Intentional Leadership

Category: Communication


The main thing that is hard about interviewing for me is to remember that qualitative research interviewing is not social work interviewing nor is it counseling. My background is social work and ministry. As a result, I’m more inclined to listen for problem exploration or to determine an appropriate course of action rather than to explore a research topic. I will have to remind myself that my objective is qualitative research and not therapeutic.

Additionally, I talk to people literally all day in my school context – students, parents, teachers, possible stakeholders. I identify as an introvert, so I will have to plan my interviews wisely so that I’m not drained and talking like an idiot by the time I get to the last person.

All in all, I am looking forward to hearing the perspective of the research participants.

Deciding what to evaluate…

I initially wanted to perform a follow up to a diversity study I implemented last fall  at a local single-sex independent school. However, I realized that I didn’t have the bandwidth to carry out a study on my own this time. I have too many overlapping, competing obligations right now. So I reached out to two colleagues in class with whom I had previously worked. One colleague had a problem that was anchored in his context for which evaluation would be meaningful. The other colleague was already committed to working with him.

We discussed how we could address the problem in such a way that we could fulfill the requirements of the assignment. We discovered we had a solid research idea, access to data, and participants that would allow our project to be implemented without difficulty. The colleague who offered the problem as a potential project actually as the authority to research the solution. Deciding what to evaluate was relatively easy. Deciding with whom to work was an easy choice as well.

This EDLP 711 project team is one of the better teams with which I have worked during my educational and professional career. Studying our personality types, learning styles as well as Lencioni’s (2002) Five Dysfunctions of a Team during our first semester in the EdD program contributed to the ease with which we work. We articulate our strengths and acknowledge our weaknesses. Our skills are complementary. In short, we work well together.



Free speech and Leadership

Speech is powerful. It can stir people to action, move them to tears of both joy and sorrows, and – as it did here – inflict great pain. On the facts before us, we cannot react to that pain by punishing the speaker. As a Nation, we have chosen a different course – to protect even hurtful speech on public issues to ensure that we do not stifle public debate.

Chief Justice Roberts in Snyder v. Phelps

Two aspects of the above quote strike a chord with me as a leader. The first sentence “Speech is powerful” reminds me that what I say – whether through oration, writing, text, tweet, video – will have an impact on the hearer. We learned in the Leadership Presence class to decide our intention before we speak and focus on that intention as we prepare so that our words will have the force of its intended impact. In the close context of the Educational Leadership program, it is easy to automatically consider that our intentions are moral and honorable when we speak.

However, that is not the case with all speech. As a leader, I have to remember that I cannot react to the pain caused by hurtful speech by “punishing the speaker”. This second aspect of the quote is formidable, particularly in this moment in the collective history of society. Dramatic and hyperbolic rhetoric designed to provoke an emotional response abounds in media today. There is an emotional maturity and restraint in putting aside one’s feelings of moral outrage to uphold the principles of the greater good of society. I believe that is what Chief Justice Roberts is referring to in this quote.

I recently read that Abraham Lincoln had a “dark side” fostered by traumatic childhood experiences that created in him a sense of inferiority and lack of self-worth (McIntosh & Rima, 1997). However, Lincoln managed to control the negative impact of his dark side even in the face of harsh criticisms of his leadership. He refused to return insult for injury or even engage in conflict in order to focus on the bigger picture for the good of the people.

It’s easy to tune out the opinions of those with whom I disagree and judge them right or wrong. It’s even easier to attack the character of those who say what I consider to be hateful, hurtful, and immoral words. However, as a leader, I have to be mindful that there are followers to whom I am accountable and for whom I provide a standard by my actions. I have to be willing to show how to engage in public discourse that makes room for opposing views, even those that are hurtful.



McIntosh, G. L. & Rima, Sr., S.D. (1997). Overcoming the dark side of leadership: The paradox of personal dysfunction. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

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