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June 9

Leadership Lessons: Clarify Vision & Tell Authentic Stories


Leadership, vision, and authentic stories are key components to a leader’s success. Which means good marketing is an essential part of good leadership!  

An essential part of a leader’s job is setting a grand vision for the organization and imbuing its people with a shared purpose. 

That goes for any organization, whether it be a church or a higher ed institution.

Dr. Mark Jobe, President at Moody Bible Institute (MBI), has experience leading both.

In this episode of The Higher Ed Marketer podcast, he shares what he’s learned about leadership over the course of his career, including why clarifying vision and purpose is so important.

Small but Mighty

Depending on your perspective, MBI could be a rather small school.

But don’t let its size fool you. This small Bible college punches above its weight class. 

It’s a 135 year old institution with an on-campus enrollment of 1,400 students, a total of 3,000 students, a seminary in Michigan, and an aviation school in Spokane, Washington. 

Moody has a publishing arm that sells about 3.5 million books per year in the Christian niche market. 

And they have a broadcasting network that reaches 1.5 million listeners every month. 

To say this small college has a lot of influence in its circles is an understatement.

Dr. Mark Jobe shares with us how authentic stories resonate the most with prospective students, although it can seem like you're letting go of control in the creative process.

Picture Source: Meet Dr. Mark Jobe | Moody Bible Institute

Whether it’s through their broadcasting network, publishing house, or classes, MBI is constantly telling its story to tens of millions of people every year.

This is a great lesson for all of us. 

No matter your size or budget, you can have an outsized impact on the world with some tenacity, grit, and strategic foresight. 

In this conversation, Dr. Mark Jobe shared some of his insights on how to build and maintain this kind of massive influence through authentic storytelling.

Storytelling: The Most Transferable Skill

What might surprise you about Dr. Jobe is that the bulk of his experience hasn’t been in the pristine halls of academia. 

Even so, he shares with us how storytelling is the key to successful leadership no matter what kind of organization you’re leading. 

[While} I do not come from a higher education background, I do have a doctorate degree. [However,] I come from a ministry background as a pastor in Chicago for 35 years in an urban setting and I’ve also started a nonprofit organization. So that’s been my world. 

So, when Moody first asked me to come [on as president], I was reluctant, because that’s not the world that I live in. 

But what I’ve come to realize is that every ministry, every organization – whether it’s a higher ed institution or whether it’s a church – the principles are very similar. 

Leadership is leadership in whatever field you’re in.

And this idea has really proven itself as Dr. Jobe’s vision of doubling the college’s impact in terms of enrollment numbers, book sales, and monthly listeners has been enthusiastically adopted by team leaders throughout the institution. 

It has been a great challenge, but the team has bought into it. Someone told me, “You must be doing something, because I heard a janitor talking to someone else about doubling the impact!” 

When the janitors are talking about doubling the impact, you know [the vision] has seeped down the ranks into the mass of employees.

Keep Track of Your Primary Responsibilities

Dr. Jobe gave us some great insights into staying on track as a leader in a higher ed institution. 

When I look at leadership, I have a limited responsibility. A good leader has to narrow down their primary responsibilities. 

I have three primary responsibilities. Number one is clarifying vision. 

1. Define Who You Are

Where are we going? What is our mission? 

If you don’t define your current state [and] where you’re going, someone else will define it for you. So we started to define this as who we are. Let’s be clear about who we are and who we’re not. And let’s be clear about what we want to accomplish in the next 10 years. 

2. Gather the Right Team

The second responsibility, I believe, of a leader – at least in my case – is to gather the right team of competent leaders to be able to implement a strategy to move things forward. That’s not always easy to do. 

3. Embrace a Strategy

Finally, part of the responsibility of a good leader is to embrace a strategy. Once you have the vision [and] the team, you need to articulate a strategy together. [You need to] form it together with metrics to see if [you] are progressing towards that. 

Get the Stories Out

Being proactive in telling the stories of your institution will be much more impactful for your constituents.

Dr. Jobe shared how storytelling has changed in our current marketing climate.

You have the traditional ways of telling stories with alumni magazines, and so forth. But we’ve also sought to tell our stories a little bit more visually with video. 

I think this is crucial for institutions nowadays, yet most higher education institutions, I don’t think are that good at [visual storytelling]. 

Nowadays, for example, we livestream our chapels. We have events on campus that become the windows to the world. Not only are we disseminating the message outwardly, but we are also giving people a peek into our world at the institute.

So our team has become much more adept at telling stories creatively through visual content on our different online platforms. That has become much more the way we’re telling our stories.

This was somewhat the case for Moody, but when Dr. Jobe stepped in, he led his IT department to start thinking of themselves as a production company rather than as an educational audio/visual team.

But he also gave direction to his marketing team to begin producing more unedited, real content. 

I told our marketing guy, I’d like to have a videographer in the car with me on my first day at Moody to capture some of my thoughts as I’m starting on campus and show what it looks like. 

There was a time when the stories we told were very clean, formalized, and very produced. 

The greatest stories nowadays are authentic, raw, less produced. They’re real, they’re unedited. [They give] people a sense of “I understand who these people are.”

So I believe that we need to be telling more raw, authentic stories, especially via our video platforms.

Dr. Jobe is on to something. 

It may take a step of faith as authentic storytelling can feel like you’re winging it. But this is the kind of content that resonates with prospective students growing up in a digital generation.

Discover more when you listen to the podcast!

Like all of our blog post reviews of The Higher Ed Marketer podcasts, there’s so much more to learn in the podcasts themselves.

Later in our interview, Mark explains more how they use social media tools to create community among students at the top of the funnel. 

Listen to our interview with Mark Jobe to get even more insights into:

  • How Dr. Jobe frames leadership in terms of growth and impact
  • The importance of proactively telling authentic stories
  • The Vision Script Initiative

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Featured image via moody.edu

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