In today’s episode, host John Laurito talks with the President of Southeastern University, Dr. Kent Ingle, as they dive deeply into leadership. They talk about Dr. Kent’s journey of leadership from ministry to the academe. He also shares his four-step system of leadership and how it has worked for the university throughout the years.
Dr. Kent Ingle serves as the president of Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida. Dr. Ingle has a heart for students. He is passionate about educating and preparing students for Christ-centered leadership and service.
Since Dr. Ingle became the university’s fifteenth president in 2011, the university has seen significant growth. In the fall of 2014, SEU launched the first season of Fire football in its newly completed state-of-the-art football stadium. The College of Natural & Health Sciences Building, featuring a state-of-the-art nursing simulation lab, opened in 2015. In 2016 the Student Activities Center was expanded, and a 120,000-square-foot Live/Learn Facility was opened. Additionally, a 32,000-square-foot Welcome Center and an eight-lane NCAA track and field facility are also in the works.
Under Dr. Ingle’s leadership, the university has grown from 2,546 students in 2011 to a current enrollment of more than 8,700 students, with over 112 extension sites and six regional campuses. Before coming to SEU, Dr. Ingle held leadership positions in higher education, pastoral ministry, and the nonprofit sector. He is an expert in leading turnaround organizations and led teams through transformational change in Los Angeles, Chicago, and Seattle.
Dr. Ingle is a founding member of the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration. He also currently serves on the Global Leadership Council for Pray.com, a social network for faith organizations and nonprofits. A frequent guest on Fox & Friends, CBSN, and CNN, Dr. Ingle is the author of several works on leadership theory and commentary on the issues relating to higher education.
Earlier in his career, Dr. Ingle spent 10 years as a television sports anchor for NBC and CBS. He covered many professional sports teams and interviewed several notable athletes, including Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Pete Rose, Muhammad Ali, and Carl Lewis.
Learn more about Dr, Kent:
[1:45] What’s Kent’s background?
[5:17] What took him to his next chapter?
[8:19] What was the difference between ministry leadership and academia?
[9:32] When leaders struggle to adapt to the change
[11:40] How does he find the balance between going into the unknown and being confident in leading?
[15:06] Auditing the context
[15:30] Clarifying the goal
[17:05] Aligning the vision
[19:46] Framework Leadership podcast
[20:29] Where to find Dr. Kent
John Over the last two decades, I’ve been on an insatiable quest to learn everything I can about leadership. What makes the best leaders so good? After running companies small and large over the last 20 years, today I speak on stages all across the world to audiences who are interested in that same question. My name is John Laurito. I’m your host, and I invite you to join me on this journey as we explore this very topic and what makes the best leader so good. Welcome to tomorrow’s leader.
John Hey, they’re tomorrow’s leaders. So today’s guest is Dr. Kent Ingle, president of Southeastern University. Author, podcaster, really successful leader, interesting guy. What a voice this guy has. And you’ll understand why he was gifted with this voice. He put it to some good use and you’ll hear why in the in the conversation. But we had a really great, authentic conversation around leadership and ways that leaders can adapt to situations and challenges and how they can kind of carve the right path in their life and in influencing and leading other people. Lots of really, really great takeaways and some cool stories here. So I think you’re going to enjoy this one. This is Dr. Kent Ingle. All right. Tomorrow’s leaders, welcome to this show. I am here with another great guest, as you heard. I’m here with Dr. Kent Ingle, who is the president of Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida. He is also a author of several books and a successful podcast host podcast called Framework Leadership. Kent, welcome to the show.
Dr. Kent Ingle Hey, it’s great to be with you, John. Look forward to our conversation.
John Yeah, absolutely. Likewise. And you have such a really interesting background and I’m always interested in people’s journeys and how they got to where they are. I know you started in a much different place than you are now. So take take the audience through that. Where did you start? How did you get to what you’re doing right now?
Dr. Kent Ingle Yeah, well, I go back to my high school days. When I graduated high school in Bakersfield, California, I had no idea what I wanted to do in life. I did have several passions that you know, and I was taught early on, had a great mentor in high school who said, if you follow your passion, if you if you understand and you’re self-aware of gifts, talents and and start pursuing that, then opportunity will open up. And that’s exactly what happened. So when I graduated high school, didn’t know what I wanted to go into per se, or even what college I wanted to attend. So I thought the best thing is to start pursuing passion. I loved communication and I loved working with people. And so I went to the local community college and started taking classes. I took two classes that were of great interest to me.
