Baylor University president Robert Sloan has been vilified by some members of his faculty and a few of the university's regents, and he has had to face increasingly fierce organized opposition. But according to two professors at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, he shouldn't take it personally.

In their book, Leadership on the Line (Harvard Business School Press, 2002), Ronald A. Heifetz and Marty Linsky focus on the dangers leaders face when they guide an organization through "adaptive change." Adaptive change is the kind of change that cannot be met merely by the authorities within an organization or by people simply doing what they already know how to do—only doing it more or better or faster or with greater resources. Many challenges in organizational life require more-better-faster technical adjustments. But adaptive change requires a willingness to experiment and changes in values, attitudes, and behaviors.

Top-tier research universities are unlike small liberal arts colleges in fundamental ways. And intentionally Christian faculty members are different from those who do not try to integrate faith and learning or have no faith at all. Making the transitions to top-tier status and to a Christian approach to learning require fundamental attitudinal and value changes.

Heifetz and Linsky want leaders to understand that it is dangerous to guide an institution through such fundamental and pervasive change. This is so because, at the beginning, people can see far more clearly the losses they are likely to sustain than the gains that the institution will make. People who resist such change are not necessarily bad people. They prize the status quo for good reasons, write Heifetz and Linsky. It is not usually just a ...

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