Forbes Names “Leadership Matters” one of the Top 10 Books in Higher Education

Academic Innovators is delighted to announce Leadership Matters: Confronting the Hard Choices Facing Higher Education, a book co-authored by two of its principals (Joey King and Brian C. Mitchell), was named as one of the Top Ten Books in Higher Education for 2022 by Forbes. The book describes how leaders in higher education can overcome the various challenges they face including shifts in the societal, economic and political landscape. 

The book offers guidance on how senior leaders within higher education must adapt to our rapidly changing society in order to remain a sustainable business and institution. Some factors for consideration outlined by King and Mitchell include: “modernizing their practices, monetizing their assets, focusing on core educational strategies, and linking explicitly to the modern world.”

King and Mitchell draw on their decades of experience in higher education to inform the ideas and findings offered in Leadership Matters. King is a past president of Lyon College and previously served as senior advisor to the president of Emory & Henry College. He has also served as executive director of the National Institute for Technology in Liberal Education, vice president of innovation at Southwestern University, and as executive director of Connexions at Rice University.

Mitchell previously served as president of Bucknell University, Washington & Jefferson College, and the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Pennsylvania. He has also served in numerous leadership and governance roles in higher education, including chair of the board of Merrimack College, chair of the Pennsylvania Committee for the Rhodes Scholarships, the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Pennsylvania, and the Patriot League Athletic Conference (Division I).

“We are honored to receive this recognition from Forbes,” said Brian C. Mitchell, author and principal of Academic Innovators. “We recognize the overwhelming challenges faced by our successors and their colleagues and we feel it’s our obligation as stewards of higher education to ensure they’re best equipped to face them. It is our sincere hope that the frameworks and ideas put forth in this book help colleges and universities not only create greater stability for their institutions but also provide them with a solid foundation upon which they can build a sustainable future for their respective organizations.”

Published by Johns Hopkins University Press, Leadership Matters is the second book published in the series following their first, How to Run a College: A Practical Guide for Trustees, Faculty, Administrators, and Policymakers. King and Mitchell will author a third book which is expected to be published in 2027.

person looking through binoculars between two stacks of books

American higher education is facing an extraordinarily difficult academic year as the economic crisis sparked by the global pandemic calls into question how colleges and universities operate. The pressure will put many residential liberal arts college in deep distress from which a significant number will not recover.

Facing an existential crisis, governing boards of trustees should ask whether they have the right leadership to weather these challenges. Does their current leadership have the right mix of strategy, operational knowledge, and financial expertise to shepherd the college or university through this crisis?

If the answer is no (or their president has recently resigned or retired), they should be taking immediate action to secure the leadership that can save them.

Time, tradition, precedent not on colleges’ side

Higher education must quickly adapt to the remarkably different environment caused by the pandemic. One immediate change must be in how they handle the elongated presidential search process. Who and how they choose may be the most important decisions that boards can make in the near future. Time, tradition, and precedent are no longer on their side.

The tradition-driven, consensus-building presidential search process — usually undertaken over 12 to 15 months and involving in-person stakeholder consultation and interviews — no longer serves colleges and universities that cry out for new vision and strategy to adapt and survive as their financial and enrollment needs collapse around them.


This article a synopsis of “The Responsibility of Choosing a College President in Times of Crisis,” written by Brian C. Mitchell and published in the July-August 2020 issue of Trusteeship, the magazine of the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges. The article is available to subscribers on the AGB website. If you would like a copy, please email your request to Brian