Leader, Beware of Failing to Give People a Voice

John Sexton, the president of New York University, is been aggressively expanding NYU at home and abroad.  Now the faculty of NYU’s largest school, Arts and Sciences, have scheduled a no-confidence vote on Sexton.  An article in yesterday’s New York Times entitled “A Test of Leadership at NYU,” described the no-confidence vote as coming about because dissident faculty felt Sexton was acting like a maverick CEO.  How did this happen?  It appears that Sexton’s mistake was failing to give faculty a voice in major decision-making and failing to address their legitimate concerns such as increased teaching loads that require travel abroad and the impact of the expansion on student-teacher ratios. “Voice” is one of the three elements in a Connection Culture (the others are Vision and Value).  When a leader fails to give people a voice in decisions that affect them, he or she runs the risk that some people will organize and seek to have the leader replaced.  This article describes that scenario.  Note in the article that one astute observer comments: “had more faculty been involved in the process…few if any professors [would be actively opposing Sexton].”

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4 thoughts on “Leader, Beware of Failing to Give People a Voice

  1. Interesting observations, thanks for sharing.

    Are there parallels with the brouhaha at Yahoo, with the new ceo not seeking input from internal and external stakeholders prior to making major change in talent policy, ending the capacity to work from home?

    In the 21st century, acting autocratically appears to be treacherous..and, if one believes that input can add value, perhaps there’s good reason for that…..

  2. James,

    Thanks for your comment. Although I’m aware of the change in working from home policy at Yahoo, I’m not sufficiently familiar with the context and process. What do you think? Are there good articles you’ve read about it that you recommend?


  3. I appreciated the example and reminder of voice. Voice was also one of the four enablers outlined by the UK’s Engage for Success movement to increase employee engagement.