Leadership turnover is inevitable. Every institution faces it at some point — usually before they want to. Searching for a new leader is challenging, and even before beginning a search, the governing board must be clear about what kind of leader it seeks.



In these changing times, a board cannot simply pull an existing job description from the file and make minor changes to attract the right candidate.


In “6 Qualities to Look for in a College President,” an article from the September 2017 issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education, authors Robin Mamlet and Sheila Murphy suggest these essential skills for boards and search committees to consider:


  1. Soft skills that aren’t so soft.

  2. An appetite for data and analysis.

  3. The ability to speed up and then pivot.

  4. Recognition that they don’t have to go it alone.

  5. Strength in the core skills of the position.

  6. Expertise in change management.

The authors acknowledge that there is no formula that guarantees success. Yet identifying candidates who (1) understand the current environment (complex, ever-changing) and (2) have self-awareness (about their strengths and limitations) is critical. 


Consider the strategic goals you are working towards and what attributes your next president will need to meet these goals. Perhaps the list suggested above can spark conversation or debate about the essential skills of your next leader.


If you have a subscription to The Chronicle of Higher Education, you can read more on the essential skills for presidential candidates online.


For more resources on searching for a new president or other leader, contact the In Trust Center at resources@intrust.org.