At first glance that makes absolute sense. Simon Sinek reiterates that in Leaders Eat Last.

But, how does this apply to Universities? At the heart of higher education is an experience created predominantly by people supporting students as they grow and learn. It seems like the People First concept should apply. However, let’s look at what is happening today.

College enrollments continue to decline (National Student Clearinghouse Research Center), small universities are being merged with larger institutions. We are also seeing acquisitions, including non-profits purchasing for-profits. (Purdue/Kaplan or National Louis University/Kendall). And other Universities are forced to restructure, offer voluntary separation packages, and to lay off staff and faculty, including tenured faculty. (i.e. Keene State University, New Hampshire, SIT, Vermont and Benedictine University, Illinois)

Could Universities reposition for long term sustainability without reducing their faculty and staff?

My thinking says it is about timing and leadership. Universities I work with have often been neglected for too long, or leadership has lacked the foresight to strategically position their institution and invest in their people to create experiences that support student success. In other situations, I see competent Boards and Presidents struggling with the increasing pressures of today’s world and unsure of what strategies will ensure sustainability versus mere survival. How does the People First strategy aid leadership in these situations or is the question “How are we preparing and supporting our leaders?“

How is your organization investing in people and surviving or better yet thriving?