Dr. Roger Parrott is an author, and president of Belhaven University. Dr. Parrott’s history of service in missions (Lausanne) and education has equipped him to provide solid advice for both experienced and aspiring Christian leaders. We asked Dr. Parrott some questions about leadership, and have provided his valuable answers.
1. What do you think is the biggest challenge facing leaders today?
Stability. We are leading in a remarkably uncertain time, and what those we serve need a leader who is not pushed back and forth by the changing circumstances. When a leader is chasing after a variety of options without assurance of what might be effective, hoping the next one will bring a solution, the people around us become fearful and constrictive in their work. They don’t need a leader who has all the answers, but they do need one who has a firm hand on the rudder to set a clear course during this storm.
2. What is one characteristic that you believe every leader should possess?
Humility. Answers are not hard to find if you listen. Charisma is not hard to whip up with a bit of practice. Courage comes with the territory of leadership. But most leaders fail because they don’t have the humility to understand their role is to serve others, not to be their boss. When a leader is humble, they hire around them the best people, they trust the judgement of others which in-turns empowers others, and they are accepting of ideas from any source. If a leader has the humility to understand the privilege of serving, rather than wanting to be privileged for being the leader, then the entire ministry creates the energy that pushes the mission forward.
3. How do you deal with anxiety and stress?
I have learned to look back – and in doing so I lower my anxiety and stress when I look forward. The future is ominous—but then, the future is always ominous! When we look ahead at our challenges personally, organizationally, or globally, we say “yikes” because the unknown is overwhelming. But when we look behind, we see the route we’ve already traveled is much like the one ahead. And when we recount how we have overcome the unknown and unexpected challenges of the past, we can say “wow” because of how God has protected us.
4. What habit have you implemented that you feel has drastically altered your life?
Traveling much less. I believe we can do much more than we assume without getting on airplanes. The Christian leadership world has grown to equate productivity with meetings. While it is important to have meaningful relationship with those who are strategic in our ministry, I believe much more can be done by connecting in other meaningful ways. And it’s remarkable how much more time there is to take care of the things that matter most when the push to travel is minimized.
5. If you could encourage pastors and Christian leaders around the world, what would you say to them?
Do what God has called you to do, and what you’re gifted at doing. When you work within your passion, you’ll always find fulfillment and joy. But when position becomes more important than passion, what was once your first love will become a burden. If younger leaders can imagine long-term solutions to issues that are important to them, and then not take their eye off that goal, God will provide the path to getting there. It will be probably be a different route than the one you might select, but it will be the best way.
Dr. Roger Parrott has served fifteen years as President of Belhaven University. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Maryland in Higher Education Administration. Dr. Parrott is a third-generation College president, and was one of America’s youngest college presidents first elected at age 34. He serves on several boards, and was Chair of the 2004 Forum for World Evangelization hosted by the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization. Dr. Parrott is the author of The Longview: Lasting Strategies for Rising Leaders. His wife, MaryLou, earned her PhD in English. They have two home-schooled children. Dr. Parrott blogs at, “The President’s Reflections: “Worldview Matters“