Dr. Kent Ingle One was broadcast writing and another one was broadcast speaking. And because those are those are passions. I love that. I’ve always been a big sports fan. And and and so what was so wonderful is the professor happened to be the news director at the local NBC station there in Bakersfield. So I got a chance to get to know him and he could start seeing my work. And he approached me one day and he said, Hey, I like what I see. I like your enthusiasm and your your love for for broadcasting. And he said, How would you like to come down the station and start working as an intern? I did have to think very hard for that one, and I said, Sure, let’s do it. So I went down. He said, What would you like to learn? And I said, Well, I love sports, so if you could help me with that. And so he assigned me to the television sports anchor. If you know anything about the broadcast industry, it’s market size. And Bakersfield was about a market of to 75. I mean, you got New York number one, L.A. to so forth but this to seven.
Dr. Kent Ingle So in a market that size, you’re going to learn everything. And that anchor taught me how to write, how to produce a show, how to interview. I mean, I learned it all and and he got a job about four months into that internship when he left. You know, I’m I’m just 18 years old at but 18 year olds, you know, they think they got a lot going, you know. And I went into that news director and I said, hey, I think I can do this job. Would you give me a chance? And and he said, Well, can I know who you are? And I’ve had you in class. You know what? He smiled. He goes, I tell you what, I’ll give you an opportunity to produce a show right on the set. We’ll see. So I did produce the show. He hired me on the spot and I started anchoring sports at the local NBC station at the age of 18 and continued in that career for ten years, finally ending up in Los Angeles at the number two market, you know, covering all those great sports teams, the Lakers, the Dodgers, the Kings, all of that. And it was just an incredible journey and it fulfilled, you know, passion, deep passion of mine. And that’s that’s one thing I’ve learned in leadership. You want to be passionate about what you do because that makes all the difference in the way that you lead, encourage and empower people. So I love that career.
John That’s amazing. That’s like the the dream job and what a cool way to get into that at such a young age. It’s unbelievable.
Dr. Kent Ingle Yeah.
John So so you were there an opportunity? You were in L.A.? I know you. I read your your background and all the incredible athletes that the icons are that you’ve gotten a chance to meet and talk to from Michael Jordan to Pete Rose and everybody in between. What so how what took you from the. That into your next chapter?
Dr. Kent Ingle Well, I always believe there are catalytic events in your life, things that happen, that begin to change your focus or, you know, give you a new sense of passion. And that’s why it’s so important for self-awareness that you’re always aware of. You know, right now, what are your gift sets, your skills, your passion, those things. Because if you follow that, it begins to lead you to opportunities, especially career opportunities. And through a catalytic event that took place, a personal events that took place in my life, I felt this leading and calling to go into ministry leadership and and again I love working with people loved always was involved in the local church that I attended and serving and so forth. So I just felt this, this, you know, calling, if you will, to to go into that area. So put together a team.
Dr. Kent Ingle And we went into a northwest Los Angeles community and literally started a brand new church, planted a church, a church that would really meet the issues, the needs, the values of that particular local community. And for the next ten years, I had the privilege to be the lead pastor at this church in northwest Los Angeles. And again, another whole unique journey, but something that that I was deeply passionate about. One of the things one of my favorite writers. His name is Frederick Bergner. And he he wrote this. And I’ve always applied this to my life. He said, The place where you’re called is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet and and everything that I’ve ever done in my life, whether it’s now as a university president, I always have this deep gladness that I can connect with the need or issues or the people that I have the privilege to serve to make an impact. And it just it’s an incredible thing. So for the next ten years, did that in ministry leadership. And then following that was called by the university asking if I would come and serve as an academic dean at their university and be a dean of the College of Theology and Ministry. Again, a lot of the things that I was able to do as a lead pastor, they wanted to develop that in a curricular way at Northwestern University in Seattle, Washington, and for the next six years was started. My career in education.
John That’s amazing. Yeah. I want to talk about leadership as it pertains and adaptability as it pertains to get into different unique situations, going from ministry leadership to education and academia. What what were the biggest differences? I mean, what did you realize was needed in one versus the other?
Dr. Kent Ingle Yeah, well, well, they’re unique, but they both accomplish the same thing. It’s all about how to shape a person’s life shape in a way that will produce good, that will produce health, that will produce opportunity, whether that was in the local church, helping people with, you know, spiritual formation or holistic growth and health in their life. It’s the same on an educational level. You’re you’re helping them kind of focus on what is going to help them to be a good steward in what they believe they’re called in. So if they want to go into the business world, you want to be the best business person you can be. And so to do that, you’re going to need education. You’re going to need to learn, you’re going to need to grow and adapt. And so in in all those those context, you have that common thread, even though they may focus on different aspects of providing what you need in your life to accomplish your purpose or to accomplish your mission.
John Hmm. What do you when you think about leaders that sometimes struggle with adapting to change and different circumstances, what are some of the what’s the advice you give to those types of leaders? And you got some that are listening that are really tuned into this topic.
