money is lost if the presidents retire prematurely or are fired not to mention the cost of selecting and nurturing a new president.
Trachtenberg and his co-authors cite about fifty colleges and universities where such derailments have occurred between 2009 and 2010. They quote from their own experiences as well as literature on leadership styles, corporate transitions, and college governance. Essentially, the authors analyse sixteen cases of derailments in colleges, universities, and other educational institutions.
The book makes suggestions for presidents who take up positions at universities so that they can retain their position and prove themselves good leaders. These suggestions include anger management, sensitivity to former presidents and other senior staff, and ethical behavior. According to Trachtenberg, boards of universities are often constituted with the perspective of representation – women, minorities, or professions. Members of such boards are incapable of leading an institution as complex as a college or university. Non-disclosure Agreements and embarrassed cover-ups on the part of members of the boards of universities lie behind many presidential firings and resignations. Many new presidents like Evan Dobelle of Westfield State University, Massachusetts, have sought Trachtenberg’s advice on issues they faced as University or College presidents.
Who Should Read Presidencies Derailed
Presidents of schools, colleges, universities, and other educational institutions are the obvious target audiences for Presidencies Derailed. The book is also of interest to members of boards of these institutions as it provides an insight into the fallacies of the boards in their constitution as well as selection process for presidents and other leaders. Students, parents, educators, community professionals also stand to gain from the book, particularly from chapters entitled “Firsthand Experiences of Derailed Presidents” and “Lessons Learned about Presidential Derailments.”
Trachtenberg and Kauvar’s interview with William Frawley is probably the most interesting and informative part of the book for university presidents. Frawley’s DUI’s and other medical and psychological problems lead to the loss of his job and reputation at Mary Washington. The incident brings out the negative effects of unethical behaviour and advises presidents to refrain from such behaviour if they wish to retain their presidency.
The book Presidencies Derailed Why University Leaders Fail and How to Prevent It by Stephen Joel Trachtenberg, Gerald B. Kauvar, E. Grady Bogue, is written in simple lay man’s language. It is an easy read and does not use too much academic jargon. The prose is clear, easy, and enjoyable. Observations like “Effective leaders must first know themselves, and then they must be adept at understanding the world around them. All leaders must read the script for any play in which they plan to perform,” are simple and easily understood by any literate person who reads the book. The book is an informative and candid presentation of the experiences of failed presidents of educational institutions, the causes for failure and suggestions to avoid such failures in future. The advice is not directed merely at presidents but also at the boards of educational institutions, and other members of the staff. Presidents, board members, staff, educators, students, parents, community workers, and anyone connected with educational institutions would be well advised to read the book and gain in insight into the complexities of educational institutions.
Stephen Joel Trachtenberg, Gerald B. Kauvar, E. Grady Bogue (2013). Presidencies Derailed Why University Leaders Fail and How to Prevent It