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Interview: How Robert E. Johnson Leads With Strengths

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About the Leader

Robert Johnson

Robert E. Johnson, Ph.D. President, Western New England University

  • Futuristic®
  • Connectedness®
  • Maximizer®
  • Ideation®
  • Achiever®

As Western New England University's sixth president, Johnson has an unyielding belief in higher education as a path for transforming individual lives. He has dedicated his 30-year career to preparing students to adapt and succeed in a dynamic future.


"I want to be remembered as someone who touched at least one person's life."

When Johnson looks to the future, it's with the satisfaction of knowing that he's building the next generation of leaders who will transform the world. In shaping the lives of young people, he emphasizes that "we're all part of something bigger than ourselves."


"I bring people together to exchange ideas. Together, we can get to the best solution."

Johnson gathers people together in a space where disagreement is balanced by mutual respect and shared aspirations. He guides people to pursue a shared goal, even when they disagree about the details. He believes that people pursuing a shared objective can achieve almost anything.


"You have to push people to … shine where possible, but you also have to know when to pull back."

Johnson believes that he's only as good as the people in his organization, and inspiring employees to be at their best comes naturally to him. At the same time, however, the maturity of his Maximizer leads him to regulate how intensely he drives his team members, choosing long-term productivity and wellbeing over short-term gains and burnout.


"You have to spend some time with the idea."

When he first arrives at an idea, Johnson likes to give it time to develop before putting it into effect. He prefers to circulate the idea with peers -- especially people outside of his industry -- to see if they can shed new light on the concept.


"Are we operating with the end in mind? Are we staying focused on the goal?"

Johnson incessantly focuses on how to achieve his objectives. He encourages his teams to always aim at their end goals and not get distracted by minor details. Favoring quality over quantity, he prefers his teams focus on two or three important goals they can accomplish rather than 10 that might go unfinished.