Purpose – Why I do What I do

March 31, 2016 | Posted in Education, Faith, Leadership, Purpose | By

Each Tuesday afternoon we have a meeting in the International Affairs division at Dallas Baptist University. The purpose of this meeting is to Encourage, Inspire, Pour Into, and Enable our teams in their leadership and their individual purposes within our division. We call this meeting the Purpose & Leadership meeting. This past Tuesday, I shared with the group my personal convictions and beliefs about Purpose.


Reflecting on this past meeting, I also wanted to share with you “Why I do What I do”. I have always felt that in order to do something meaningful, you need to know the motivations or purpose beforehand. As an example for your leadership, I truly desire to share part of the “purpose” journey God has brought me on. I pray it is helpful for you who may be on this same journey now. There are three major areas (The Gospel, My Doctorate, Leading at the Christian University) that I would like to highlight for you in regards to the purpose and motivations behind “Why I do What I do”.

The Gospel

First and foremost, I have highly personally experienced the grace and love of God though our savior Jesus Christ. As a Christian, we refer to this as “The Gospel.” My life has been transformed as a response to the gospel of Jesus Christ, and I have in turn given my life to relentlessly follow Jesus. I see that following Jesus is much more than simply knowing in my mind that He died on the cross for my sins, regular church attendance, or a set of rules to follow. Following Jesus is living his teachings, following the promptings of the Holy Spirit, and waiting expectantly for his return. By living Jesus’s teaching, I have been led to an understanding of my purpose in life, as well as given a burden heart to serve others.

I believe that in the gospel of Jesus Christ, I have a purpose in an epic and cosmic plan. I believe this purpose is God revealing and reconciling all things to him, which is the greatest cause known to man. For these purposes, I have greater meaning and more fulfillment than anything I can ever hope to know or achieve on my own. I believe that each of us are called or purposed by God in this same plan, but that we need to follow Jesus before that can be made known to us. In a practical way, I see the purposes of Jesus penetrating all aspects of my life including my job, which I would refer to as a “calling.”

My Doctorate

Second, and through my doctoral program, I have encountered a strong understanding for how “purpose” contributes to organizational leadership. As an example Burns (1978)  describes this very well in the transformational leadership theory of inspirational motivation. I consider purpose to be a clear understanding for how one makes meaning out of their life, and how this meaning becomes valuable for a cause, for others, and for oneself. Once known, purpose acts as a guiding light and rocket fuel for one’s life or calling.

I believe that great leadership begins with a strong purpose in life (Craig & Snook, 2014; Joshi, Marzalek, Berkel & Hinshaw, 2013; Christensen, 2010; Pink, 2009; Frankl, 1958) and a strong alignment of that purpose to a timeless cause or vision (Kanter, 2011; Mourkogiannis, 2007; French, 2006). Furthermore, I find that exceptional leaders can enable others to pursue a timeless vision or cause by leading from a strong sense of purpose (Csikszentmihalyi, 2003; Brandt, 2003; Boyatzis, McKee & Goleman, 2002; Bartlett & Ghoshal, 1997; Burns, 1978), and it is the result of a strong purpose, and its alignment to timeless vision (or cause), that enables incredible impact on the organization and for those it serves (Kanter, 2011; Mourkogiannis, 2007; Collins & Porras, 1994).

Leading at the Christian University

Third, to help me remember what my purpose is, I have developed a purpose statement. I believe that my purpose in life is to “Model the example of Jesus Christ in a manner that is pleasing to the Lord for my family and circles of influence. I will consistently serve others by helping them to find their purpose, excel in their callings, and grow in their relationship with God.” 

This purpose statement embodies the Christian values that I hold most important, and is the way I make meaning of my life, bring value to others, and serve a greater cause. I believe that my purpose in life is best served at the Christian University. As I continue to study the concepts of Organizational Leadership, behavior and theory, I am learning to a greater extent how to successfully hire the right people, put them in the right place, and develop them to believe in and accomplish the purpose of Jesus at the Christian University.

I most identify with what Zigarelli (2012) called the interrelated missions or aims of the Christian University; which are to Train, Transform, and Transition students. By serving as a senior administrator, I am passionately motivated to lead the Christian University into the accomplish this mission. I believe that apart from Christ, higher education does not hold the transformational affect and powerful impact to the world and to the students it serves. In addition, I believe that the future landscape of higher education will change in the years to come. I desire to equip and lead the Christian University through perhaps what could be challenging days ahead. I am particularly interested in advancing the Christian University’s capabilities for administration, international development, and international student recruitment.

