Thursday, June 13, 2013

Three Envelopes

A number of years ago, Dallin Oaks told the following story (reprinted here):
I begin with a story I heard many years ago at the inauguration of a university president. It illustrates the importance of timing in university administration. One university president had come to the end of his period of service, and another was just beginning. As a gesture of goodwill, the wise outgoing president handed his young successor three sealed envelopes. "Hold these until you have the first crisis in your administration," he explained. "Then open the first one, and you will find some valuable advice."

It was a year before the new president had a crisis. When he opened the first envelope, he found a single sheet of paper on which were written the words "Blame the prior administration." He followed that advice and survived the crisis.

Two years later he faced another serious challenge to his leadership. He opened the second envelope and read: "Reorganize your administration." He did so, and the reorganization disarmed his critics and gave new impetus to his leadership.

Much later the now-seasoned president encountered his third major crisis. Eagerly he opened the last envelope, anticipating the advice that would provide the solution for his troubles. Again he found a single sheet of paper, but this time it read, "Prepare three envelopes." It was time for new leadership.
Elder Oaks, who had himself been a university president, recognizes the situation that university administrators find themselves in, and mentions the typical ways that they try to survive. (One does wonder about Elder Oaks telling this story about a year before the university president was changed at the university where he gave his talk.) But if after blaming others for your own failings does not work and shuffling the cabinet does not work, perhaps it is best for everyone for you to resign. After all, the problem just may be you.