Monday, May 09, 2011

Shashi Tharoor of Academia

No analogy is perfect, but this one is pretty close -- with over 175,000 Twitter followers, a university "leader" loses the confidence of the people he's supposed to be leading:

John Maeda, president of the Rhode Island School of Design, may be the only college president to publicly describe his leadership as "in beta," a product rolled out before it's fully tested.

He's tinkered with using social media to connect with constituents on and off campus. He's blogged, posted video messages on YouTube, and tweeted more than any other college president. (He has more than 175,000 Twitter followers.)

He even has a new book due out this month, called Redesigning Leadership (MIT Press), relating scenes from his three years at RISD and samples of his tweets. One example: "When people ask if I've stopped designing I say, 'No. I'm designing how to talk about/with/for our #RISD community.'"

But many professors at the art school do not appreciate being part of Mr. Maeda's high-tech experiment in leadership. In March, more than 80 percent of faculty members voted "no confidence" in his performance. To them, all that tweeting feels more like distraction than engagement.