An Interview With Harold Hazelip

Dr. Harold Hazelip is the former president of Lipscomb University and has been a distinguished leader among churches and other faith-based organizations for decades. I had the privilege of interviewing him for a doctorate project I was completing. At one point in his life, he held three intensive leadership roles all at the same time: minister of a large influential church, dean of a school of theology and speaker for a nationally televised religious program.  I thought many of you would enjoy hearing his answers to a few important questions which affect all of us as leaders.

Question: As President of Lipscomb University, how did others describe your leadership style?

Answer: Those whom I served would describe my leadership style as participatory.  I tried to be a person of integrity.  There was a spirit of openness and honesty whether the discussions were good or bad.  I believed in releasing people for a task and trusting them to do their jobs. 

Question: What qualities did you desire in your team members?

Answer: Integrity and honesty were absolutely necessary.  Within the context of Lipscomb University, I wanted people on the team who had a high level of commitment to the institution, Christianity and to my particular religious heritage.  I was not seeking sectarians, just people who appreciated the heritage of the institution.  Most of all, employees needed to be committed followers of Christ.  Leaders and teachers also needed to have academic ability.  

Question: What promoted longevity for team members?

Answer: Congeniality with colleagues was evident whenever someone worked for many years.  People who stayed with us had a “do it now” spirit and had a sincere interest in the area in which they served. 

Question: If you only shared one concept with a group of leaders, what would it be?

Answer: Team members function best when they believe that the leader actually cares about them.  If the team member knows I am grateful to him or her, growth  will take place.  The team must know that its success is paramount to the leader.

Dr. Hazelip personifies my deepest conviction about leadership – it’s all about the people.  Every answer he gave included his desire for people to be fully engaged as substantial contributors to the organization’s success and for the individual team member’s success, as well.  Even the number one reason he gave for longevity was congeniality with team members. 

What Dr. Hazelip did not say in our conversation, he said in action.  As we were closing our conversation, I asked him what he was doing the rest of the day.  He was going to the Vanderbilt University Library to study for a presentation on spirituality and aging.  After his library visit, he was attending a speech by the former President of Note Dame University about Vatican II.  Almost 20 years after retiring from Lipscomb, he remains a life-long learner and servant leader.