2 min read

389: Leadership Lessons from the Military to Liberty University (LU): Dr. Dondi Costin's Journey

389: Leadership Lessons from the Military to Liberty University (LU): Dr. Dondi Costin's Journey

Join Al Lopus in conversation with Dr. Dondi Costin, the new president of Liberty University, as they discuss the vital aspects of assessing organizational culture, the power of visibility in building trust, and the three key functions of a CEO.


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In this episode:

  • Introduction to Dr. Dondi Costin:
    • Dr. Dondi Costin became the president of Liberty University in July 2023, bringing extensive leadership experience from his military and academic background. (03:04)
    • He prioritizes understanding and improving the organizational culture, emphasizing its profound impact on individuals' lives. (04:45)
  • Focus on Organizational Culture:
    • Dr. Costin swiftly initiated an Employee Engagement Survey with Best Christian Workplaces upon assuming his role, driven by the urgency highlighted by previous leadership experiences. (05:03)
    • Inspired by Al Lopus's book, "Road to Flourishing," he recognized the crucial role of culture in organizational effectiveness. (05:21)
    • The survey results identified areas for improvement, particularly in inspirational leadership and healthy communication, which became focal points for strategic interventions. (08:54)
  • Leadership Approach and Priorities:
    • He emphasizes intentional visibility and engagement with various university constituents, ensuring alignment with Liberty's mission of training champions for Christ. (13:00)
    • Three Key Functions of a CEO: Dr. Costin articulates his leadership functions as a "minder of the mission," "keeper of the culture," and "steward of the strategy." (14:46)
    • Acknowledging the vital role of frontline leaders, efforts are directed towards their development and alignment with organizational culture. (18:33)
  • Connecting Day-to-Day Responsibilities with Mission:
    • Dr. Costin underscores the importance of consistently communicating and reinforcing the university's mission and values. (21:02)
    • He highlights the significance of recognizing and appreciating the contributions of all staff members, regardless of their roles, to foster a culture of gratitude and motivation. (21:11)
  • Practical Steps for Leaders:
    • Regularly engaging with different university departments and functions to understand their contributions and challenges. (21:25)
    • Creating opportunities for leaders to connect with and listen to their teams, fostering trust and alignment with organizational goals. (22:00)
    • Encouraging leaders to reflect on overlooked functions and express gratitude for the diverse contributions within the organization. (22:40)
  • Similarities Between Universities and Military Organizations:
    • Dr. Costin draws parallels between the organizational structures of universities and military units. (28:11)
    • He highlights similarities in roles and functions, emphasizing the importance of various components like faculty/students in universities and fighter pilots in the Air Force. (28:41)
  • Preparation from Military Experience:
    • Dr. Costin reflects on his 30 years of military experience, particularly as a chaplain, which prepared him for leadership roles in universities. (29:33)
    • He emphasizes the importance of being visible, listening, and building bridges among different factions within an organization. (29:43)
  • Challenges and Engagement of Adjunct Faculty:
    • Results from an adjunct-faculty survey indicate a high sense of life-giving work among adjuncts. (31:11)
    • Dr. Costin discusses the challenges of engaging adjunct faculty, including maintaining communication and addressing compensation issues. (33:12)
  • Leadership Formation and Growth:
    • Dr. Costin shares his journey of leadership development, including experiences in high school, the Air Force Academy, and as a supervisor. (35:10)
    • He emphasizes the importance of mentorship, continuous learning, and taking care of both people and the mission in leadership roles. (38:12)
  • Reflections on Leadership and Continuous Improvement:
    • The conversation concludes with reflections on leadership development and the importance of continuous improvement. (39:59)
    • Dr. Costin expresses gratitude for resources like books and acknowledges the impact of leadership on organizational culture and mission advancement. (42:08)


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Email our host at al@workplaces.org

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