`Being successful and competent is not enough'

7th November 2014 at 00:00
Controversial college leaders give tips in management tome

Two of Scotland's most controversial former college principals - who left their posts after complaints of poor leadership and bad organisation - are offering advice on effective management in a new book.

Dr Craig Thomson (above), former principal of Adam Smith College in Fife, and Sue Pinder (left), formerly of James Watt College, have drawn on their experience to discuss the importance of resilience and self-awareness for senior managers.

These attributes, they say in a chapter jointly authored with a PR executive, are found "most in those who put service before self, have a rich and ethical belief system, and respect and nurture people".

"They exhibit higher purposes and principles and are authentic, wise and humane," they add.

However, although the two former principals mention their experience in the further education sector, they make no direct reference to the challenges they both faced.

Dr Thomson was first suspended and then resigned as principal of Adam Smith College in 2012, after allegations of bullying and mismanagement by the senior leadership team appeared online.

The Scottish Funding Council carried out a review, and subsequently published an action plan recommending further probes into potential instances of bullying and misuse of funds.

Meanwhile, Ms Pinder's performance was called into question in 2013, when a culture study carried out in the run-up to the merger of James Watt's Kilwinning campus with Ayr and Kilmarnock Colleges revealed that staff at James Watt felt the college was stressful, disorganised and poorly led. Just 14 per cent of middle managers said they trusted the college's senior staff.

The college was also heavily criticised for paying a total of almost pound;95,000 in bonus payments to senior staff in 2011-12 and 2012-13 for their work on the mergers.

Ms Pinder told TESS that the co-authored chapter had grown out of a "desire to share some of what we have learned in a helpful and constructive way".

"The central message is that being successful and competent is not enough and that no matter how experienced and knowledgeable you are, there are always unforeseen events for which you are unprepared," she said.

Ms Pinder added: "Criticism is a fact of life for any chief executive - it informs the next choice or decision you make and therefore contributes to both success and failure. Unfortunately, as chief executive you rarely have the right to reply.

"The chapter reflects a lot of our shared experience and is honest in saying that mistakes are inevitable, but so is the learning that comes from them. That is what is invaluable and what we are prepared to share."

The chapter also points to the increasingly important role of technology and social media, and the blurring of professional and private lives.

"The networked society is deeply intrusive," the former leaders write. "More is being demanded and increasingly will be demanded of managers and leaders surrounded by an increasingly sophisticated and informed audience of stakeholders and critics. Scrutiny of public bodies and public leaders is already intense and is rising."

A spokesman for the EIS teaching union said: "While the number of college staff who will be placing advance orders for this book is perhaps somewhat limited, many lecturers will be intrigued to note this particular contribution from two such prominent former members of college management."

Developing Resilient Organizations is published by Kogan Page, priced pound;29.99

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