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In search of the ideal president

(Photo: Mette Koors)

When writing the job description for the new president of CBS, we need to be aware of stereotypical assumptions and unnecessary requirements, says a leading expert on diversity and inclusion at CBS. Also, CBS WIRE asked eight groups of employees at CBS what they are looking for in a new president.

News |   31. May 2018

Anne Thora Lykkegaard


The Board of Directors have initiated the process of finding a new president for CBS, and a part of that process involves writing the job description.

In order to do so, the Board of Directors have been consulting eight groups of employees, which include the Academic Council, the General Consultation Committee, the Senior Management, the Head of Departments, the Administrative Head, the Program Directors, the Council for Diversity and Inclusion, and CBS Students, about their inputs for the job description. These inputs will be posted along with the job announcement right before the summer holidays. Check out their inputs a little further down the page.

The new president of CBS, is encouraged to have visionary thoughts on behalf of CBS

Jeppe Ask Tofteskov, CBS Students

But how is the Board of Directors going to ensure that as many qualified candidates apply for the position as possible?

We asked Jannick Friis Christensen, PhD Fellow at the Department of Organization, who specializes in diversity and inclusion, this question. He points out that during the process of writing the job description, it is important to be critically aware whether it is unconsciously written with an ‘ideal’ applicant in mind, and therefore unintentionally speaks to a specific type of applicant at the expense of other potentially relevant candidates.

“Instead of trying to make an ‘unbiased’ job announcement, the task is to become aware of stereotypical assumptions and unnecessary requirements that could slip into the description,” he says and continues:

“It’s about nuancing the picture of the ideal president so that more candidates can visualize themselves in the position.”

Stereotypical assumptions go both ways

According to Jannick Friis Christensen, one way of attracting a more diverse pool of candidates is to take away all of the unnecessary requirements from the job description. That is, the ones that may be desirable but are not strictly needed.

As an example, he mentions that the Board of Directors could consider whether it is necessary that the candidate holds a specific degree.

“If the requirement is that you hold a master’s degree, but there aren’t any special expectations as to whether it’s within economics, then it’s worth explicating so a person with a background in the humanities doesn’t disqualify herself on the basis of her own stereotypical assumptions of what a business school seeks. Stereotypical assumptions go both ways,” says Jannick Friis Christensen.

When it comes to putting the final job description together, Jannick Friis Christensen is glad to see that the Board of Directors is involving a diverse group of stakeholders at CBS, as “the students probably have different expectations for the coming president than the staff members.”

As a last thing, he encourages to spread out the job posting through various channels in order to get as diverse a group of candidates as possible.

“An idea could be, for instance, to contact a network of female leaders, and as an institution, tap potential applicants on the shoulder. If the job announcement is accompanied by a picture, it is a good idea to check if it reflects and represents the diversity at CBS and the diversity of the tasks the president has.”

Have your own visionary thoughts and spread the word about CBS

Jeppe Ask Tofteskov, President of CBS Students: “The new president of CBS, is encouraged to have visionary thoughts on behalf of CBS – within the given framework, of course. Also, the president needs to have a strong internal focus.

Furthermore, it is important to us, as students, that the coming president wants to keep CBS’ status as a university with a broad and diverse program portfolio.

In relation to the language requirements, [which have been suggested in the latest job description] deleting the demand for speaking a Scandinavian language fluently should be considered, as it precludes a lot of possible candidates.”

Ole Helmersen, Deputy Chairman of the General Consultation Committee (HSU): “It is important that the new president has the professional prerequisites for practicing academic leadership in relation to the professional environments at CBS.

Furthermore, the new president should be a strong communicator both in relation to external interests and in relation to CBS’ staff members and professional environments. This includes holding the ability to maintain a continuous narrative about CBS’ strategy and vision.” 

Alex Klinge, Equal Opportunities Officer, Council for Diversity and Inclusion:

To make all applicants’ qualifications as transparent and as comparable as possible, CDI proposes that all applicants should fill in six obligatory boxes in which they give an account of their:

  1. Leadership and management competences, including experience with working at a strategic level and experience with creating visonary results through the engagement of employees, students and other stakeholders.
  2. Leadership and management competences within diversity management and conflict resolution.
  3. skills to motivate and inspire through their communication
  4. experience in creating an attractive place of work characterized by good collaboration and a good work-life balance
  5. experience in establishing and maintaining political, international and business networks
  6. Other relevant competences

We have thus tried to focus the many qualifications requirements in the original draft such that we force all applicants to elaborate on the same set of qualifications, all of which are key to the position. If implemented, this proposal should result in focussed and comparable applications and should level the playing field across a diverse field of applicants.

Bent Meier Sørensen, Deputy Chairman of Academic Council:

As part of the Academic Council, of which I am currently the Vice Chair, I find it very important that our new President has leadership skills. In other words, that she/he is a person that functions extremely well with people, can work in teams, and engage with the entire organization. At the same time, the President has important external tasks, and must function well in business as well as in very demanding, political contexts.

It goes without saying, but still it’s important to stress that our new President must be a solid scholar who knows what it means to be part of faculty at a university. However, a great part of the job requires administrative skills that are above average. Another important aspect is that the new President must also be a strong leader for our technical and administrative staff.

While the task of being a President for a Danish university is a huge responsibility and implies a massive work load, the important issue, seen from the point of view of the Academic Council, is that the academic standing of the institution is protected and furthered. For this, the sole most important issue is one of believing in the important role the university holds in modern society and communicating this insight to: CBS employees, students, and national and international stakeholders. This will be the finest task of our new President.

Kirsten Winther Jørgensen, University Director: In an email, she writes that DIR has decided that it is the most appropriate only to share their input for the job description with the hiring committee.

Caroline de la Porte, Head of Departments: The heads of department find that, in addition to leadership experience in the university sector, of particularly importance is:

A High-level of international research experience in business and social sciences. Since CBS intends to be among the world’s leading business universities, an understanding of the research and education that CBS engages in is crucial. This enables the possibility of developing a strategy and vision which is highly relevant for CBS.

Ambition to develop a strategic vision for CBS; It is important to develop a vision for the future of CBS in order to maintain and improve the excellence of CBS internationally.

We find that, overall, the job description thus far emphasizes leadership, experience in working with ministries and politicians, and understanding and working with a complex organization, which is positive.

We have also asked two program directors and Tom Dahl-Østergaard for a comment on behalf of the program directors and the administrative heads, but they did not come back to us in time.


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