Modernize and Monetize: Leadership Lessons to Confront the Hard Choices Facing Higher Education

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted teaching and learning, colleges and universities faced enormous challenges: declining demand, massive tuition discounting, aging infrastructure, changing consumer preferences, and political pressure — just to name a few.

Colleges and universities are encountering severe financial, public health, and demographic stresses that are testing the leadership of institutions in ways that have not occurred in generations.

cover of book, Leadership Matters -- red cover with white and black textHow can American colleges and universities survive and become more sustainable, financially and operationally? In Leadership Matters: Confronting the Hard Choices Facing Higher Education, two former college and university presidents argue that institutions must modernize – and monetize – their practices and assets and link explicitly to the world beyond the college gates.

Building on their experience as presidents, trustees, and faculty, authors W. Joseph King and Brian C. Mitchell guide senior administrators, trustees, and presidents on how to lead during immense financial, demographic, and social challenges. The authors know that, to survive, colleges must be flexible, effective, and forward thinking.

Using this concise (216 pages) and practical guide, higher education presidents, trustees, senior administrators, and alumni boards will learn:

  • How institutions can evolve by modernizing their practices, monetizing assets, and developing core educational strategies explicitly linked to the modern world.
  • How to exercise strategic leadership in ways that differ from those embraced by corporate cultures in other complex industries.
  • How to effectively use shared governance to move in strategic directions that put institutions on a successful trajectory while remaining true to its mission

W. Joseph King is the past president of Lyon College, as well as the former executive director of the National Institute for Technology in Liberal Education and of Rice University’s Connexions.

Brian C. Mitchell is the president and managing principal of Academic Innovators. He is the past president of Bucknell University and Washington & Jefferson College.

They are the coauthors of How to Run a College: A Practical Guide for Trustees, Faculty, Administrators, and Policymakers (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2018), an Amazon best-seller that the Wall Street Journal called a “breakthrough book.”  They are principals of Academic Innovators, a higher education strategic consulting and solutions firm.


“King and Mitchell…charge presidents with exercising the moral courage necessary to ensure that colleges and universities will continue to fulfill our nation’s historic mission of educating for democracy. Their detailed analysis of challenges faced by institutions results in pragmatic and innovative solutions for strengthening access to excellence and equity in higher education.

Lynn Pasquerella, President
Association of American Colleges and Universities

Leadership Matters provides a much-needed blueprint for higher education leadership that not only fosters innovation but also reestablishes the important role universities and colleges play in the broader community.

Sandra J. Peart, Dean
Jepson School of Leadership Studies, University of Richmond