The UVA imbroglio has the faculty up-in-arms, for apparently good reasons. The well-like president, Teresa Sullivan, was forced out in a palace coup. There was apparently no proper governance, and law suits may appear given the questionable procedures.
Perhaps all faculty members have had their share of run-ins with board members who are often successful business tycoons. Tycoons know a lot about running hierarchical structures where top-down decisions are quickly made and enforced. They know little about collegial governance. They generally don't understand the notion that science progresses through bottom-up experimentation and letting a thousand flowers bloom.
A Chronicle of Higher Education article by Jack Stripling argues that Sullivan was fired because she lacked "strategic dynamism", which is a code word for top-down imposition of a vision. Peter D. Kiernan, who until last week chaired the Darden School of Business' Foundation Board, let this cat out of the bag in a recent email.
So what is "strategic dynamism," and who are its practitioners? Quite the opposite of the methodical, long-term visions found in most universities' strategic plans, strategic dynamism implies a near-constant "stirring of the pot" within an organization, explains Donald C. Hambrick, a professor of management at Pennsylvania State University's main campus.
That could mean wild changes in asset allocation within a company's investment portfolio or a radical alteration of a business's marketing approach. Proponents of strategic dynamism value the potential rewards of substantial, fast-paced change more than the stability of a gradual strategic evolution, Mr. Hambrick says.
There's another thing about executives who embrace strategic dynamism: They're totally in love with themselves, Mr. Hambrick says. In 2007, Mr. Hambrick co-authored a study that found a strong correlation between a chief executive's level of narcissism and his or her penchant for making frequent changes consistent with strategic dynamism.
The study used five indicators to measure a chief executive's narcissism, including the prominence of the executive's photographs in a company's annual report, the frequency of the executive's name in company news releases, the disparity between the chief executive's compensation and that of the company's second in command, and the frequency with which the chief executive uses first-person-singular pronouns in interviews.
For those keeping score, Mr. Kiernan's e-mail to Darden trustees contains 19 first-person pronouns.
Big egos provide the hutzpah to accomplish tasks. Big humility is needed to accomplish them well.