On July 1, Mary Finger will become president of Seton Hill University in central Pennsylvania. She's in the same sort of pickle Tim Cook was and maybe still is at Apple.
In both situations an iconic leader had died. At Seton Hill it was JoAnne Boyle who transformed a sleepy women's college into a coed brandname university. Among its claims to fame was being an early adopter of digital. From the class of '67, I was there during the yawn times.
Finger has to make plenty of decisions how to take charge. After all, these are perilous times for most of higher education. It is on the defensive for what it does and how much it charges for all that. Here are four must-dos for Finger:
Create a unique presence. That includes new terminology, new rituals and new networks. Yes, there should be a new kind of President's Circle, consisting of all constituencies, ranging from fellow administrators to students. The memory of the former president can live. Her presence cannot.
Make substantive changes that are also symbolic. If there is too much liberal arts in the ethos of the institution, fix that. The previous president was bullish on the liberal arts.
Tweet, a lot. In itself that will establish the tone of the leadership.
Surprise. In itself that creates a force field. Everyone will be speculating what might be next.
Cook hasn't seemed to come into his own as a leader. Finger can learn from his seeming sins of omission.