January 26, 2010 (reprinted from Greater Jackson Business magazine): Dr. Roger Parrott, President of Belhaven University in Jackson, recently released his first book, The Longview: Lasting Strategies For Rising Leaders (David C. Cook, 2009). In this exclusive Q&A with Greater Jackson Business Publisher Jack Criss, Dr. Parrott discusses the themes of his book as well as Belhaven's newly announced shift to university status.
GJB: What prompted you to write The Longview?
Parrott: I'm deeply concerned about the skewed expectations we've put on leaders, and how badly they have responded to this cultural shift. The problem in leadership is not that we don't have great leaders, in fact, we've probably never had more educationally well prepared leaders than we have today. The problem is that leaders are caught in an ever tightening vice grip of unrealistic expectations that pressure them into valuing turn-around over transformation.
Today's leaders are expected to find simple solutions to complex problems, and because these quick-fixes only hold for a short time, leaders from presidents to pastors disappoint those they are leading.
I believe this pattern started in American culture in the 1980s with the quest to get rich quick from junk bonds and buy outs, through the dot.coms in the 1990s, and the explosion of want it now credit card debt and built into the real-estate frenzy created by leveraged speculators in the past decide.
So leaders have been reared, tutored, and equipped to operate in a world that prizes immediate results over lasting significance. For three decades skyrocketing incentives have been the norm for all manner of short-term producers-from stockbrokers to college coaches-as leaders at every level have indoctrinated us to believe immediate gains trump long-term consequences.
This nearsightedness is eroding the foundational underpinnings of organizational quality and severely handicapping the effectiveness of leaders who are robbing the future to pay for today.
GJB: Is there a particular audience who are trying to reach? We've heard your book described as being directed solely toward Christian readers-is that an accurate statement or could leaders of other faiths learn from your work?
Parrott: It was written for up and coming leaders, but the response from well seasoned leaders has been equally as strong. For three reasons I'm convinced this rising leaders of today are ready to embrace Longview leadership:
1. Their generation has seen that the short view doesn't work. This is likely to be the first generation that has not had a quality of life better than their parents. And they know the reason is we are not dealing with Longview solutions in the macro problems of health care, terrorism, energy, and the economy. And they will be the ones to pay the price for patchwork fixes.
2. They are connected to huge networks of real people through social networking, and listen to them rather than public relations messages - and they know from their peers that sugarcoating a problem doesn't make it go away.
3. This new generation of leaders is much more focused on mission significance and problem solving than on organizational stature and position climbing. They want to make a difference in the world, and they are willing to dig into problems to find lasting solutions.
The challenge for younger leaders is that they have never been given the tools to lead in a Longview pattern. So I've been concerned about not just a call to Longview leadership, but mostly how do leaders deal with the everyday nitty-gritty issues of leadership from a Longview perspective.
As for the diversity of the audience, the book quotes the Bible and Harvard Business Review about equally. I've found that the best concepts of leadership do have a biblical base. Good to Great, by Jim Collins, was one of the most aggressive books I've ever read in promoting biblical concepts of leadership - that he discovered through his research. He just hadn't connected them back to the Bible, but they are there.
GJB: Without giving away the book's premise, what are the main components of what makes us lasting business and leadership strategies?
Parrott: Leaders need to be challenged to think very differently about leadership, so some of the section headings in my new book can be a bit jarring because we need to radically break free from conventional leadership models if we hope to return to a biblical pattern of leadership.
I'm suggesting to leaders ideas such as:
• Planning Will Drain The Life From Your Ministry
• Deflate Your Ego To Expand Your Influence
• Policies Are For Cowards
• Learn to Work with the Untouchables Of Leadership
• Understand the Diagnostic Triggers to Preempt Conflicts of Interest
• Treasure the Four Gifts Found in Your Rearview Mirror
• Learn to Shepherding A Vision Without Scaring Away The Flock
We live in a quick-fix, immediate-impact, short-view world. But we serve a Longview God. To bridge this gap, Jesus became the ultimate example of Longview leadership amid the clamor for expedient results. Of course His sights were always aimed toward eternity (the ultimate Longview), and He lived and thought in that realm.
But even in the practical everyday demands of leadership, Jesus showed us the value of investing in Longview solutions as we serve those in our care. And that's what I wanted to address in the book - how Jesus lived our Longview leadership in the practical challenges of everyday leadership.
GJB: Why the title, The Longview?
Parrott: A different way to lead is as much about an outlook and attitude as it is an objective or action. We need to view leadership in terms of what counts for the long term.
I suggest that leaders begin by leading as if you'll be there forever. Imagine that the organization and position you are in right now is what God wants you to do for the rest of your professional life. For many, it might be discouraging to truly feel locked in to your job. But contrary to the mantras of popular career gurus, this is one of the best things that could ever happen to you and your ministry, because to lead as if you must remain in that same position forever-and live with the long-term consequences of every decision-will shift your perspective, align your priorities, and build lasting strength in your organization, rather than allowing you to settle for the comfort and accolades of immediate results.
