The Dean’s Disease

I just read a really interesting article about “The Dean’s Disease” written by Arthur Boneian in the Academy of Management Learning and Education Journal.  Boneian brings 30 years of experience in his explanation of the affects of power in an academic environment.  “Dean’s Disease” is brought on by yes-sayers and power.  Deans can easily get lost in the power and also lose their identity because there are a lot of priviliges from interacting with CEOs and executives in the corporate world.  The Dean sees how they live and he wants it for himself.

There are three causes for “Dean’s Disease,” first is doppelgangers, second is strategic praise and third is the taste for power.  The doppelgangers are the yes-sayers who usually want something from the dean.  The doppelgangers are born from the Dean’s resource disbursement so the Dean becomes the target of flattery.  The doppelgangers are good at what they do, and all of the flattery goes to the Dean’s head and he begins to believe it and that is the second cause, strategic praise.  The Dean thinks he is the greatest and he has the best ideas because he is never questioned.  With great admiration and praise, comes material gifts and power and that is cause three, the taste for power.  The power is so addictive that the Dean will do morally objectionable things to keep it and even influence morally objectionable behaviors from his faculty and staff.  The power also causes the Dean to become arrogant and he stays away from those he deems “unworthy.”  The arrogant dean begins to doubt himself so he never hires the best or brightest staff because he does not want them to question or overshadow him.

A true Dean has to do the exact opposite.  The Dean is not the priority it is the students and the academic environment.  The Dean needs the best faculty that challenges him and his ideas.  The way they find these Dean’s looks tough though.  Boneian wants you to look at the applicants and their past history and analyze them for any imperfection.  The background check may be too extreme to handle.  Once the true Dean is found the University needs to implement “safeguards” to protect the Dean from himself.  They need to establish values and encourage independent thought.  Disagreement is therefore encouraged and desirable.

The best suggestion to stay on track as encouraging the Dean to continue to research his area of study and if they are able to, teach an undergraduate graduate class.  If the Dean taught every once and a while, he would not lose focus on the people who are really important, the students, faculty and employees.

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