Maryland Business School Dean Anand Anandalingam’s Secrets To Success: “Cats Can Be Herded”

Anand Anandalingam, University of Maryland

WashingtonExec “Secrets To Success” Series:

WashingtonExec reached out to area executives to gain insight and share local “secrets to success” stories.

Today’s advice is from Anand Anandalingam, Dean of the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business.

Anand Anandalingam:

I am completing my fourth year at the helm of the University of Maryland’s Smith School of Business, having spent most of my 25 year career as a faculty member and a consultant. I’ve learned a few things about managing in a complex organization which can be quite different from managing in a traditional corporate environment. Even so, there some secrets to success in higher ed that can translate across organizations.

What I’ve learned at business school …

Cats can be herded. I work with astonishingly intelligent people, each with their own areas of expertise and their own strong individual opinions. And we can’t just part ways when our opinions differ. Tenured and tenure-track faculty enjoy a measure of job security that isn’t available to most other knowledge workers. The phrase “herding cats” comes to mind! The good news is that anyone who works in an academic environment is here because he or she wants to make a difference to students. They want to matter, to have lives of meaning and significance. Use your organization’s diverse pool of opinions and talents to your advantage. Many differing perspectives can be united with a clear vision, common goals and a straightforward strategy for how to get there.

The power of persuasion is real. My main role is that of Persuader-in-Chief. Tenured faculty does not have to follow any strategy or tactic if they do not want to. I spend considerable amount of time creating consensus around a common set of goals, and I preach our strategic direction and vision constantly to give us a way to align our activities. Faculty can’t be driven, but they can be led. Inspiration is not enough when you lead capable professionals – you need to be able to walk around and persuade key leaders to get on board.

Carrots are good for you. I work hard to align incentives with our strategic goals. The academic world isn’t a place for a carrot-and-stick mentality—with us, it’s mostly carrots. None of the most influential people, whether they are team players or not, can be fired! One of the carrots is the promise that as educators and scholars, there is an opportunity to have a real impact on students’ lives. I also want the faculty and staff to understand how successful outcomes for our students will actually improve their individual personal brand. Offer your employees motivators that matters to them.

Don’t always act your age. Working with energetic young students is also a motivator to stay relevant.  Our students—Generation “C” for Connected—are much more involved in the world of social media than most of our faculty and staff. We have to harness their connections (and modern technology) to reach, inspire and motivate them. Likewise, harness the young talent within your organizations for their fresh perspectives and new ideas. You will be pleasantly surprised how the senior staff will respond.



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