A servant leader with a fresh vision for the future, Azusa Pacific University's President Paul W. Ferguson, Ph.D., DABT, spoke with Christianity Today about the opportunities and challenges of leading APU into a new era of Christ-centered academic excellence. The article entitled, “At Christian Institutions, Leaders Weigh the Cost of Progress,” focuses on four college presidents who have recently taken the helm and are striking the balance of ushering in change while building community.
The following are excerpts from the Christianity Today article by Betsy Abraham.
“Team confidence is directly rebuilt by early and extensive listening to all constituencies of the university to discern the most accurate understanding of what has transpired, as well as hearing the many ideas of talented people on how to fix the current problems,” Ferguson said. “Restoring hope and confidence throughout the institution is only achieved when the early, but necessary, rhetoric of renewed hope is affirmed with clear and timely evidence of improvement and becomes reality.”
Despite the challenges, coming to APU after a season of difficulty allows Ferguson the freedom to completely rebuild—reassessing the institution’s business practices, putting new leadership in place, and talking to stakeholders about how to evaluate and shape APU’s identity. In following God’s call, he said, he could use his organizational management skills in developing the university’s sense of mission, which will help it adapt to needed changes.
“This is a catalytic opportunity for our community to come together and build harmony, and it’s exciting,” Ferguson said. “There’s a tangible feeling of hope and sense of anticipation of what’s going to come out of this.”
While the trials facing APU might be different than the ones facing the private and public universities Ferguson has been affiliated with, his leadership style and reasoning remain unchanged.
“I’ve led people from a servant leader’s perspective—that’s always been my philosophy. I’m committed to serving the constituency I’ve been appointed to,” said Ferguson.
As new managers institute positive changes and build on vision, they must also take into careful consideration the counsel of other team members.
“You don’t want to come into a new organization and just change for the sake of newness,” Ferguson said. “Successful change management is a team effort that requires a focus on the role and impact of change, not just for change itself.”