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Leaders are not machines. They’re human beings and as such will lead more effectively, remain in leadership during their productive years, and probably live longer if they learn to love, listen, and laugh.

What and Who Should Leaders Love?

To accomplish goals and achieve greatness, leaders must love the vision of the organization. Leaders who aren’t passionately engaged with the vision can’t present it day in and day out with any degree of credibility. If they don’t love the vision they’ll sound fake, because they are.

Leaders must love personnel. I don’t mean something illicit, of course, but rather a genuine appreciation for those who work to fulfill the organization’s mission. Leaders who care more for prestige, perks, power, profit, or pensions than people may earn revenue but they won’t earn respect. Leaders who love personnel will more likely inspire them to contribute to mutual success. And leaders who put people first will always lead more effectively, and last longer doing it.

To What or Whom Should Leaders Listen?

Leaders who think they know it all eventually evidence otherwise. Usually, others know emperors have no clothes even if emperors do not.

But listening leaders are learning leaders. The fact that they listen demonstrates humility and opens them to new ideas. Learning leaders listen to what they read, they listen to the marketplace, they listen to advisors, they listen to personnel, they listen to clients or customers, and the public, they listen to their critics, they listen to their heart.

Why and When Should Leaders Laugh?

Laughter is a sign of a healthy soul. Leaders who do not laugh shouldn’t be trusted. The Scripture says “a cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones” (Proverbs 17:22), which is why I said leaders who laugh will live longer. Laughing relieves stress and improves leaders’ disposition, something followers watch and emulate.

Leaders should learn how laugh. Laughing at themselves and laughing with others is a great humanizing, bonding expression. It almost inexorably draws people to leaders, increases the esteem with which they’re regarded, and thus enhances their influence.

Leaders should learn when to laugh. The Scripture again gives us direction: “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn” (Romans 12:15). Leaders lead best when they laugh and cry with those they’ve asked to follow them on the journey. Nothing says you’re one of the team than actually being one of the team.

Leaders who love, listen, and laugh model traits that will enable them not simply to survive but to thrive. So too their organizations.


© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2010

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at or follow him at

Lazy language has become one of the “acceptable sins” in the Church. Christian people can be heard using the B-word, the S-word, and the A-word, along with a host of other crudities.


Years ago, men, especially around women, would attempt to mask such behavior with silly statements like, “Pardon my French.” I don’t hear that much anymore. Actually, it’s been years since I’ve heard anyone anywhere apologize for his or her language.


But I’ve heard Christians using what we used to call “bad language” on the golf course and at fancy dinners, from the podium no less. I’ve heard it on campus and in restaurants and coffee cafes. I’ve heard it in professional settings.


This is not a "go-to-heaven" issue. I'm not making that case. It is, though, a "testimony" issue and, I suggest, a "professional" one as well.


People say "You are what you eat," but the Scripture says "What goes into a man's mouth does not make him unclean, but what comes out of his mouth, that is what makes him unclean" (Matthew 15:11).


So why are we, Christians, using more bad words? Frankly I don't know, other than it's what Francis A. Schaeffer said years ago: "Christians catch their values like they catch measles." In other words, we just absorb cultural values and actions by osmosis right out of the air and don't apply any spiritual discernment to what we're doing. So we sound like our culture and don't know it.


Using morally acceptable language is also a leadership issue. Leaders who spew aren't going to inspire people to sacrifice to reach the next level, I don't care who they are. Leaders with tainted vocabularies may gain fear, but they will not gain respect.


Maybe the words on my bad-word-list aren't the same as yours, but bad words are not a mystery. Like pornography, you may not always be able to define them, but you recognize them when you see or hear them.


Sanitizing or sanctifying our vocabulary is a good, positive, immediate-impact way to craft for ourselves a better image, reputation, and ultimately legacy.


Read more in my essay at "Pardon My French."



© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2010

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at or follow him at

Sunday is a day for renewal, involving reverence, rest, recreation, reading, rumination, re-visioning, refreshment, and relationships.