Dr. Kent Ingle Sure. I think the most important thing is to always approach your own personal life through self-awareness, self-management, and also the opportunities that come your way, whether it’s an official leadership role, or you just have the privilege to get involved in something where you serve and and you work with people. It’s all about a mindset of growth, a mindset of health, a mindset of how do I lead this, how do I lead myself, and how do I lead an organization in a way that’s going to make an impact, that’s going to be transformational, that’s going to be something that helps in a context or helps a people group, whatever that might be.
Dr. Kent Ingle It’s like we tell all of our students here, don’t lose the perspective that the bottom line, you’re getting education so you can become a solution to an issue, to a problem, to a people group. And if you approach your life in that way that I want to be a good steward and I want to be able to be growing and healthy. In fact, something I say when I when I have a chance to talk to a lot of leaders, a question that leaders should always ask themselves, how do I build a map to a place that I’ve never been before? Because if you’re going to lead an organization, if you’re going to lead people, if you’re going to even lead yourself, you’re going to be going places that you’ve never been. So you have to develop a mindset that I’m building a roadmap. This is a journey to get to destinations where I will be effective in making a difference in that situation, where I can be a solution to the issue or to the challenge or to the people group.
John Which is really tough because, you know, and I agree 100% that that mindset of growth means stepping into new opportunities, doing things that are uncomfortable because you haven’t done it before, you haven’t had success in it before. So when you say building that map through a place that you haven’t been before, you know, that’s scary. There’s a lot of unknowns there and I think a lot of leaders struggle with that. Hey, I feel like the only way I can be a really great leaders have a lot of confidence around knowing where I’m taking people. And so maybe you could speak to that. Like, how do you balance, you know?
Dr. Kent Ingle So what I do is I use a system, we call it, and it’s what my podcast is about framework leadership. I, I use a framework and, and basically a framework is what gives the leader somewhat of a map of the unknown. It provides a structure, it provides a rationale, it provides a method for moving an organization forward. And I have just four simple steps that I use in this framing process. And I’ve used this in every context that I’ve had the privilege to lead and serve, even in sports television. I started doing things even in our in my my little sports cast that would air, you know, at six and 11 at night that a lot of others didn’t do. But what I did was I used a framing process to learn, to discover so I could develop and I could create and I could design and I could bring solutions.
Dr. Kent Ingle So it’s just simply four steps. And the first step is that in every circumstance and situation, I come in and listen. I try to listen to everyone involved in the organization, everyone involved. And there’s something about in fact, I think it’s Jim Collins in his book, Good to Great. And I love this principle. He said, you can never know the the potential of an organization until you know the potential of the people. So if you take time in the unknown as you start to build the map, get to know the people, get to know what their gifts are, their talents, what are they passionate about? That’s what will set an organization apart. By the way, the people that serve that organization will make that organization unique. So I remember coming to Southeastern, we we inherited a university that had two years without a president. Any time you go, an organization has no leadership for that long, you’re going to suffer. They had gone into major decline, lost several hundred students, and that translated to a lot of financial income and so forth. So we had to begin leading change pretty quickly.
Dr. Kent Ingle And I remember the first thing I did was to create and empower the largest listening groups the university had ever had ever accomplished. And we had constituency groups from all over, from students to faculty to staff to donors to community leaders. And we asked and we used the Appreciative Inquiry approach, which is I love that approach. A lot of people, a lot of leaders want to start with what’s wrong with an organization, know the best way is what’s right with it. If you could dream, if you could appreciate or dream, what would this organization look like five years, ten, ten years down the road? If you could change it, what would that be? There’s something about that that a lot unlocks the imagination, unlocks, you know, the drive in people. And and you’ll discover that people have these amazing visions for what could be. And you can start developing that. And by listening, we started to formulate the map that would help us to start producing growth. So that’s the first thing.
Dr. Kent Ingle The second thing is simply auditing the context and basically what that is, you can’t really effectively lead without a thorough understanding of what’s going on in your culture, in your context. So do everything you can. What are the the financial issues, the challenges, the competition, you know, all the things that are important to help you know, how to navigate. So auditing the context is important. Then the third step is. Clarifying the goal. And that’s where you take what you’ve listen, what you’ve discovered in context. And now you translate it in a way, in a in a feedback communication loop with with your people where you, you know, you tell them and you translate it in a way they can understand it. And you get constant feedback so that you can begin to be on the same page together and you can know where to put people in the organization and and how to to move this thing forward. And so that’s actually one of my favorite processes where you begin to articulate and communicate back and forth.
