WPU President Applies Corporate Leadership Skills to Higher Ed

Steve Adubato goes on-location to the CIANJ event to speak with the President of William Paterson University, Kathleen Waldron, about how she has incorporated her corporate leadership style into her role at an institute for higher learning.

4/15/17 #3007






"We're talking leadership... we just finished a terrific forum at the Commerce and Industry Association. Kathleen Waldron, who is the President of William Paterson University, right in the middle of that distinguished forum, with Ralph LaRossa, the President of PSE&G, and Mike Maron, who heads up Holy Name Medical Center. The biggest takeaway for you on that leadership forum that you were right in the middle of? I was amazed at both of these gentlemen having 32 years experience in the same company, which is something that is so rare, and you don't find that anymore. So they rose up through the ranks to their leadership position, which is a lesson, probably, that young people haven't heard, or don't know about, that people have made their careers that way. What's interesting for you, you had a career... before you entered academia, a very successful career in the corporate America? In banking? Right? So if I were to ask you the biggest leadership difference, or leading in corporate life, versus in academic life, it would be? It would be that corporate life is much more hierarchical and university life is consensus. And shared governance with the faculty. Which is a unique concept of American universities. Which makes them great. Wow. Hold on. Wait a minute. So, devil's advocate. So the president of a university can't simply say, "Alright look, here's what... here's the way we're gonna do this faculty. We're going to do a, b, and c," and the faculty says, "Okay, Madame President, we're on board"? It doesn't happen that way? It never happens that way. [laughter] It's all... What is it like? It's really an intellectual engagement. Faculty are intellectuals. They are deep thinkers, they've spent their lives pursuing their disciplines. So they come at a problem, or even a suggestion, from a very analytical, thoughtful way. Now they're going to take a long time to think about that compared to a corporate pace change or innovation. And that's where sometimes you can get conflicts or resistance. But in the end, you're better for the thoughtful decision making and thoughtful analysis that faculty do. But is there a part of you, knowing how quickly things are changing around us, knowing the need to adapt to the situations, and to be ahead of the curve, if you will, and also the competition that you face, that you say, "Hey, wait a minute? Look, I know we need to have a discussion, I know we need to have a lot of discussion, but come on! We've gotta move faster?" Yes. And I've said that. "Come on! We have to move faster!" And the reaction? Sometimes yes. Sometimes no. But most of the time..."