The Autumn 2018 issue of In Trust magazine includes an interview with William Crothers, interim president at Ashland Theological Seminary. Crothers has served as an interim CEO five times since he retired in 2002 as ninth president of Roberts Wesleyan College. He was happy to share with In Trust readers some of the wisdom that he’s gleaned over the years.
One of the distinctions he makes is between “interim” and “acting” leaders. He acknowledges that some schools use these terms interchangeably, but in Crothers’ mind, they’re quite different: “Acting” presidents often come from inside the institution. They usually maintain the status quo and then return to their old jobs (for example, returning to the teaching faculty). “Interim” executives, on the other hand, usually come from outside the institution and are often charged with the responsibility for making significant changes.
How long should an interim serve and what should be the interim’s duties? The important thing, Crothers says, is frequent communication and clarity. He recommends that an interim serve a year or less, and that there be a very specific written agreement that includes the power to terminate or replace senior staff with the approval of the board’s executive committee. The ultimate goal: To help prepare the campus for the next senior executive.
“The interim has got to be driven by mission,” Crothers says. He sees the work he does as an interim as “Kingdom work,” like being called to a pastorate. “You don’t step into these situations if you don’t believe deeply in the work that’s going on.”
The full interview with Bill Crothers is available online.