It is the gospel resulting from my experience with Jesus, which now gives me a burden heart to serve others. My purpose in life is grounded in the cause of Christ, which fuels my personal leadership philosophy and drives my life and calling. In these ways, I would not consider myself to be just a transformational leader at the Christian University, but a Christian educator who is called to be an “admissionary.” For me at the Christian University, the transformation we are working on does not encompass only efficiencies and effectiveness gained, degrees conferred or jobs attained, but in lives transformed, purposes found, callings excelled, and Jesus Christ made know to others through the work we do!

This is “Why I do What I do”.

– Grey Hoff, Jr.




Bartlett, C. A., and S. Ghoshal., (1997). Beyond Strategy, Structure, Systems to Purpose, Process, People: Reflections on a Voyage of Discovery. Monash Mt. Eliza Business Review 1, no. 1 (September 1997): 54–61.

Brandt, J. R. (May 01, 2003). Managing For A Higher Purpose. Industry Week/iw, 252,5.)

Boyatzis, R., McKee, A., & Goleman, D. (2002). Reawakening your passion for work. Harvard Business Review, 80(4), 86-94.

Burns JM. (1978). Leadership. New York, NY: Harper & Row.

Christensen, C. M. (2010). How will you measure your life? Harvard Business Review, 88(7), 46-51.

Craig N, S. S. (2014). From purpose to impact: Figure out your passion and put it to work. Harvard Business Review, 92(5), 104-11.

Collins, J.C., & Porras, J.L. (1994). Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies. New York, NY: HarperCollins.

Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2003). Good Business: Leadership, flow, and the making of meaning. New York, NY: Penguin Group.

Frankl, V. E. (1958). On logotherapy and existential analysis. Am J Psychoanal the American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 18(1), 28-37.

French, M. L. (2006). The alignment between personal meaning and organizational mission among music executives: A study of happiness, job satisfaction, and responsibility toward employees.

Hirsh, S. K., and Kummerow, J. M. (1998). Introduction to Type Organization: Individual Interpretive Guide (3rd ed.). Mountain View, CA: CPP, Inc.

Kanter, R. M. (2011). How great companies think differently. Harvard Business Review, 89, 11.)

Mourkogiannis, N.,. (2007). Purpose: The starting point of great leadership. LTL Leader to Leader, 2007(44), 26-32

Pink, D. H. (2009). Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us. New York, NY: Riverhead Books.

Zigarelli, M. (2012). Training, Transforming, and Transitioning: A Blueprint for the Christian University. Journal of Research on Christian Education, 21: 32-79, 2012.

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Great Leadership Works through Emotions

November 21, 2015 | Posted in Leadership | By

A very important element of my personal leadership philosophy is based upon the concepts of emotional intelligence. My understanding for emotional intelligence derives from the work of Daniel Goleman’s through his book Emotional Intelligence (1995) and also his joint work with Boyatzis & McKee on Primal Leadership (2004).

Emotional intelligence is the ability to recognize the emotions of others and yourself, and to use the understandings of these emotions to guide thinking and behavior (Goleman, Boyatzis & McKee, 2004; Goleman, 1995).

Great Leadership Works through Emotions

Goleman outlines that emotional intelligence is made up of five constructs:

  1. Self-Awareness – ability to known one’s emotions, strengths, weaknesses, drives, vales and goals and recognize their impact on others while using gut feelings to guide decisions.
  2. Self-regulation – controlling or redirecting one’s disruptive emotions and impulses and adapting to changing circumstances.
  3. Social Skill – managing relationships to move people in the desire direction.
  4. Empathy – considering other [people’s feelings especially when making decisions.
  5. Motivation – being drive to achieve for the sake of achievement.

Specifically, it is through employing emotional intelligence in my communications, vision casting, and trust building that I lead within and at my university. It can be a challenging task to clearly outline a vision in an inspirational and emotionally expressive way. However, emotional intelligence assists me in doing this in a very practical way.

I accomplish this through individual consideration (Burns, 1978), by personally taking the time to meet with our department’s leadership and staff regularly. These meetings are a leadership behavior that I have come to habitually conduct at my university. It is in these personal meetings, as well as in the regular departmental wide meetings, that I seek to incorporate emotional intelligence in an effective way to inspire others to also serve.