Reverence means focusing upon the Lord who can rejuvenate our spirits. This preferably includes church attendance where we can worship in community. In any event, it means recognizing once again that all good and perfect gifts come from God.

Rest might include the renowned Sunday nap, but it might not. God rested on the 7th Day of Creation not because he was tired but because he wanted to enjoy what he had done. Rest allows us to review and reconsider, ponder and appreciate. Rest is part of restoration. Rest usually means a pause, but it might also mean activity like recreation.

Recreation is another form of re-creation, rebirth if you will, an opportunity to juice the spirit and the mind as well as the body. Recreation can make you tired, but it’s a good tired rather than a stressful one. Watching sports is OK, especially when enjoyed with others. But getting active is probably more important for most of us in the couch-potato-culture in which we live.

Reading is still the best way I know of to exercise the mind, and it is one way the Lord speaks to us through his Word, the Bible. Unlike watching television, a passive activity, reading is an “active activity.” It introduces new thoughts and experiences, even if vicariously, and it increases both our vocabulary and our facility in using that vocabulary.

Rumination is a fancy word for thinking. In the Scripture it says Mary the Mother of Jesus witnessed the events following his miraculous birth and “pondered them in her heart.” She thought about them. Most of us, certainly me, would do better if we ruminated more and talked less. Meditation on spiritual matters is also important, one with an honored and worthy tradition in the history of the Christian Church.

Re-visioning is an opportunity to take stock. Are we on the right track? Do we need to adjust our heading if not our destination? Is there some new, bold, proactive step we could take in our lives that takes advantage of the time, talent, and treasure God has given us? Should we take a calculated risk? Is it time to step up and step out?

Refreshment can involve the obvious, food, nothing wrong with that. Food can involve quantity, type, or quality. Maybe we need to “eat better” rather than more. Or refreshment might mean re-energizing the spirit or body via the activities we’ve mentioned. The key is to find something we can do or experience that is different, i.e. non-repetition, from what we typically do day by day.

Relationships speaks to the opportunity the weekend in general and Sunday in particular usually affords for reconnection with family and friends. We don’t often admit it, but even the most individualistic among us needs others. We need each other for support, iron sharpening iron, or simply camaraderie.

It’s not that any or all of these things cannot be accomplished any day of the week. It’s just that most of us are far too professionally engaged to pause long to reflect about anything. Without reflection there is no renewal. No better day for that than Sunday.


© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2010

 *This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at, or follow Dr. Rogers at


Early in my career I taught a course called “Christian Social and Political Responsibility.” It was fun. At least I thought so. Not sure about the students.

I thought the most fun, and coincidentally the most learning, took place when we defined terms used in political discourse. We did this knowing that public debates often produce more heat than light, in part because people talk past each other by using the same-word-different-meaning.

Here are a few words dealing with racial politics.

Diversity refers to the rich variety of human demographic attributes God created for our enjoyment and his glory, including race, gender, ethnicity, and physical make-up. At times I add socio-economic status. But I do not include sexual orientation, religion, or religious orientation, particularly if it might be construed that I believe an organization may not make hiring decisions based upon moral views regarding sexuality or religion as protected categories. I don’t have any problem including religion or even sexual orientation if we’re talking simply about respecting others different from ourselves in a free country.

Reconciliation is a word I use to describe the human need created by what a sociologist once called our “relational dilemma.” At the Fall in the Garden of Eden sin broke our relationship with God leaving a “hole” in our hearts. This brokenness characterizes the human race, the individual human being, and Creation. We may be reconciled to God through Christ’s sacrifice and finished work on the cross by virtue of God’s grace and forgiveness. Believers are God’s reconciling ambassadors in this broken world, carrying the message of reconciliation, and God will one day reconcile all of Creation to himself. Sometimes this word is applied to racial concerns as in racial reconciliation. If this means working to restore a right relationship vertically with God and horizontally with our fellow humanity, I support and promote it.

