January 2024
Luis R. Visot
Assistant Dean for Administration and Chief of Staff at
the University of South Florida College of Education
Luis R. Visot
3 min read

Born to serve

Luis R. Visot, Assistant Dean for Administration and Chief of Staff at the University of South Florida College of Education, shares the insights he’s gathered from different parts of his career in a conversation with Wael Kouki.
‘I had many, many different lives; the way I look at it is people believe in you, and because people believe in you they give you the opportunity to serve’, says Luis Visot. This theme of service is what connects all of his different career paths – or, as Luis likes to call them, ‘Professional Callings’.
Starting off as a residence instructor at the University of South Florida (USF), he moved up the hierarchy which culminated in working as the Executive Director of the Joint Military Leadership Centre. In this position he secured two grants of five million dollars from the federal government to build the facilities and programme.
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Concurrently, he served in the US Army, his second calling. Here, he climbed the ranks from second lieutenant to general officer, ending his career as chief of staff for US Army Reserves.
After receiving his Doctor of Education degree in Human Organisational Learning from George Washington University, and working in the nonprofit space for a couple of years, Luis pursued his first calling once more. At the time of writing, he’s serving as the Chief of Staff to the Dean of the College of Education at USF.
‘I never had a “job”, I was never “employed”, I never “worked” for a living: I just had many opportunities to make a difference.’
Luis firmly believes that he is a humble servant leader. ‘Because it's focused on the other person, it has nothing to do with me. I am just utilising my God-given knowledge, skills, and abilities to be able to be of service to various constituencies’.
His passion for service has been demonstrated in every single aspect of his different careers. For example, thinking back on his time leading decision-making in the military, he recalls: ‘I engaged everyone, I ask for everybody’s input, alternatives and recommendations’. Despite the traditional and strict leadership dynamics in the military, Luis stresses the importance of going for what the team decides ‘even if you may not agree 100% with it’ and holding yourself accountable for your team’s decision.
‘...the buck stops at my desk, I am the one who is ultimately responsible.’
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Through accountability and honesty, Luis believes that legitimacy of authority can be established in any organisational setting. Add to that, creating bonds with your employees will help build your legitimacy as a leader. Luis insists on the importance of ‘seeking first to understand rather than to be understood’ in the process of building relationships and thereby trust: ‘Try to understand [your employees] as human beings rather than the role and responsibility that they fulfil within the organisation, … try to understand where people are coming from. Not that I have any aspirations to try to walk the walk that they have been through, but it allows me to be able to build trust, and hopefully that will give me some legitimacy and some credibility in an effort to make sure that they trust me to be able to serve them as their leader’.
‘Tell me about you. Tell me your journey. Tell me your story.’
But above all else, Luis is convinced that standing firm in one’s values is the key to building trust with your employees and thereby serving them. ‘What grounds me are my values’, he says, ‘and I will fall on my sword for my values’. He looks back on a point in his career where he was directed to do something by his immediate supervisor which didn’t adhere with his personal values and so chose to leave the organisation. ‘My values are my true North, my guiding light; that's how I make the decisions a lot of times… First question I ask myself is, what is in the best interest of the institution? Second question: does this align with my values? If there's not an alignment, then obviously I have the responsibility to step back or step away totally.’
Finally, Luis wanted to highlight that ‘my experience being a chief of staff has been enhanced by being married to someone who has been a chief of staff for 19 years. I learned a lot from her.
So my knowledge of being a chief of staff is not only based upon what I have learned in my military calling, but also what I have learned from her.’
Author Bio
Luis R. Visot
Assistant Dean for Administration
and Chief of Staff at the University of South Florida College of Education
Luis R. Visot has served in the higher education, nonprofit, and the US Armed Forces sectors, most notably as Executive Director, The Joint Military Leadership Center (JMLC), University of South Florida, while also rising to the rank of Major General (MG) in the US Army. He is currently Assistant Dean and Chief of Staff in the College of Education at The University of South Florida and also a Corporate Director in the United States Army War College Foundation Board of Trustees and the Nonprofit Leadership Center Board of Directors.
Author Bio
Wael Kouki
University of Chicago neuroscience freshman
Wael Kouki is a freshman at the University of Chicago, reading neuroscience. He was awarded the title of Rise Global winner in 2022 by Schmidt Futures and the Rhodes Trust after creating a project that provides pro bono marketing and graphic design services to small businesses and nonprofits. Before this, Wael helped establish several organisations in his home city of Bizerte, Tunisia, serving as founding member, organisation director, staffing advisor and vice president at different points in time.
His introduction to the nonprofit space was through volunteering, which he started at the age of 13 at his local orphanage, and continued until 2023 in the Royal Marsden Hospital in London where he was a Safety and Triage Volunteer.