News & Insights

Cross-posted from Rebekah Burch Basinger's blog on fundraising and leadership, Generous Matters.

Eureka!These are tough days for leaders in higher education
and especially so for those at the helm of a theological school. Everywhere I go, boards and presidents are on the hunt for the big idea — the game changer — the Eureka moment that will save the day.

I find little patience for or interest in collaboration, conversation, or shared governance. In fact, in most places this long-time feature of the academy is viewed more as a problem than a help in coping with trying times.

Not that shared governance was ever an easy sell. At one time or another, I’ve heard board members, administrators, and/or faculty voice doubt about the concept. But the nay-saying has gotten louder in recent years. It’s generally accepted as gospel that shared governance is simply too unwieldy to be practical for such a time as this.

Which is unfortunate because if ever the best thinking of any and all bright minds was needed, it is now. As the authors of an article out of Australia tell us, innovation is a “highly complex, multifaceted process that draws on individual and collective inputs. It is an innately social process and the ‘people factor’ must be handled well if innovation is to result.” In other words, change is a team sport, not a solo performance.


Innovation, as the authors describe it, depends upon many leaders. Presidents and boards “must be capable of embracing fresh thinking (often not their own).” Or put another way (mine), institutional leaders must be willing to share governance (power and decision-making).

Interestingly, the article referenced here is written about and for corporate CEOs and other leaders in business – the folk whose decisive ways and top down style nonprofit CEOs are encouraged to emulate. It’s a real turn-about that the “good” leader described in the Australian piece is torn from the pages of the shared governance play book.

But we shouldn’t be surprised. After all, at its best shared governance draws upon and reinforces the very behaviors and characteristics – things like trust, transparency, free-flowing communication – that encourage innovation and risk taking. As the authors note, “The more you think about it, the more you realize the challenge is not about leaders being the wellspring of innovation themselves, but rather being the facilitator of conditions that enable innovation to occur.”

In higher education, the “conditions” have a name. It’s shared governance.

Top Topics

Roles & Responsibilities



Board Essentials

Upcoming Events

The In Trust Center hosts learning community spaces throughout the year. Check out our upcoming events below.

Closing the Trust Gap


The current and very troubling condition of trust is a clarion call to action. But despite the dismal data showing pervasive organizational distrust, every organization can assess their current level of trust, learn and adopt a proven trust building framework, and then develop a meaningful and long-lasting plan of action. This webinar details the knowledge and practical next steps to strengthen workplace culture as a result of closing the trust gap.

In Trust Center Resource Grants


An In Trust Center Resource Grant offers member schools a chance to explore innovation at their institutions through a matching grant opportunity of up to $15,000. Listen to this 30-minute information session, including Q&A, as we provide details on eligibility requirements, funding priorities, application process. Previous grantees are eligible to apply as long as they are not within our current funding cycle.

Conflict + Crisis: Navigating the Shoals, Part 2 – A Deeper Dive


Presenter Donna Alexander, President & CEO of Advoxum Global Strategies, offers best practices for navigating conflict and crisis. She examines the crucial elements of defining conflict and crisis, identifying, and prioritizing affected stakeholders, utilizing effective communication strategies, and ultimately, executing a plan of action. Click here to view.

Can’t Find What You’re Looking For?

In Trust Center provides Resource Consulting to our members at no charge. Contact us today and let us guide you to the most helpful resources for your situation.

Contact Us