Dr. Kent Ingle And the way I illustrate that is I remember I had been here about eight months or so on the job, and I was walking the campus grounds and came up on one of our groundskeepers. And we have a beautiful campus here. It’s like living in resort life here in central Florida and and they take good care of it. And I walked up to him and I introduced myself and I said, I’d like to, you know, know what you do. And and I was expecting him to tell me exactly what he did working on the grounds. But here’s what he said back to me. He said he articulated our brand new mission statement that our community had. He said, I’ll tell you what I’m here to do. I’m here to help students discover their design so they can serve. He he repeated the vision. And I’m thinking to myself, that’s it. He understands. We all start to understand we’re in this together, no matter what role. Whether you’re the president or you’re a groundskeeper, you still are involved in the same mission and vision of that organization.
Dr. Kent Ingle And then the final step is simply aligning the vision. Everybody is in place and you just operate. The map is there and it’s seamless. And I kind of I kind of equate that to when I covered one of my favorite teams to cover in L.A. was the Showtime Lakers with Magic Johnson and Cream Abdul-Jabbar and and Coach Riley was the coach back Pat Riley back then. But I would go to their practices and I’m going to tell you, they worked hard, these gifted players, a lot of talent, but they worked on the skills, they worked on the fundamentals, and they were there at 5 a.m. in the morning and stayed late at night. And then when they went to execute in game time, it was seamless, as though they had it was just natural. But I knew the hard work they put into it, they aligned the vision and they operated in alignment. And so those four steps, no matter what I’ve done in my life journey, the organizations I’ve had the privilege to lead it has given me a framework that removes the fear, removes the unknown, so that I can navigate where we need to go for growth and health.
John Yeah, and that’s such a great, great point. First of all, I love the framework. I love the simplicity of that. I’m a big list guy and hey, here’s here’s four steps and it’s so key. And you made a great point. You know, when you when you see a great sports team that is so well connected, you realize it’s not just about individual talent. I mean, there’s been tons of teams, as you know, where they’ve been stacked with talent. Yet they just they they they floundered. And then you’ve seen others where it’s been the opposite. But when you bring talent together and they’re all aligned under core vision, there’s trust, there’s great communication. They all understand their role. That’s where it’s just it’s like watching a choreographed, beautiful piece is an amazing thing.
John Amazing. So I think leaders sometimes lose that. But this is outstanding and that’s turned into great results. I know you know, it’s it’s it’s worth mentioning you’ve done a tremendous job of growing the organization. And you talked about two years without a president and how that’s declined. And you in 11 years have almost quadrupled the the number of students at the school, which is phenomenal. That’s a credit to you. That’s a credit to the team you’ve put together and the culture that you built at the at the university.
Dr. Kent Ingle Thank you. It’s been an amazing journey. A great journey. And it and it continues. And we we we don’t rest in many ways. We just keep creating new sigmoid curves. What’s next? What’s next? And and how do we continue to build that map to a place we haven’t been before?
John I love it. Well, I know a lot of people are going to want to learn more. They’re going to want to to engage with you. You’ve got the podcast framework leadership. Tell us a little bit about that and what listeners gain from that.
Dr. Kent Ingle Yeah, we interview a variety of of people, different leader leaders of different organizations from the world of politics, sports ministry. I mean, any aspect we we’re going to touch on on it and bring a leader in that can give us great perspective in the midst of leading an organization or leading change or leading transformation, because that’s what leaders do. And so that’s what the podcast is all about.
John Excellent, excellent. I love it. And you’ve you’ve. In a few books. Where can people go? What’s the best place for them to engage you if they want to research you or they want to get the books? What is their central spine?
Dr. Kent Ingle Yeah, I mean, the best place is Kentingle.com and you can find the books, you can find blog, the podcast, everything there that hopefully will be a good resource or an encouragement to you. Also, you can follow me @kentingle on on Twitter and @kent_ingle for Instagram as well.
John Excellent. Terrific. Well, Kent, I appreciate you joining today. I could talk to you for an hour. I’m of several hours is lots lots to go through. Maybe we’ll have you back another time. We’ll go down, partnered in a deeper dove.
Dr. Kent Ingle I would love that. Thank you for your time and the privilege to have this conversation.
John Excellent. Thank you. And thank you all for joining us today. We’ve been here with Dr. Kent Ingle, president of Southeastern University, author, podcaster. We’ll have all his info and all the links in the show notes. Be sure to check him out and as well, like share, subscribe, all that kind of good stuff. Go down below. Give a five star review and we’ll see you next time. Thanks.
John Thanks for joining us on today’s episode of Tomorrow’s Leader. For suggestions or inquiries about having me at your next event or personal coaching, reach me at John@johnlaurito.com. Thanks, lead on!