Adam: Thanks again for taking the time to share your thoughts on university leadership. First things first, though, I am sure readers would love to learn more about you. What is something about you that might come as a surprise to people?
Mark: I am a big fan of electronic dance music—especially when I am exercising. As well, lately I have been listening carefully to “My Shot” with Busta Rhymes et al.
Adam: How did you get here? What failures, setbacks or challenges have been most instrumental to your growth as the president of Florida International University?
Mark: I owe any success to my role-model parents, an extremely supportive family, very patient mentors, and a lot of luck. There have been many setbacks—but they only served to motivate me more and to force greater introspection about what I could have done better.
Adam: In your experience, what are the defining qualities of an effective leader?
Mark: Vision, empathy, integrity, great work-ethic, excellent listening skills, never-ending energy.
Adam: Who are the greatest leaders you have been around and what did you learn from them?
Mark: Jeb Bush—conscientious continuous high level intensity. Ambassador Cresencio Arcos—curiosity and fascination as drivers of success. Maya Angelou – importance of treating people with respect
Adam: How can university leaders and aspiring leaders take their leadership skills to the next level?
Mark: Most leaders at senior levels are poor listeners. So they must be better at listening. They must also be better and more understanding of the rapidly changing context within which decisions must be taken. They must have a vision to understand the future and how the present must adapt to the change ahead.
Adam: What is the best advice you have on building, managing and leading teams?
Mark: First, know yourself very well–what motivates you, what pushes your buttons, how to manage your energy. Know what motivates your colleagues, and have an ability to develop a message and stay on it.
Adam: What are your three best tips that could be applicable to entrepreneurs, executives and civic leaders?
Mark: Stay calm. Think out of the box. Give respect.
Adam: What are your best leadership lessons from your experience leading universities applicable to a broad range of leaders?
Mark: Learn how to take responsibility for being understood. Be succinct. Build bridges—find the commonality with others.
Adam: What are your key goals for FIU in the next three to five years?
Mark: Amplify learner success and institutional affinity. Accelerate preeminence and research and innovation impact. Assure responsible stewardship. Complete Next Horizon Campaign for FIU.
Adam: What is instrumental to your ability to lead your team to reach those goals?
Mark: Development of a clear plan of implementation, rigorous measurement of progress, and staying focused on priorities.
Adam: What is the single best piece of advice you have ever received?
Mark: Walk a mile in someone else’s shoes.
Adam: What is one thing everyone should be doing to pay it forward?
Mark: Donating time to voluntary non-profit organizations.
Adam: What are your hobbies and how have they shaped you as a leader?
Mark: Exercise, reading, being with family. They have helped to round me out and keep me human.