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Leadership is an Evolving Skill

26th July 2012

By Fredric Nachbaur

Fredric Nachbaur, Director, FUP

During the Association of American University Presses (AAUP) annual meeting that took place this past June in Chicago there were so many good sessions that I was hard pressed to choose the ones that would be most beneficial, especially if they were overlapping . One such session I attended was called “So You Want to Be a Director? Leadership Strategies for New and Aspiring Directors from the Director’s Tool Kit.” At first, I thought that I didn’t really need to go to this panel but after further reflection I decided that I could learn a thing or two. . . Good move! It was actually very useful and made me think about the offsite meeting I was planning for the staff of Fordham University Press.

Here are a few snippets from Cynthia Barnes, Associate Professor in the Master of Science in Organization Leadership (MSOL) Program, School of Management of Regis University, who kicked off the panel session:

• Micromanaging equals insecurity
• Managers should oversee climate control and obstacle removal – make staff want to come to work and make a contribution
• Acknowledge and recognize employees
• Managers should be comfortable in their own skin

Cynthia’s Five Tips for Managers:
1. Know the right questions to ask and whom to ask – a manager doesn’t have all the answers
2. It’s not about prestige and power – give people power
3. It’s not about control but empowerment – lead people to control themselves
4. Trust others as they are – gifted and talented human beings; find out what floats their boat and reinforce them for that
5. Match tasks with talents – be a door opener

I think those are good tips and a good message to share with my staff. I want them to be doing a job that they like and matches their talents. We should absolutely never say “I do it this way because that the way it’s always been done.” No! If something doesn’t work or needs updating, we should all feel empowered to suggest change. We are fortunate to have an administration that supports our mission and university press publishing. Let’s continue to make them as well as ourselves proud.

Here are brief summaries of the presentations by the directors of three university presses of different sizes:

Alison Mudditt/University of California Press
• People support what they help create
• Make some decisions on your own
• Don’t create an us versus them environment regarding administration
• Can’t run entire press – don’t have the time
• Create environment for success
• Hire and mentor right people
• Senior management team – bring in development program
• Manage external constituencies: Admin, faculty, media, advisory board
• Build Productive relationships with administration
• Realize that you are sending a message – every move and word scrutinized
• Be excited and energized by change; preparedness to make difficult decisions
• Set out expectations and create collaboration
• Hired an organizational consultant – press therapist; 50% paid by administration

Jane Hoehner, Wayne State Press

• Learning as you go
• Be yourself but adapt to your audience
• Talk to departments, students, rotary club
• Communicate
• Risk taker
• Transparencies with staff but keep some stuff back. Create a balance

Charles Watkinson, Purdue University Press

Solve problems together
1. All have the big picture
2. Take advantage of university and align with its mission
3. Manage up

Even though each of the above presses is different in size and publishing program, their challenges are the same. They each need to create an atmosphere that encourages productivity and pride and publish high quality scholarship that mirrors the mission of its parent university while contending with an ever-changing landscape. I’m glad to know that I’m not alone and that I have colleagues that I can turn to for sound advice. Academic publishing has its ups and downs but I’m proud to be part of it and looking forward to leading Fordham University Press into the next stage.

Fredric Nachbaur (Twitter: @FNachbaur) is the Director of Fordham University Press.