As I meet with staff regularly, my intention is to understand the emotional layout of the department (social skill and empathy), as well as communicate our team’s direction. I seek to understand my own emotions (self-awareness), as well as channel those emotions (self-regulation) to positively encourage each staff member (motivation) to lead transformation effectively. Without employing the concepts of emotional intelligence in these regular meetings, leading at my university would be an almost impossible task to accomplish.

I found have found that once you understand how important positive and encouraging emotions are for leadership, and furthermore how they contribute to employee motivation, your leadership style will change forever.

One of my favorite quotes on emotional intelligence, which encapsulates the transformational and tremendous power of emotional intelligence, comes from Goleman, where he explains:

“Great leaders move us. They ignite our passions and inspire the best in us. When we try to explain why they are so effective, we speak of strategy, vision, or powerful ideas … the reality is much more primal: Great leadership works through the emotions” (Goleman, Boyatzis, McKee, 2004, p.16).


Works Cited:

Burns JM. (1978). Leadership. New York, NY: Harper & Row.

Goleman, D., Boyatzis, R. E., & McKee, A. (2004). Primal leadership: Learning to lead with emotional intelligence. Boston, Mass: Harvard Business School Press.

Goleman, D. (1995). Emotional Intelligence: Why it can mater more than IQ. New York: Bantam.

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Reflections from Washington, D.C. Visit

May 31, 2015 | Posted in Education, Leadership, Professional Development | By

This past week I had the opportunity to spend one-week with our Doctor of Education cohort in our nation’s capital, Washington, D.C. This trip was truly a remarkable experience that encouraged me to grow in both my professional and spiritual understandings of leadership and public policy. Specifically, there were three experiences during this trip that I wanted to share:

American Council for Trustees and Alumni (ACTA)

On Thursday, May 28th I had a wonderful opportunity to visit the American Council for Trustees and Alumni (ACTA). The ACTA is an independent, non-profit organization committed to academic freedom, excellence, and accountability at American’s colleges and universities. Over the past 10 years, there have been a number of papers and research developing on the topic of higher education accreditation reform. It is my view that the ACTA has written two of the most influential papers on this topic: Can College Accreditation Live Up to It’s Promise? (2002) and Why Accreditation Doesn’t Work and What Policymakers Can Do About It (2007). In light of this research, the purpose of my visit to ACTA was to discuss higher education accreditation and to see how they consider accreditation reform will continue to develop in the future.

At the ACTA, I was able to visit with Dr. Michael B. Polikoff, Vice President of Policy. From my conversation with Dr. Polikoff, he outlined a few key points of why ACTA believes higher education accreditation needs to be actively reformed:

  • Higher education accreditation gives a facade of quality with its “stamp of approval”. When in fact, there are some accredited schools with abysmal graduation rates, sky-rotting debt for their students, and poor academic programming. Yet, just like Harvard, Pepperdine, or DBU, who all have wonderful programs, there are still poor schools which are accredited.
  • Higher education accreditors are considered to be the “gatekeeper” of federal financial aid funds for universities. Schools who are not accredited are not able to receive these funds for their students. This gives accreditors tremendous power to dictate what goes in terms of performance, programs, and requirements at these schools.
  • Higher education accreditors have a monopoly on their regions and their schools. This monopoly makes it very difficult or near impossible for universities to change to another (potentially better) accreditation agency. Schools are forced to follow the accreditation process for their accreditations with little or no question.
  • Higher education accreditors is stifling education innovation, prohibiting all together, or making it extremely difficult for universities to experiment with other education models such as competency based education.

Dr. Polikoff further discussed two primary recommendations that ACTA is advocating for in higher education accreditation reform:

  • Break the “gatekeeper” role that accreditors have for federal financial aid funds. The availability of Title IV funds should not be determined by accreditors, but by better measurable outcomes from the schools such as graduation rates, job placement rates, financial health measures, etc.
  • Create competition for higher education accreditors. Allow schools to shop for and select a higher education accreditor, regardless of their region. This will allow schools to create competition for accreditors, and voluntary select their accreditation agency.

In summary, Dr. Polikoff expressed that by severing the financial aid “gatekeeper” role, and creating competition for accreditors, only the agencies which stood for quality, real evidence for student learning, and required strong measures of financial health in schools, would be able to thrive. Furthermore, if institutions voluntary wanted to seek accreditation from agencies that are well respected for their standards, they could do that. However, Dr. Polikoff and ACTA believe that this should not be a requirement for schools to do in order to measure quality and receive financial aid funds.

