Let the leaders take the lead

Judy Olian is the dean of UCLA's Anderson School of Management.

In the 21st century, corporate headquarters are generally shadows of their former selves. Having shed most functions to their operating units, they manage risk by holding unit heads accountable against measurable results. Because the UC system is made up of outstanding but vastly different campuses and national labs, one size does not fit all. Each of these "operating units" has terrific leaders who understand their unique market conditions and competitive pressures inside and out, and each should be given maximum flexibility to excel.

So, what role should be played by headquarters -- the University of California system? Focus leadership on the functions that require a single voice or the power of the whole, such as interactions with the Legislature and the Board of Regents, omnibus union negotiations, broad policies related to pensions and healthcare, central budget decisions, global branding of the university and ambitious research initiatives that leverage the intellectual power of the entire system (e.g., stem cell or nanotechnology programs).

Establish tangible performance metrics for each of the unit leaders and hold them accountable for results. Then leave these leaders free to manage. Unleash them to achieve unmatched achievements for our university and for our citizens. And, when in doubt, delegate even further.

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