Strategic Thinking: A Higher Ed Leadership Liability?

October 29, 2012

“His quarrel with the Army is that it trains its senior officers in tactics but not in strategic thinking, by which he seems to mean the capacity to bring imagination and innovation to bear when faced with unorthodox challenges.” That’s from Neil Sheehan’s review of Tom Ricks’s new book, The Generals: American Military Command from World War II to Today (Penguin Press, 2012).

Couldn’t the same be said about higher education leaders? How do we expect future college and university presidents to learn strategic thinking? I have no idea. Those who learn it have to learn it from mentors who understand it themselves, or they have to learn it on their own.

I had the privilege of spending a year as an ACE Fellow, and the privilege of spending a week at the Harvard Seminar for New Presidents.   Both were valuable experiences, but strategic thinking was not what was taught.

Sheehan, by the way, a Vietnam war correspondent and the winner of a Pulitzer Prize for a book about the Vietnam War especially praises Ricks’s discussion of the failings of General William Westmoreland during that tragic war.

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About Doug Bennett

Doug Bennett is Emeritus President and Professor of Politics at Earlham College. He has a wife, Ellen, and two sons, Tommy (born 1984) and Robbie (born 2003).
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