Senate Chaplain Reverend Dr. Barry Black

On Friday morning, May 29th I visited the Office of the Reverend Dr. Barry Black. Dr. Black as the Chaplain of the United States Senate. As Chaplain, Dr. Black serves as a spiritual advisor and counselor to the members of the United States Senate and their families. This visit with Dr. Black was undoubtedly the most inspirational and encouraging meeting during our visit to Washington, D.C.

During our time, Dr. Black challenged us from the book of Daniel in the bible. In this book, Daniel underwent three years of traning from the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar. At the end of the training program, Daniel and three other Israelites were brought before the king to be tested. Nebuchadnezzar was so impressed with Daniel and these men, that he found them to be ten times more capable than any others who were trained in his kingdom. As a result, Daniel and these men received high positions serving in the royal court.

Dr. Black continued in saying that if we believe the bible to be the truth of God, and that the Holy Spirit has power over us and the world around us, then without the Holy Spirit we may be limiting ourselves in professional, emotional, and spiritual growth as leaders. Here in Daniel, with the help of the Holy Spirit, men were able to grow to become ten times greater than others around them. It is this challenge that Dr. Black brought before us, to grow ten times greater through our doctoral journey, in our careers, and in our serve to others! We have an untapped reserve in us to grow ten times greater!

Personal Time at the Library of Congress

On Friday afternoon, May 29th, after my time with Dr. Black, I was able to spend time reading and reflecting in the reading room of the Library of Congress (pictures below):

Library of Congress Lobby

pic 2

I spent about two hours with my computer, my journal, and the book For This I Was Born: Aligning Your Vision to God’s Cause by Pastor Brian Houston. There was specifically one section of this book that came alive to me in the Library of Congress reading room, and after hearing the encouraging words from Dr. Black to become ten times greater.

“Your life will unfold according to a certain pattern that is determined by your convictions (what you believe), your desires (what you want), and your affections (what you love). Those whose priorities are centered on Christ’s cause will see the rewards of their commitment emerging in their lives. When Jesus is your priority, he holds your life together” (Houston, 2008). He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. – Colossians 1:17

This private time I had the Library of Congress brought the Washington, D.C. trip to its apex. This time was a reminder to me of my purpose for this doctorial program and the work that I do in higher education. This trip, the visits with ACTA, and Dr. Black, as well as my personal time in the Library of Congress had a profoundly encouraging and inspirational affect on myself. I am truly blessed by The Lord for having to have seen and visited Washington, D.C. this past week.

I am lastly reminded of one my favorite quotes from our sixth President John Quincy Adams; “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader.” It is my sincerest desire to help others find their purpose, in order to “become more”, and positively affect their circles of influence. This is the lens that I look through as I personally aspire to grow as a leader. To me, leadership is about serving others, and I want to continually do exactly that.

God Bless,



Works Cited

American Council for Trustees and Alumni (2002). Can College Accreditation Live Up to It’s Promise? Council for Higher Education Accreditation Website. Retrieved from: http://www.chea.org/pdf/CanAccreditationFulfillPromise.pdf

American Council for Trustees and Alumni (2007). Why Accreditation Doesn’t Work. ACTA Website. Retrieved from: https://www.goacta.org/images/download/why_accreditation_doesnt_work.pdf

Houston, B., 2008. For This I was Born: Aligning Your Vision to God’s Cause. Nashville: Thomas Nelson

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Desirable Leadership Behavior for Higher Education

January 24, 2015 | Posted in Education, Leadership | By

Leadership is in a sense a pattern of thinking that is shown through a leader’s behavior. This past weekend I read a very interesting study about effective leadership behavior within higher education. I would like to share with you the important points from that study.

This quantitative study asserted that if certain leadership patterns or behaviors were present, this would lead to improvements in the subsequent processes, and in turn the quality of services provided by the higher education institution.


These desirable leadership patterns are known as Bryman’s proposal of desirable higher education leadership behaviors.

