Skip to Navigation
University of Pittsburgh
Print This Page Print this pages

February 1, 1996

Report describes attributes it says that University's leader should have

Despite low morale and widespread cynicism about Pitt's administration, the University community yearns for a chancellor it can respect and trust, the Fisher team found.

But what kind of a chancellor? Unlike some universities that could get by with a mediocre leader, Pitt requires "strong, inspiring and decisive leadership" from its next chancellor to overcome years of administrative underachievement, the consultants wrote.

Pitt's next permanent chancellor, they advised, must be "a person who inspires trust and confidence; who is perceived to be self-confident; who is extremely sensitive to the importance and role of others; whose presence sparks a kind of electricity that is both reassuring and exciting." "We need a superstar, a person who can be effective on both the outside and the inside," said one of the interviewees quoted anonymously in the report. "A good, tough person who can manage, but more than that…a leader!" Another respondent said Pitt needs "a person who thinks before he speaks, and who can comfortably put himself in the shoes of the other guy, whoever he is." "We need a charismatic SOB!" said a third person.

Pitt's chancellor must also have a sense of humor, physical stamina, patience to listen and learn from others, and impeccable integrity, the consultants wrote. He or she needs "the ability to articulate a vision and to husband the resources and make the hard decisions necessary to achieve that vision.

"This person must rise above dissension and conflict and do so in a spirit of conciliation and strength. This person must believe when others question; must count every adversary, on and off campus, as a potential supporter; and be profoundly committed to making the University of Pittsburgh the finest of its kind in the land. The broad-based perception that Pitt lacks a clearly defined identity and purpose presents a tremendous opportunity for the next chancellor." The chancellor should have administrative experience, a doctorate or its equivalent and at least some record of teaching and publication, the consultants said. "However, a tested record of courage and integrity are more important for the next chancellor than impeccable academic credentials," they concluded.

The new chancellor must deal more effectively with state, regional and city government than his or her predecessors, according to the consultants. That includes understanding the political process. "While strength and even pride and impatience are acceptable in the political process, arrogance is not, and the condescending academic never wins," the Fisher team wrote.

While the chancellor needn't be from western Pennsylvania, the person must appeal to Pittsburghers by smiling often, being able to laugh at his or her own expense, and being a "people person," the consultants advised.

The chancellor should know how, and when, to delegate managerial responsibilities, to make decisions about controversial subjects and to press for change, the consultants said. They advised the chancellor search committee to review each candidate's experience in dealing with controversy. "A person who has always been 'a good guy' to all will not long survive at Pitt," they wrote. "The University must have a person who has succeeded under adverse circumstances and at the same time is respected, admired, and inspiring." Fund-raising experience and a commitment to improving conditions for minorities and women — including appointing them to high-level administrative posts — are among the other qualities to look for in Pitt's new chancellor, the Fisher group said.

And one more thing: "The new chancellor must be in good health and have the physical stamina to work long hours," the consultants wrote. "Don't sell this requirement short: many search committees have taken it for granted and done serious harm to their institution. A thorough physical examination is a must."

— Bruce Steele

Leave a Reply