Suffolk University Discord Illustrates the Role of Trust in Leadership

A client recently told us, “I believe that the efficiency and success of an organization is directly related to the length of time the leadership team has been together and how much they trust each other.”
It sounds simple, but he’s right. And not enough organizations take that into account.

Looking at the current discord between Suffolk University’s board and its fairly new college president it seems clear that the biggest issue is trust – and the next is patience. I don’t know enough from the outside to say if Margaret McKenna is a good president, but I do know that there seems to be little trust so far at the board level in her ability to make impactful decisions that result in positive results for the school without their approval of every expenditure and hire

I also know that in academia, seven months is very little time. Things move at a glacial pace. And, as most of us who have served on non-profit boards know, there is a difference between oversight of the organization’s leadership and micromanaging operational decisions. Suffolk is a terrific university that brings a lot to our city and to its students in the way of accessible coursework and urban experience. And now, it is offering its students a close-up course in organizational behavior.

When a company brings in a new leader, board member or even someone new to the executive team, it takes time for everyone to get comfortable. A new voice at the table has to balance between understanding the institutional history of what’s been tried before –- and hasn’t worked – and sharing new ideas. Judging someone on her first few months on the job – or in elected office – is shortsighted. Hopefully, Suffolk University’s trustees can find a way to work with its president to build the trust that will ultimately benefit the entire institution.

 

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