A smart practice guide to presidential transition: a resource for governing boards and new presidents of Canadian public universities




Hakkarainen, Karen E.

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This report presents a research study into smart practices in presidential transition in the context of Canadian public universities. Recognizing that leadership transition is a time of risk for institutions, the research sought to answer the primary question: What smart practices support the successful transition to a new university president? The methodology for this study was a qualitative inquiry and was informed by a literature review that explored five themes related to leadership transition: 1) systems thinking, 2) stakeholder engagement, 3) leadership transition, 4) diversity in leadership, and 5) the implications of organizational culture on leadership transition. The smart practices were identified through a review of policy documents outlining current practices in presidential transition that are available on the websites of Canadian public universities and a series of elite, semi-structured interviews with individuals serving in the role of president. Based on themes emerging from the interviews and the review of policies and practices, a series of smart practices were identified. The study identified a conceptual framework for transition in which transition is presented as a continuum: it begins when a governing board becomes aware of the need to search for a new president, continues through the search and selection phase, identifies the president-designate phase as a key opportunity during transition, and then continues beyond the first 100 days of a presidency. In keeping with this conceptual framework, the findings from the research can be grouped according to six themes: 1) the relationship between the president and the board of governors, 2) the relationship between the president and the university community, 3) transition: improving the search phase, 4) transition: navigating the onboarding phase, 5) personal effectiveness, and 6) leadership and diversity. The report concludes with recommended smart practices for governing boards and new presidents as they navigate leadership transition. While the research was conducted for Royal Roads University, the recommended smart practices may be beneficial to other universities facing leadership transitions.



universities, presidential transition, leadership transition, post secondary, onboarding, smart practices