October 16, 2013
Be careful of "Rock Star" leaders
Here in Massachusetts we are having an interesting discussion/scandal (depending I guess on where you sit) regarding the President of Westfield State University. Apparently he likes to spend money. The university's money; and he has a history of this, which is what got him fired, or, shall I say, caused him to leave the University of Hawaii. He threatened to sue...they paid him 1.4 million dollars plus lawyers fees to leave. Here is a link to one of the many stories on the topic in the Boston Globe: Evan Dobelle came to Westfield State with record of excess.
I don't presume to know all the ins and outs on Evan Dobelle, given my reliance upon media stories which don't always get it right. But a couple of comments in this story really caught my eye...
"The consultant who recruited Dobelle to Westfield said Dobelle was so impressive he was 'almost out of our league,' recalled a member of the hiring committee"
"...some considered him a 'rock star' of higher education".
Really? University Presidents are now Rock Stars? I guess I tend to be skeptical. I think there are really very few leaders of such stature. Furthermore, it tends to get us in trouble. Leaders who are treated as rock stars begin to believe their own mythology. They tend to think they are better than they are. And those surrounding such leaders can lose their judgment when they are busy swooning over these larger than life beings.
True, there are great leaders in business and academia as well as other sectors of our lives. However, that shouldn't stop us from doing our homework, questioning credentials, and challenging behaviors that appear out of step.
And oh the mighty, they do fall.