When a leader is thinking, living, and acting in terms of only the short-range, everyone around him suffers and may be handicapped for years to come because the decisions of today will narrow subsequent options and opportunities. The compounding weight of each shortsighted decision speeds the deterioration of the ministry's foundation, while a long-term perspective strengthens that substructure for a higher reach in the future. Whether new on the job, nearing retirement, or eyeing a climb up the career ladder, leading as if you'll be in your current position forever will revolutionize the way you lead.
GJB: Have you been pleased with the response to your book?
Parrott: As I've done interviews on radio all around the country, I've had a very positive response - in fact, a talk show host in Detroit told his audience the other day that every listener should buy this book and give it to their pastor. But I've had just has much positive back from people in business who know what they are doing in leadership is band-aid fixes, and they want to bring about genuine transformation instead.
GJB: As objectively as you can, please tell why your book is different from other similar leadership books on the market,
Parrott: I'm not sure I can be objective about something that is so part of my life. This is how I lead, and what has been our pattern at Belhaven University through my years here. So I'd turn to the reviewers for that evaluation of why it is different:
Now more than ever, leaders everywhere are realizing that short-term thinking doesn't work. The Longview by Dr. Roger Parrott is essential medicine for today's hurry-up, quick-fix lifestyle. This book makes the connection between long-term vision and lasting value. Read this book, read it again, and apply its message to your life. Ken Blanchard, coauthor of The One Minute Manager and Lead Like Jesus
Do we need another book on leadership? We do if it is as chock-full of wisdom, experience, and godly counsel as Roger Parrott's The Longview. This is a book I would love to see in the hands of every Christian leader, young or old, new or well-worn. It would be in the best interests of many a Christian organization to make sure their leaders have steeped themselves in its insights. Duane Litfin, president of Wheaton College
Staying power is success power. Roger Parrot reminds us of this vital leadership principle. In an age that confuses mobility with progress and fails to see the link between the temporary and the transitory, The Longview is a must read! Ed Young, pastor of Second Baptist Church in Houston, Texas
Leaders in the United States have needed to heed the message of this book for years. Roger Parrott explains how leaders can best serve their people and the organizations they lead. Leading others is like running a marathon, not a sprint, and Roger Parrott is a leadership marathoner par excellence! I highly recommend this book. D. Michael Lindsay, author of Faith in the Halls of Power
GJB: Finally, briefly discuss Belhaven's recent shift to that of university status? What does that mean to the campus and to you as President?
Parrott: The name change does not change who we are, or shift our mission, focus, or priorities. Rather, the change of our name to University more accurately describes who we have become. More specifically, the name university best identifies us because:
• Belhaven currently serves 3,000 students on four physical campuses, plus a fast growing online campus. We had the largest enrollment growth percentage of any private college this fall with an increase of 15.4%, and I anticipate we will grow to 3,500 to 4,000 students in the next three years.
• We attract students from 44 states and 20 countries. We offer 27 major areas of study, with a faculty to student ratio of 12:1. Eighty-five percent of our full-time our faculty have their terminal degree.
• Among those studying with us are 500 graduate students in six master programs, with a further expansion of the graduate offerings on the near horizon. While we do not currently offer doctoral programs, the name change prepares us to move to this level eventually (there are 52 southern schools named university that do not offer a doctorate.)
• Belhaven is academically structured around four schools - Business, Education, Arts and Sciences, and Fine Arts - as well as our Honors College. Many in Christian higher education consider Belhaven to be a leading school in the scholarship of worldview curriculum. Nine of our departments are engaged in ongoing discipline specific research.
• We have gained national distinction in the arts as one of only 30 schools accredited in all four of the arts - music, theatre, visual art, and dance - while most other schools working at that level are major state universities such as Ohio State, Florida, Cal State, and Southern Mississippi. We are the only Christian college in the U.S. offering a Bachelor of Fine Arts in creative writing and one of only 26 undergraduate institutions offering such a degree.
• For ten years Belhaven has been named to America's 100 Best College Buys. The Templeton Guide: Colleges That Encourage Character Development has recognized Belhaven for leadership in the field of student character development for spiritual growth programs. Our Business School was selected as one of the top Christian business colleges in the country by Business Reform Magazine, and received special recognition as an editor's pick for most biblical curriculum and focus.
This change of name is the next natural progression in the 117 year history. As I look back, this will be the tenth significant step in the development of the school:
1. Founded as a finishing school: Belhaven College for Young Ladies
2. Became a Presbyterian college
3. Moved to the current location
4. Admitted men and added athletics
5. Became purposeful about ethnic diversity
6. Added graduate programs and our Worldview curriculum
7. Established multiple campuses
8. Developed nationally recognized Arts programs and started football
9. Launched online degrees and international partnerships
10. Renamed Belhaven University
God's hand has been on this school through all the years. I'm thankful for those who have gone before us to create such a wonderful place for students to prepare for the Lord's best in their lives, and to become grounded in our motto: To Serve, Rather Than Be Served. To me, this name change is a fulfillment of that longview to bring about transformation in our students lives over all these years of serving in Mississippi.