Antiracism might be the most problematic word in this list. I use it to refer to policies or approaches to race relations and racial understanding that identifies racist, which is to say prejudicial or discriminatory, ideas, attitudes, and actions and attempts to help or require people to grow beyond them. But this word is used by a variety of groups that proclaim there’s no such thing as race or that define virtually all opportunity or merit-based advancement in capitalist society as racist. I can’t embrace these usages of the word.

Social justice is an outcome of the Gospel evidenced in the lives of believers who attempt to apply Christian values in life and culture by loving their neighbors as themselves. Working toward social justice is a Christian responsibility, a necessary part of obedience to God. Examples include the biblical Good Samaritan and in more recent history England’s William Wilberforce. Social justice exists when human beings are eternally valued, protected in liberty, treated with dignity, given access to equal opportunity, and encouraged to live with moral accountability before God.

How we use words matter.


© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2010

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at, or follow Dr. Rogers at

I’ve been blessed and stressed with the privilege of leading in my life.

I consider my leadership experience to be a gift from God and I wouldn’t trade any part of it, even the most difficult times. One reason leadership is special to me is I believe I was (and still am in a different assignment) doing what the Lord wanted me to do, and another is that I learned a few things.

It sometimes bothers me when I read leadership books or articles written by people who’ve never led anything. It’s not that you can’t learn from them. Of course you can. On the other hand, experience counts for something in everything we do in life. My first experience in upper-level administration began in 1988 and in one assignment or another continues to this day.

Giving Good To Whom It Is Due In the fall of that first year I hung a Bible verse, written in calligraphy, on my office wall. It’s never left my wall to this day. I can see it now as I write. This verse is a reminder and a commitment:

“Withhold not good from them to whom it is due, when it is in the power of thine hand to do it” (Proverbs 3:27, KJV).

I have not always measured up, but I’ve tried to make this principle a key ingredient of my leadership philosophy. In that spirit, one of my favorite leadership tasks has always been handing out awards, especially at graduation. For years I told university audiences “Commencement is my favorite day of the year.” That day like no other expressed what we were about.

Celebrating faculty or staff book publications is another example. Recognizing authors in front of their peers with a gift of a matted, framed cover of their new book is big-time fun.

Ideas-That-Weren't-Mine I also enjoyed citing what I called “Ideas-That-Weren’t-Mine.” Certainly not every great idea came from me, even if as president I was usually the one who took the idea to the Board, personnel, students, constituency, or the public. Pointing to beautiful buildings or growing programs or successful projects and remembering aloud by name the person who birthed the idea was and is a great way to enjoy highpoints.

A leader’s satisfaction shouldn’t come from trying to be the most brilliant person in the organization. Leaders who try this usually bloom early and quickly wilt. No one can keep up with this and no one else wants to endure it. A leader’s satisfaction should come in helping develop an organization that attracts talented and dedicated people, one where they want to work, stay, and thrive.

Leaders In Demand Leaders are always faced with the question of demand. Everyone wants a piece of whoever wears the top hat. I tried to be visible on campus in as many places and as often as reasonable—the “managing by walking around” idea. Of course, others often defined reasonable differently. But a leader has to make these decisions in a way that stewards the entire organization, as well as his or her needs and family life, not just those of a given interest group. I liked to speak regularly in chapel so the student body remembered who I was and hopefully connected with me. I wrote regularly for the student newspaper, which I strongly supported and believe is a key ingredient in a healthy university.

Taking A Position I tried to avoid “university positions.” Issues come and go, but whatever they are, people usually want an organization, especially a Christian university, to “take a position.” At times I stated “my position,” but except for a few key moral questions, I tried to side-step making statements that purported to be the “university position.” Not every issue controversy—actually not very many issue controversies—require a “university position.” I told people the university had a stated mission, values, and doctrinal statement, beyond this, for the most part “positions” should be the province of the faculty, staff, and students.

Decision-Making Finally, as I reflect, I can’t identify very many decisions about which I can say, “I did that.” Obviously I made many operational decisions in the course of daily administration. But I’m talking about leadership style and the fact that the bigger or more significant the decision, the less likely the leader should make it alone. This was true for me, contrary to what people often thought. Think of it this way: “If you’re going to play your cards close to your chest, you’d better be good.” Why not take advantage of the talent and experience around you?