Desirable Leadership Behavior for Higher Education

  • A proactive approach to pursuing the university’s missions
  • An emphasis on a visionary approach that guides and provides focus for what the leader seeks to achieve for the institution
  • Being internally focused, and well connected in the institution, being seen and drawing inspiration from its participants
  • Being externally focused, having a good understanding for higher education, and networking with a variety of constituents and reinforcing within those constituencies the direction the university is taking
  • Having personal integrity
  • Introducing changes in a way that entails consultation with others
  • Importance of not sealing leaders off from the university at large
  • Importance of not undermining pre-existing organizational culture
  • Being flexible in approach to leadership
  • Entrepreneurial and risk-taking
  • Influencing the organizational culture and values to support change
  • Designing structures to support change

In addition, this study identified another set of undesirable leadership behaviors to avoid within higher education:

Undesirable Leadership Behavior for Higher Education

  • Failing to consult
  • Not respecting existing values
  • Actions that undermine collegiality
  • Not promoting the interests of those for whom the leader is responsible
  • Being uninvolved in the life of the department or institution
  • Undermining autonomy
  • Allowing the department or institution to drift

I pray this is a good encouragement for you higher education leaders out there. I will leave you with this excellent quote and bible verse;

The authority by which the Christian leader leads is not power but love, not force but example, not coercion but reasoned persuasion. Leaders have power, but power is safe only in the hands of those who humble themselves to serve.” – John Scott

But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant. – Matthew 20:26


Works Cited

Flumerfelt, S., & Banachowski, M. (July 12, 2011). Understanding leadership paradigms for improvement in higher education. Quality Assurance in Education, 19, 3, 224-247.

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What does Strategy have to do with Homebuilding?

November 10, 2014 | Posted in Leadership, Professional Development | By

In your mind, picture for a moment your perfect dream house. Imagine that you are able to build the perfect custom home of your dreams. Complete in every exact detail and way you would like. Think about how many rooms you would have. Would it be one-story or two-stories? Will your house have a circle driveway, a pool? Will it be made of redbrick, or stone? What will be special or unique about your dream home?


Ok, now that you have that picture perfect dream home in your mind. How do you go about making that home a reality? Well, I often think about building a dream home in a similar way that I conduct project planning and long-term strategy for my organization.

Strategy is defined as a high level plan to achieve one or more goals under conditions of uncertainty. I often equate my dream home to a desired state or positive outcome I am looking for in my organization.

Over the past few months, I have encountered multiple situations where I was discussing strategy or project planning at my organization, so I felt compelled to write a blog post using this “dream house” analogy (credit is also due to Mr. Trey Hudgens at DBU, without whom this wonderful analogy would not be possible):

5-Step Process to Building a Dream Home (aka Strategy):

  • It starts with a Vision – Picture your dream home! In the end, what is the desired state or goal you are looking for at your organization? It starts with a clear vision of the desired result that you are looking for at your organization. You can’t even begin to build your dream home, or begin working on a project or strategy until you first know what the end or vision will look like. To read more about Vision, check out the blog titled: Exceptional Leaders Know How to Share their Dreams
  • Draw up your Blueprint – Once you know what you would like for your dream house, or desired end goal at your organization, it’s time to start drawing up your blueprint plans. You would not dare begin building your house without first having a set of good blue prints. This goes the same way for executing a project or strategy for your organization; you simply can’t move forward without a plan.
  • Identify Resources – Specifically, think about who and what you will need to actually build your dream house. Using the dream house analogy, this means identifying your general contractor, your electrician, concrete works, framers, and so on. For your organization, this means taking time to identify the people (or stakeholders) who will be involved in the strategy, project, or task. Think about who needs to know about this plan, and spend time to include them early on in the planning process.
  • Stick to the Plan – A dream home does not come overnight. It takes time and usually a specific order of tasks that need to occur for the home to be properly built. Using the house analogy again, you first need to pour your concrete foundation, let that dry, put up your wooden frame, roofing, draw wall, and so on. For us guys, one thing is for certain, we will all have a 55” inch high definition plasma TV hanging on the wall of our living room, complete with a custom-made surround system. However, as cool as this TV will be, we would not dare try to hang it up until the walls are up, roof is completed, and the house is ready. Stick to the plan, identify the step-by-step process you need to successfully build your dream house, and do not get ahead of yourself!
  • Buy Insurance and Maintain the Home – Once you complete building your home, the first thing homeowners do is buy insurance. Incase of flood, fire, or other disaster, they want to be sure their house is protected. Furthermore, the homeowner will take great care to maintain their home to keep it in the best shape possible. The same way, a good strategy is maintained and reviewed periodically. Sometimes the environment around you, or within your organization will change. You will need to have a good sense of this to determine if you need to add on other elements to your strategy, or decide to start building a second lake-house. Strategy is continual, just like maintaining and protecting your dream home.

