Passing the Corporate Baton

William F. Lee is expected to continue trend toward a more open Harvard Corporation

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"When the chance came to serve on the Corporation, it was just a unique opportunity to really come full circle," Incoming Corporation Senior Fellow William F. Lee '72 said.

After teaching at the Law School, involvement in a “number of different alumni activities,” and eventually election to the Board of Overseers, Lee served on the search committee for the next University President and helped make the decision to approve Faust.

“That’s where Bob and I first got to work together a lot, because it was a Corporation-Overseer committee,” Lee says. “I got to know University governance, I got to know her [Faust], and when the chance came to serve on the Corporation, it was just a unique opportunity to really come full circle and to give back to a place that had really given me an opportunity.”

Like Reischauer, many Corporation members refer to Lee as “very thoughtful,’ and say that the appointment, like that of Reischauer, came as little surprise considering his numerous years of his service to Harvard. Lee’s background in law, which Corporation members say has proven instrumental to handling legal issues, was an added bonus.

“He’s been very good about a lot of the topics that we have to deal with which...in today’s world are increasingly legalistic,” Rothenberg says.

LESS SENIOR, MORE FELLOW

With six new spots on the Corporation, which were gradually added over three years and culminated in a 13-member body in the summer of 2013, Corporation members say that the enlargement has had little effect on the group’s dynamic or Lee’s upcoming role as what has in recent years been called “the first among equals.”

Described by Faust as “a very calm voice” that will “take on any problem with great thoughtfulness and judiciousness,” Reischauer, Corporation members say, carefully considered the process of coming together and reaching agreement on a set of practices rather than dictating any outcome, a style that Lee plans to reproduce.

He’s a low-key leader but a very effective one,” says Nannerl O. Keohane, a Corporation member since 2005 and Princeton professor who studies and teaches leadership. “He wants to make sure that issues are addressed [,] make sure that everyone is heard, and bring us to a resolution at an appropriate time. He doesn’t compose anything.”

Reischauer’s subtle leadership style fits the responsibilities required for the senior fellow of the Corporation, which is more collaborative than the title might indicate, according to other members.

“I don’t think of the senior fellow [of the Harvard Corporation] as much of a CEO or a powerful figure as you might in the corporate world,” Rothenberg says. “We generally use a retreat in the summer to set up the next year in terms of what our primary themes, topics, [and] focus will be, and it’s much different than what would be a corporate environment.”

Reischauer echoes that idea, saying that he primarily aimed to help Faust set priorities by tapping into the skills and experiences of the individual members.

“You have an extremely talented group of individuals who don’t need to be led,” Reischauer says.

An understanding of the Corporation’s cooperative nature allowed Reischauer to delegate duties to the subcommittees that formed as part of the reforms. Corporation members say that his ability to delegate has increased the group’s functional efficiency.

Keohane says that working through small-scale legal issues with six other people, as was their practice in the Corporation’s original configuration, was an inferior process to receiving recommendations from a subcommittee that has already reviewed a decision’s details, allowing the main body to strategize on a higher level.

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