Once a decision was made, I announced it—and if necessary, took the hits. It’s the leader’s job to share the credit and absorb the blame, whether or not he or she deserves either at any given time.

Leadership is not about the leader. It’s about the mission and vision of the organization, the people who make this possible, and the contribution to the greater good an organization makes. Sounds lofty, but that’s what makes leadership, at least effective leadership, significant and fun.


© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2010

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at or follow him at


I hold graduate degrees in political science, so I began my academic career teaching government and politics courses. Later, when I became a university president, I told people “I don’t teach politics anymore, but I practice politics every day.”

Writing for Radio For over 16 years, I was privileged to write a daily radio program. Doing so was not my idea. It was our vice president for broadcasting’s idea, and his vision for what it could do proved correct. Nothing I did garnered more frequent and more positive response, or opened more doors for my day job as president, than the “Making a Difference” radio program.

Philosophy of Life My philosophy of life, something that for years I’ve called “Proactive Stewardship,” also helped me in leadership. Proactive stewardship may be an inelegant phrase, but it captures what I believe the Word of God teaches about leadership. It means that I should be forward-thinking, “pro” rather than “re”-active, and that I am accountable to God for the time, talent, and treasure he’s given me. So I tried to develop a leadership style characterized by a high degree of energy, a strong work ethic courtesy of my father’s and two grandfathers’ influence, a fairly quick work pace, a lot of ideas and “vision” (doesn’t always need to be your own; can embrace anyone’s good ideas and vision), and a hunger to do more and better for the Lord.

Organization Charts One of my favorite maxims regarding perennial debates about organizational structures is that “Any system will work and no system will work. It depends on the people in the system.” I’ve yet to find an organizational chart silver bullet that fixes everything. So, I’m pretty open to changes in the chart when it seems warranted, including titles, because such things are all means to an end: accomplishing the mission. But you also have to remember that titles mean something to people and changing a title can unsettle as well as reinforce personnel.

Developing Leaders I believe in developing leaders throughout the organization. Two corollaries: I believe in strong, which is to say proactive and effective, leadership at all levels, trustees, the president, vice presidents, deans and directors, and personnel. And the stronger the leaders at each link the stronger the chain. And I believe in accountable leadership, first to the Lord as I noted above and then to others.

Making Hard Decisions Making what I called “hard decisions,” those involving people’s job performance or continuance in the organization, are the most stressful any leader faces. The most difficult decisions are those involving the termination of an employee for cause or, even more difficult, a reduction in force required as part of an organizational budget adjustment.

My most challenging time in leadership occurred when the university experienced financial shortfalls and we were forced to make adjustments laying off several staff members. It hurt, relationally, emotionally, physically. It was one of those times in leadership when I had trustees speaking in one ear saying, “You’re doing the right thing,” or “We’re with you on this,” or the one I’ll never forget from a close trustee friend, “I’m walking right beside you in this.” At the same time in the other ear, some personnel, students, or members of the general public called my actions, even my character, into question.

I learned a great deal:

  • God’s love is “unfailing” as he promises in the Psalms,
  • Some friends are indeed fair-weather,
  • The media thrives on controversy not necessarily facts,
  • A leader must step up, lead, take the hits, and keep his or her eye on the goal,
  • “Laying off” is not the same as “firing,” but it feels the same to the person on the receiving end, which means that only later will this difference make a difference,
  • There’s no easy or pleasant way to inform people they’ve lost their job, and there’s certainly no easy or pleasant way to receive this information, but it can be done with dignity and professionalism, and it can be done appropriately in a Christian organization focusing upon its stewardship.

Since that time, I have tried to call or write leaders who’re experiencing difficult times, not to assess or take positions on their actions but to support them as individuals. They always respond with surprise and gratitude and I consider this a new kind of ministry that God has given to me.


© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2010

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at or follow him at