I hope this was a helpful reminder for you. God Bless in building your dream home! Also, remember Joshua 24:15 – For me and my household, we will serve the Lord.

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Leadership Lessons from Hillsong Church

February 9, 2014 | Posted in Faith, Leadership | By

This past week I traveled to Sydney, Australia to visit Hillsong Church and Hillsong International Leadership College. For those of you who are not familiar with Hillsong Church, they are a mega-church with 12 campuses throughout Australia and 13 international church locations throughout the world, with over 30,000 people attending service each week.

Out of Hillsong Church we have seen Hillsong Worship, Hillsong United, and most recently Hillsong Young & Free emerge as some of the most influential Christian worship bands today. If you would like to see more, take a moment to watch the video “Awake” from Hillsong Young & Free here (or click on the image below):

Hillsong Young & Free

Each year all Hillsong Church locations come together for Vision Sunday, which is a special time over three days to share the “vision” of what God is doing with Hillsong Church. The theme of this year’s vision Sunday was “Pioneer Again”. Hillsong Church continues to be committed to changing, moving forward, and keeping the pioneering spirit alive. They shared future plans for growing the church and are continuing to develop other global campuses. It truly is amazing to see what God is doing at Hillsong Church!

From my trip, I have been overwhelmed and greatly encouraged and wanted to share a few observations from my trip that have application for leadership:

1)    Relationships Matter – As you walk in the front door of each Hillsong location, you will notice the words “Welcome Home” over the entry way.

Hillsong calls themselves a “large church” with a “small community”, emphasizing relationships and family. Over and over again I heard that relationships matter at Hillsong Church. Well, they live this in each and every part of their Church and College. Walking into the various church and college locations at Hillsong, I felt a real sense of community and closeness.

As an organizational leader, I see the powerful importance for establishing and building an environment where relationships flourish and people feel welcome, comfortable and encouraged.

On a side note, one of the things I’ve learned about the Australia is that “sarcasm” is really seen as a “love language” here. If someone gives you a “hard time” in public it really communicates that they like you and have a friendship with you.

2)    Culture is Critical – Hillsong is not something you are taught, it’s something that is caught.

There is a strong sense of culture and identity at Hillsong. Just as relationships are important, having an empowering culture for a church, company, or organization is critical. Throughout the week I noticed how people “fall in love” with what is happening at Hillsong Church. There is a connection of culture to timeless value and vision which makes this place attractive, exciting and transformational for those who are there.

3)    Visionary Leadership – Senior Pastor Brian Houston communicates vision constantly to Hillsong Church and the Leadership College.

Having heard Senior Pastor Brian Houston multiple times this past week I noticed a few important trends. First, Jesus Christ is proclaimed and given glory in each and every sermon or speech he gives. Second, Pastor Brian speaks with powerful vision. Those that work closely alongside him describe Pastor Brian as a “visionary leader”.

Visionary leaders are uncommon, but they share many characteristics.  The qualities of visionary leaders include openness, imagination, persistence, and conviction.

I was told once that “Vision” is putting dreams into action. Vision enables followers to feel and see where they are going and actually visualize themselves as being there. Vision is a powerful motivator and enables people to grow, achieve and transform into great things!

4)    A Sense of Destiny and Purpose – What God has put in you is far too important to keep it inside and not use it.

I heard comments like this throughout this entire last week at Hillsong Church. As I continually study leadership and observe organizations where great things are happening, I keep seeing this idea of “purpose” and “meaning”. I do not believe this is coincidence, but rather it is a building block for God to build upon and use in us to do extraordinary things.

God has given us each a purpose in this life. We each have meaning and value while we are here on earth. As a student, working professional, family member, or friend, we each have so much talent, so many skills and unique abilities. Use them for a life of purpose and impact on others. Realize that God has a hope and a future for each of us!

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ATTENTION LEADER: Hiring is the Most Important Thing You Do

January 19, 2014 | Posted in Leadership | By

As a leader, you are only as influential and effective as the team that you have around you. Deciding who gets into your department, as well as what they do, and how far they go, is completely up to the leader. For the leader, hiring is the most important thing you will do!

This past weekend I spent 19 hours in the car driving from Dallas, Texas onto Pittsburgh, PA. During this time, I had a lot of time to think and reflect on this past week. One specific experience that came to mind was a great interview I had with a young DBU student named Bree. We were considering Bree for a part-time student worker position in our International Office.

