Leadership Approach

Unity College leaders need access to information and personnel need access to decision-makers.  A flatter administrative structure allows day-to-day realities to better influence strategic decisions.  One-on-one relationships between students, faculty, and staff are central to the Unity College value proposition.  A more horizontal organization helps establish students at the heart of the community and keeps executive administration closer to that heart.  A flatter organization also makes sure that there are opportunities to develop leadership at all levels of the organization.

Unity College expects empowered and accountable leadership.  Functional leadership is an approach that leans heavily on a team of mutually invested senior leaders.  Rather than identifying a leader’s role by reporting lines, in a functional leadership model senior leaders are identified by their area(s) of primary functional responsibility.  The senior level team shares overall responsibility for meeting strategic institutional goals, establishing campus culture, managing risk, and—most importantly—stewarding the mission of the college.  

Within the senior leadership team, individuals serve as first among equals or chief officer in a given functional area of primary responsibility.  The language of “chief officer” is familiar in the role of “Chief Academic Officer” and “Chief Financial Officer.”  Chief officer is not a rank; it is a role.  The leadership team may have deans working with directors as first among equals.  Different rank, parallel role.  Chief of Staff serves as an extension of the office of the President and coordinates among the other chief officers.

A first among equals approach means being responsive to changing conditions; an individual’s capacity to serve will, at times, seem to stretch the boundaries of a strict job description in order to place project and need above reporting structure.  First among equals means shared successes and shared failures.  Celebrations are inclusive.  Challenges, vulnerabilities, and mistakes are treated with transparency.

To Serve

What does it mean to serve as Chief Officer at Unity College?

  • TO LEAD…  A Chief Officer serves as a member of the senior leadership team that functions as the President’s cabinet; to encourage others to aspire to the same; shares and advances the institutional vision of the President; and supports and communicates leadership strategies and decisions to the rest of campus.
  • TO PUT INSTITUTION FIRST…  A Chief Officer prioritizes success of students, institution, college leadership, and strategic priorities ahead of individual achievement or departmental initiatives; shares responsibility for all college successes and setbacks; and works collaboratively across departments and encourages and expects others in all departments and at all levels to do the same.
  • TO SERVE AS FIRST AMONG EQUALS…  A Chief Officer serves as first among equals for one or more functional areas of the college to manages assigned areas within functional area(s) of responsibility toward the strategic and tactical outcomes set by the President.
  • TO PROVIDE SOUND AND COMPLETE COUNSEL…  A Chief Officer freely and thoroughly shares information, insight, and perspective with the President and other Chief Officers.  A Chief Officer is quick to acknowledge his or her own professional failures, is slow to assign blame to others, and never compromises student success or institutional integrity for protection of individual, program, or legacy.
  • TO HONOR POLICY…  A Chief Officer follows college policy; works to establish institution and student centered policies and practices where none exist; works to change existing policies in favor of student and institutional success where they do not; and communicates with the President when functional responsibility, ethical obligation, or advancement of institutional mission recommends against compliance.
  • TO EXERCISE JUDGMENT…  A Chief Officer engages work and others with consistent consideration for institutional reputation, community impact, and legal and ethical obligation; speaks truth, keeps confidences, exercises discretion at all times, and is altogether trustworthy; accepts the trust of the Chief Officer position within the senior leadership team.
  • TO LIVE AS A MODEL…  A Chief Officer lives as an exemplar of personal comportment and cultural expectation; provides a model of professional ethics and business practice, inclusivity and celebration of difference, environmental responsibility and personal sustainability, and philanthropy.*
  • TO COMMUNICATE…  A Chief Officer alerts the President in advance should any personal or professional conflict arise that might preclude achievement of assigned goals, follow through on established plans, compliance with college policy and practice, support for a healthy and accepting campus culture, or conformity with the expectations of a Chief Officer of Unity College.

*The Chief Officers at Unity College interpret “exemplary philanthropy” to mean giving at least one percent of annual salary back to Unity College.
Endorsed by Consensus of the Chief Officers on January 29, 2016.