From category archives: In Trust Blog

Executive Leadership

Governing for this century

Imagine coming across this headline today:

Students must prove competency in key skills for 21st-century hospitals

Most of us would be shocked to read that med schools had not kept up with the times. But the Christian Century ran a similar headline this fall -- only it was about seminaries that are just now updating their curricula to meet the demands of the 21st century. Just imagine if other professional schools -- in medicine, engineering, or business -- were similarly slow in adapting.

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Strategic planning essentials for people with no time to waste

How do you allocate scarce resources to achieve your mission? How can you develop competencies to meet new market opportunities? How do you plan based on strategic assessments and insights and not just wishful thinking?

On February 22, In Trust Governance Mentors Robert Landrebe and Randy Thomann will tackle these tough questions and more during a webinar on "Three Strategic Planning Essentials for People with No Time to Waste."

This webinar is designed especially for presidents and board leaders, who can take part either together (gathered around a single computer) or separately (each participant online at home). The presenters are Robert Landrebe and Randy Thomann, both of whom have served as executive vice presidents of large institutions.

For more information, visit

Pastor finds that seminary education prepared him for vital questions

Rarely have I seen such a vigorous defense of academic theological study as the column Jason Byassee just wrote for the United Methodist Reporter. Byassee is an academic -- he most recently has been a fellow in theology and leadership at "Leadership Education at Duke Divinity," a program of Duke University Divinity School.

This summer Byassee was appointed pastor of a United Methodist church in Boone, North Carolina, and he was somewhat surprised by what he found: Regular people in a small Appalachian city were eager to ask the new pastor theological questions.

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Board chair and president, working together for the mission

At theological schools, as at colleges and universities, the relationship between the president and the board chair is especially critical. In the Summer 2011 issue of In Trust, you can read an interview with one board chair and president in which they explain their weekly phone conversations. In particular, I like the goals that they are trying to achieve: (1) Fostering a culture of trust, (2) maintaining a focus on institutional reality, and (3) achieving the school's mission with economic sustainability. Rebekah Burch Basinger has been examining this topic too. In her blog called "Generous Matters," Basinger (a frequent In Trust contributor) recently wrote a post called "The board chair-CEO relationship is like a pair of chopsticks." Basinger borrows some ideas from a survey conducted by the Canadian consulting firm Odgers Berndtson. The meat of her post is the "10 commitments" that a board chair and a president can make to each other for the sake of the school. ...
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Worth noting: The emerging church

There's a big difference between a fad and a movement: Christian heavy metal was a fad. Emergent Christianity is a movement. Emergent Christianity and the emerging church movement gained considerable traction in the first decade of this century. Wikipedia has a pretty good introduction to the characteristics of a concept that's still gaining shape and definition. But the general idea of the emergent movement is a realignment of Christian communities for a world of "posts": postmodern, postliberal, postevangelical, even post-Christian.  Based on a typical description like this one, confessional Christians may see emergent Christianity as too liberal and too dismissive of ecclesiology. And liberal, mainline, and "cultural Christians" may think it's just conservative neo-evangelicalism in disguise. Many seminary trustees and administrators, who likely fall somewhere on this continuum, may also have one of these reactions when they hear murmurs of emergence among their professors o ...
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A primer on benchmarking salaries

Do you know whether your institution's salaries are commensurate with those at peer institutions?

Blue Avocado has published a short primer on salary analysis. Read the article here.

Even though the article is short, it's wide-ranging. It starts by explaining how to chart salary ranges within an organization or institution. Next, the article shows how to add benchmark salaries to the existing salary ranges. Finally, it shows two ways to analyze individual salaries.

In order to compare your school to peer institutions, read the newly released 2010-11 data tables from the Association of Theological Schools. Section 3 includes aggregate information about compensation from member schools.

The data tables are an invaluable resource for theological education. Smart boards will become familiar with them and use them to get the hard facts about their own institution's place within the world of theological education.

Gaining power by not having all the answers

There are two kinds of power, writes Warren Bennis. There's "positional power," which is the kind of power that organizations confer on their leaders. And there's "personal power," which he defines as "influence based on voice." Bennis was the long-time president at the University of Cincinnati, and he's quoted in a recent issue of Inside Higher Ed by Diana Chapman Walsh, who retired three years ago as head of Wellesley College. Walsh reflects that she learned to find her personal power by painstaking navigation through the challenges of presidential leadership.   "I knew I would have to make changes to survive in the job for any length of time," she writes. And I knew one of the biggest changes I had to make, and fast, was to pull back from managing details so that I could begin to live into the wider arc of my role. . . . I would have to sacrifice the pleasure I had always taken in a certain kind of mastery -- the sense of intellectual integrity that came with delving deeply into an issue, ferretin ...
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Controversy over the selection of a new president

With minimal input from faculty or alumnae, the trustees of the College of New Rochelle have chosen a new president. She has no advanced degree, but much experience at the school and a strong financial background. Is this a problem? Inside Higher Ed reports that the new president of the Catholic women's college will be Judith Huntington, who currently serves as vice president for financial affairs. Her highest degree is a bachelor's degree in accounting from Pace University. Although unhappy about the process by which the new president was chosen, many of the college's constituents seem content with the choice: "She is a very collegial individual, and I believe she has great respect for the academic mission of the college," the chair of the faculty council says. "While I understand the concerns of others and respect and share the concern for the procedures that were followed in this case, we're all best served at this juncture to be behind her."  For their part, trustees emphasized that Huntingto ...
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What's your chief executive worth? And why?

Executive compensation in the social sector has come under increased scrutiny in recent years, and rightfully so. Though it's unlikely there will be a scandal about excessive compensation in seminaries any time soon, the market nevertheless applies pressure to nonprofit boards considering the compensation packages of their chief administrators (and what presidents, deans and rectors should expect). A recent piece in the Harvard Business Review examines concerns over executive compensation as a cultural phenomenon. The author asks: Why is it socially acceptable for the symphony director in a major city to make a million dollars while the head of the neighborhood charity is expected to make a pittance? The answer, the author concludes, is the "curse of proximity."   In the public eye, the closer a nonprofit is to the neediest among us -- the homeless, the infirm, the hungry -- the less those who lead those organizations should make. In judging an appropriate salary for such leaders, ...
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Introverts can be good leaders

A recent item by Adam S. McHugh in The Christian Century caught my eye: "Can Introverts Lead?"  On one level, it's a ridiculous question. I know of many introverts among the ranks of the clergy, for example. To be sure, some of them once thought they were entering a life of reading and reflection, but they soon learned the truth: The job description of the typical pastor includes a lot more of "getting groups to accomplish goals together" than "poring over biblical commentaries to prepare a brilliant sermon." That goes with theological school leadership too. Introverted scholars do move up the ranks to become deans and presidents. So did these introverts follow the wrong vocational path? Maybe -- if you're subscribing to some outdated notion of what good leadership means. In fact, author McHugh identifies four old-fashioned, commonly agreed-upon qualities of good leaders: Charisma Dominance Gregariousness Superstardom But here's where it gets interesting to me -- McH ...
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