How Higher-Ed Leaders Derail: A Survival Guide for Leaders

By Patrick Sanaghan with Jillian Lohndorf

In higher ed, there is a widely-held myth that the smartest person in the room should lead.

This book is a unique survival guide for leaders. Order 10+ copies to build leadership capacity on your campus and receive a $15 discount on each copy.

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By Patrick Sanaghan, with Jillian Lohndorf
181 pages
ISBN: 9781948658027


In higher ed, there is a widely-held myth that the smartest person in the room should lead.

Taking for granted that someone who is smart is also ready to lead, we often fail to take steps to develop new leaders, leaving them unprepared for the challenges ahead and more likely to derail.

This is especially true now, as higher-ed leaders navigate complex challenges without a clear map forward. The tendency to fall back on tradition–to rely on “smartship” rather than effective leadership–leads to four destructive and pervasive dynamics, and Patrick Sanaghan’s new book explores these four in depth and offers specific strategies for countering them.

Reviews from the field

“As I step down from a 15-year presidency at Boise State, I’ve reflected often on the on-the-job training I’ve learned over the years through trial and error. Pat Sanaghan’s strategies for staying on the tracks provide a very effective shortcut to success. Sanaghan has done an excellent job of identifying the unique characteristics of executive positions in higher education and offering a learning agenda that will assure success for university and college leaders. This book should be required reading for any president, and deserves a place on every leader’s desk in higher education.”
Bob Kustra, President Emeritus, Boise State University

“In How Higher-Ed Leaders Derail, Patrick Sanaghan has produced an insightful and practical book, brimming with resources about dangers leaders face today. Noting that the academy usually fails to select and prepare leaders with the right traits and experiences, Sanaghan’s book is masterful at not only helping leaders prevent derailment and failure, but also at helping new and experienced leaders succeed. For instance, few books on leadership take on the issues of supervision, which may be a leader’s most important day-to-day responsibility. This is a wonderful keep-by-your-side manual for higher-ed leaders.”
Rebecca Chopp, Chancellor, University of Denver

“Four types of leaders that derail: don’t be one; don’t enable one. If you suspect that you are a leader that other people find difficult to work with; if you are coaching a difficult leader; if you work for a difficult leader you need this book. While the book is specifically for leaders in higher education, it is a worthwhile read for anyone in industry, government, health care, or non-profits. It’s that valuable and that readable. It can be absorbed on a Raleigh to Dallas plane ride, but then you want to have it on your desk so you can refer to it daily.”
David Kiel, David Kiel Associates

“In over a decade of presidential leadership, I have found few resources that are as practical, relevant and timely as Dr. Sanaghan’s survival guide for higher education leaders. Also, few consultants and advisors understand the current higher education leadership landscape as well at Dr. Sanaghan. He has devoted over 30 years to developing and strengthening leadership in colleges and universities around the country. This book accurately and insightfully captures key issues facing leaders at every level of the institution, including presidents. Pressures are mounting. Presidential tenures are shortening. Fewer leaders are aspiring to institutional leadership. This book paves the way for current and aspiring leaders to make sense of and traverse the important and difficult work of leading in our colleges, universities and systems. I strongly encourage and recommend this book to leaders serious about their impact and effectiveness.”
Steven Titus, President, Iowa Wesleyan University


What’s Included in the Book

In this new book, explore solutions to:

    1. Derailment of the leader – wherein leaders are often promoted on the basis of academic prowess or past achievement but lack the management training, development, and support needed to succeed.
    2. Seduction of the leader – wherein leaders incorrectly believe they are receiving accurate intel about what is happening within their division.
    3. Arrogance – wherein we over-emphasize and reward individual achievement rather than encourage leaders to seek broad input and approach complex issues as a team endeavor.
    4. Micromanagement – wherein the risk averse culture of higher ed fosters leadership patterns that emphasize control and predictability rather than the risk taking, courage, and empowerment of one’s people that leadership in today’s higher education requires.

In How Higher-Ed Leaders Derail: A Survival Guide for Leaders, informed by decades of close work with hundreds of leaders in higher education, take a deep dive into the causes, characteristics, and solutions to each of these prevalent leadership dynamics — and learn what you need to know to stay on the tracks and succeed in leading your department, division, or institution.

The book is available in print and digital editions. The digital version is a downloadable PDF. Upon payment, you will find your book available to download in the Downloads section of My Account.