Bree was well-spoken, warm-hearted, and energetic. Bree’s happy attitude and positive character was contagious. I left the interview feeling encouraged to finish the rest of my day. I remember thinking; this is the type of person I want to have on our international team.

As I drove through Memphis, Tennessee I remember thinking about how important it is for a leader to create a good team around them. I remember the words of Dr. Stephen Mansfield, President and CEO of Methodist Health System in Dallas, who said that as a leader, “You are the Keeper of the Culture”.

When you hire great people, and they get into the right place, wonderful things can happen. In contrast, when you do not hire great people, and you don’t get them into the right place, then disaster is possible. So, it’s important that you take time and care through the interview process.


Over the years, there are a couple of important items that I think about when making a hiring decision:

1)    Hire for Character first, Energy second and Competence third.

You may have heard this in different ways and possibly even in the reverse order. I have found that hiring for character first, energy level second and competency third is the best criteria to hire new team members. You can teach a smart, determined, energetic person anything. However, character traits such as honestly, trust, hard work, and empowerment are incredibly difficult to create in another person. It is best that your hires embody strong character traits first and have a strong, positive energy level second.

I am not saying that your hiring decisions should not be competent. In fact, I think the contrary, if you are hiring for your “A-team”, then each person should be extraordinarily competent. However, this should not be your first motivation.

2)    Will this person be a good fit for this position?

As we have discussed in previous blogs, a person’s skills/abilities, personality/behaviors and passions/desires really do come together in a unique way to form who a person is and ultimately points them totheir distinct purpose in life. During the interview process, it is up to you and the interviewee to determine if this position, department and company is a good fit.

As I get more and more experience in the hiring process, I have learned to use a variety of assessment tools such as the Myers-Briggs, DISC profile, Strength Finder and others to help answer the questions about a person’s character, energy and competencies. I have listed many of these assessments tools that I have used in our Finding Purpose section of this website.

With all of these assessments, as well as the interview questions I ask, I am looking to feel confident that this person might be a good fit for the position they are interviewing.

At the end of the day, this is where the “art of leadership” comes in. It’s about using your discernment, based upon the interview questions, assessments and “gut feeling” to make the best hiring decision possible. In the end, if you have a good team, you will see pretty quickly whether the person is a good fit or not.

3)    Will this person make your team better or worse?

This is great question to ask; does bringing this person onto your team make it better or worse? In order to answer this question, it is important to include your team members in the interview process.

During this time, have 1 or 2 of your “star” team members meet with the potential candidate. I suggest this take place at the second or last interview. Sit back and watch the interaction between the job candidate and your team members. Watch the interactions, the energy level, and the progression of conversation. You are looking to see if new ideas, positive conversations and chemistry forms with everyone.

This will not only insure you are potentially hiring a good candidate who will connect with your team, but also further encourages ownership from your current team with the new employee you are bringing on board.

4)    Will this person be encouraged to develop at a personal and professional level by this position?

Part of putting people in the right place is also about seeing to their personal development and professional growth. As you hire, you will want to be sure that your interviewee has the potential to grow and develop in a positive way based on their experience in your department or company.

Remember, in order to thrive at work, people need two things (1) a sense of learning or growing and (2) a feeling of being energized and vital about what they are doing. We all need to make sure our hires can thrive at work and have valuable tasks which will usually lead to opportunities for personal growth and professional development.

During the interview process, I will usually ask questions like “What do you see yourself doing in 10 years from now.” The purpose of this question is to (1) learn where the person sees themselves, and to make sure there is purpose in job they are interviewing for and (2) learn their personal vision and ideas for their future. When people have purpose in their job, or a set of activities that hold consistent value, as well as positive ideas for their future, they tend to be happier and perform to higher levels.

It is all about creating a great team. Great leaders build great teams of people who share the organization’s vision, see value and benefit in the work they do, and possess the energy to carry it out.

Remember, you are the keeper of the culture. So, make the culture great with hiring and developing great people!

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Let’s Do War, Together.

December 15, 2013 | Posted in Leadership | By

There is one particular scene from Mel Gibson’s 2002 movie, We Were Soldiers, that has an important truth for us as leaders, especially for those who lead or work alongside the millennial (those born between 1980-2005).

Mel Gibson plays Army Lt. Colonel Hal Moore, who commands the 7th Calvary during the Vietnam War. This particular unit was responsible for blitzing the enemy by transporting soldiers via helicopter right onto right onto the most dangerous front-line battlefields. The Army 7th Calvary was known for its aggressive and very dangerous strategies during the Vietnam War. This particular unit would be consistently led onto what could be called the “depths of hell” during the Vietnam War.

