Paul Danos, Dean Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth.
To close out the series of excerpts from the upcoming book “Inside the Minds: Business School Management,” I thought I would leave my thoughts about the three central keys to success.
1. Put Students First
As the dean of a business school, the most important rule is to always put student welfare first, and always articulate your message as such.
In every strategic step and in the inevitable messages, correspondences, and speeches to students, alumni, and faculty, the dean should put matters in terms of student welfare and student learning experiences. We must always be surveying our students’ needs, and we must modify our programs along those lines. In the best of all worlds, the things you do to meet student needs will also be the things that get you good publicity, but student welfare must be the starting point. In order to build future businesspeople equipped to enter an ever-changing world, it is critical to constantly look at the big issues facing students.
2. Be a “Happy Warrior”
A dean must be enthusiastic and positive, always seeing the good in the whole system and articulating it. You cannot be a downtrodden cynic in this role. You must love the job, love the organization, and show you love it. After all, what could be more satisfying than educating the principled leaders of the future?
In order to achieve success it is necessary to be truly interested in the process of education. While it is true that many skills transfer over from other realms, the skills that make for a great teacher, a great researcher, or a great business person may not ensure success as a dean. Being a business school dean entails working with students, trustees, faculty, staff, alumni and many others, and it is necessary to be able to balance all of these interests at the same time.
3. Treat Faculty as Your Biggest Asset
The strongest force on campus is the gravitational pull between students and faculty. Students want to be guided by their faculty and they want to be respected by them as well – all other student motivations pale by comparisons. Faculty expertise and teaching skills draw students to campuses more than any other factor, and faculty prestige is a major factor in a student’s school selection. The dean must understand how best to harness the faculty in order to achieve the most positive outcomes. Sometimes the most productive work is thought leadership that is fleshed out through research and then brought into the classroom; in other cases, it may be creating materials and curricula. The key to deaning is ensuring student learning and the key to student learning is the proper utilization of faculty expertise.
The job of a business school dean is an interesting one with special constituencies and priorities. In today’s changing world, the job entails grappling with unique challenges as our industry matures and evolves. However, while the mechanics may vary from other industries, some of the most important ingredients for successful leadership are universal, like vision and attitude. In this case, that means putting students first, being a happy warrior, and treating your faculty as your most important asset. Those keys will put any dean on the right path.