Book Rev 1837. How Higher-Ed Leaders Derail: A Survival Guide for Leaders. (2018). Patrick Sanaghan with Jillian Lohndorf. Denver, CO: Academic Impressions. 181 pp. $64.99 (Paperback) ISBN 9781948658027 https://www.academicimpressions.com/product/leadership-derailment-survival-guide

Review by Dr. DeAnna Jackson, Mentoring and Advising Center, Georgia Gwinnett College, [email protected]

In How Higher-Ed Leaders Derail: A Survival Guide for Leaders, Dr. Patrick Sanaghan provides a succinct and easy to read handbook about leadership inside higher education. He begins the book by asserting that across industry sectors, approximately 50% of all leaders fail. He refers to this as the “derailment” of the leader (Sanaghan, 2018, pp.9-11). Sanaghan (2018) describes leaders in higher education as particularly vulnerable to derailment because they work in a culture that is hierarchical in nature, built on formal processes, and often times risk averse (p.2). He draws the reader into the pages of the book by describing a universal scenario in which leaders are often promoted through credentialing. The process of credentialing places emphasis on a person’s ability to do one thing very well. A rising star who excels in teaching, research, or management in higher education may not succeed once promoted to the executive level. The author makes the point that as a leader moves into a more complex, political environment they often feel ill equipped. Sanaghan (2018) describes specific steps to avoid derailment of the leader. These steps include engaging in a 360-degree feedback process, conducting a leadership audit, cultivating confidants, building in introspection, broadening the professional portfolio, and hiring an executive coach (Sanaghan 2018, pp. 22-29). This book’s intended audience is middle and executive management. However, any advisor interested in leadership and management techniques will find this book interesting. Advisors and supervisors can learn useful leadership tips and skills while also developing an understanding of the complexities of leading in the executive ranks; especially across departments, schools, and teams. Four leadership dynamics are covered extensively in the book including: derailment, seduction of the leader, arrogant leadership, and micromanagement (Sanaghan, 2018, pp. 9-158).

How Higher-Ed Leaders Derail: A Survival Guide for Leaders (Sanaghan, 2018), is easy to read and kept my attention. It is packed with useful tips and provides an interesting glimpse into the role and challenges of executive leadership. I related to the topics easily and felt that the tips and practices suggested by the author, could work for anyone. My favorite chapter is the one titled Micromanagement – Is it Incurable. In this chapter the reader finds out in truthful detail what a micromanager looks like, the negative impact of micromanagers, advice for dealing with a micromanaging boss, and advice if you think you may be a micromanager (Sanaghan, 2018, pp. 89-114). If you have ever known or worked for a micromanager, this is truly fascinating reading. This chapter combines psychological insight with a management guide, and is packed with good information. Sanaghan (2018) in this book does an excellent job of describing how derailing of the leader can occur. This knowledge can only be learned from the experience that an insider or executive coach in higher education can provide. The book opened my eyes to the complexities of leadership in higher education and increased my empathy for the challenges that leaders face across a very political and difficult higher education sector.


Sanaghan, Patrick. (2018). How Higher-Ed Leaders Derail: A Survival Guide for Leaders. (2018). Denver, CO: Academic Impressions


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