The following video is a powerful speech by Lt. Colonel Hal Moore right before they leave for Vietnam. Knowing full well that his troops would be landing under fire, and that casualties would be expected, Army Lt. Colonel Hal takes a unique approach to motivating and embodying trust for his men.

Take a moment to watch this video here: Lt. Colonel Hal Moore’s Speech (or click on the image below):


“I will be the first person to set foot on the field, and I will be the last to step off, and I will leave no one behind …”

Imagine as an employee that your leader embodied this value. “We are going to do this work together.” The “I’ve got your back” mentality displays the high levels of trust and admiration between the leader and the employee. In their book The Leadership Challenge, Kouzes and Posner describe this trait of leadership as “Modeling the Way”.

“Modeling the Way” establishes principles concerning the way people should be treated and the way goals should be pursued. They create standards of excellence and then set an example for others to follow.

Particularly for the millennial workforce, this approach to leadership resonates very strongly. From my years of working with and hiring the millennial generation, I have noticed they want to “do work together”. The millennial wants the relationship connection, they want to be mentored, and they value work that has variety, as well as opportunities for personal growth. Compensation, while important for the millennial, does not hold the same weight as it did for their parents.

Through relationships that “Model the Way”, we can “pull along” the millennial to develop professionally. Additionally, we can also come alongside the millennial to fill their needs for connecting and feeling valued. I have seen the results of this kind of leadership which has a profound effect on the millennial, as well as on their contribution to the organization. In fact, as a millennial myself, I can attest to the positive example that this type of leadership engenders.

As the millennial continues to enter the workforce, let’s embody an approach to leadership that “Models the Way”. Let’s come alongside our colleagues and say, “I’ve got your back, let’s do this together … And I will never leave you behind.”

In the words of Mel Gibson, “Let’s Do War, Together.”

(p.s. Thanks to Eric Bruntmyer who initially shared this story with me, it still has meaning all of these years later).

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Shoe Shopping and finding Purpose

November 17, 2013 | Posted in Purpose | By

What does shoe shopping have to do with finding purpose? Well, I’m glad you asked. Let’s start by picturing yourself in a large shoe store, very similar to the store shown below:


There are rows and rows of shoes with different colors, sizes, shapes and materials. As you peruse through the rows of shoes, you begin to see certain styles and colors that appeal to you. Selecting a few different shoe styles, you begin to try them on, one by one, to see which fits most comfortably. You begin asking yourself, which shoes look the best on you, and which shoes best fit the purpose and reason for their purchase?

Finding purpose, is a lot like shoe shopping.

As we described earlier in this site, Purpose is a deep rooted set of values in which you believe that what you are doing is worthwhile and will have a positive and beneficial impact on others and society. Purpose in Life is the foundation in which all else of a fulfilled life and impactful career is derived. People that have a greater sense of purpose in their lives, resulting from a heightened level of self-awareness, tend to perform to greater extents than their counterparts and are more fulfilled and happy in their lives. Purpose in Life begins from a very intimate, vulnerable understanding on one’s self, including one’s skills & abilities, personality & behavior, passions & desires, as well as a willing and prayerful heart for God’s direction.

From my years of working with college students and in higher education administration, I have found everyone’s process to find purpose is very different. However, I have noticed a particular trend that involves focusing on these areas: (1) skills & abilities, (2) personality & behavior, (3) passions & desires, (4) a willing and prayerful heart for God’s direction.

No one, apart from God, can find your own purpose in life. It is up to the individual to start their journey to see what skills & abilities, personality & behavior, passions & desires they have, and then begin to see what shoe fits. All we can do is take others to the shoe store, provide advice based on our own experiences, and point them in the right direction. The size, style and color is up to the wearer.

If you decide to take this journey, you will encounter some very hard and sometimes scary truths about yourself. However, it is in those moments of vulnerable self-awareness that you can understand what experiences (both good and bad) that have shaped you overtime. I encourage you to map out your skills & abilities, understand your personality & behavior, and cultivate your passions & desires — then bring this all back to God and ask Him what He wants you to do with it.

The bible tells us in 1 John 5:14-15 that if we have confidence to ask in His name and in His will, our Lord will answer us.

I encourage you to begin the journey to understand purpose, you need to start to mediate and “unpack” these areas about yourself.

It’s time to go shoe shopping!

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