Qasarah Spencer

Intentional Leadership

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Leadership Presence

It seems as though anything I would offer here regarding leadership presence would really restate what Halpern and Lubar (2003) have succinctly expressed in their PRES model of leadership presence. Yet, I will attempt to share my thoughts and experiences with the concept of leadership presence. Apparently, I developed these skills throughout my career without knowing it as a formal concept. I attribute this learning to several different factors – yoga, social work and ministry education, personal spiritual devotion. I didn’t learn the techniques as one coherent concept. But the result is the same. Defined by Halpern and Lubar (2003) as “the ability to connect authentically with the thoughts and feelings of others”, leadership presence is an outgrowth of being tuned into one’s higher values as it relates to being in positive relationship with oneself and others. Effective leadership presence improves organizations, institutions and relationships. I believe it also can improve one’s personal relationships as well.

The PRES model of leadership presence entails the skills of being present, reaching out, expressiveness and self-knowing (Halpern & Lubar, 2003). In order to be present, one must learn how to control one’s physiological response to fear, quiet negative self-talk and be flexibly responsive to the current context. One learns how to keep one’s wits about them; thereby allowing them to respond to others rather than protecting oneself from perceived danger. A leader’s ability to remain present in a work environment will certainly benefit productivity and employee relations. But these skills cannot be compartmentalized to the workplace situations only.

I immediately thought of leadership presence when I learned I would be worship leader upon my arrival at the faith community where I serve on a recent Sunday morning. The role of worship leader is to engage the congregation in the service so that they become active participants rather than just spectators. My comfort zone is to know well in advance, so I can imagine what I would say and do at just the appropriate moment. However, I led the congregation through the worship service without nervousness. Several congregants verbally affirmed my leading at the end of service. I discovered I was my authentic self – no small feat given that I am relatively new to my role as associate minister in this congregation. The congregation where I previously served has a different style of worship which is much more similar to my own personal style.

Leadership presence by any other name is still leadership presence. Hedges’  i-Pres model (2012) is similar to Halpern and Lubar’s (2003) work. She introduces the idea of intentionality in developing the relationships needed for leadership presence to be successful. Intentionality in leadership presence is my growth opportunity. Now that I have a name and a framework for the concept, I can be purposeful in my use of the skills.



Hedges, K. (2012). The Power of Presence. New York, NY: Amacom.

Halpern, B. L., & Lubar, K. (2003). Leadership presence: Dramatic techniques to        reach out, motivate, and inspire. New York, NY: Gotham Books.

Learning about Leading

My learning about leading during the summer semester has revealed to me how much I have grown as a professional. Analysis of the ratings my colleagues reported about me on the Leadership Skills Assessment: 360 Feedback survey showed that I am perceived to have “outstandingly effective” leadership practice (Spencer, 2018). While I knew I was held in high esteem, the ratings were consistent across different organizations and different roles. I was pleased to see I have been consistent in the quality of my leadership practice.

In describing the evidence to support of my own personal rating on the survey, I recognized how I have demonstrated expertise gained early in my career. I used to think I enjoyed staying in the background, working behind the scenes. But reflecting on my career, I see that I have grown steadily into leadership roles that propelled me into the foreground. I appreciate the opportunities I have been given to show my skill, expertise, and intellect.  I suppose I have “paid my dues” in some respects. I have more confidence in myself as a professional and as a leader.

I believe the most extensive impact of my learning will be on my leadership practice. I am now using strategy to build coalitions in my new role as minister of youth and family ministries in a traditional Baptist church with a majority older congregation. I am tasked with revitalizing youth and young adult ministries in a context with scarce human and financial resources. There are long-standing alliances and stakeholders who are accustomed to doing ministry a certain way.

Prior to the summer semester, I would have simply considered what I needed to do within this organization from a structural and human resources perspective. I would have implemented my vision based on improving systemic processes and developing lay leaders. However, now I am strategizing based on the assumptions of the political frame (Bolman & Deal, 2013). I am at the beginning stages of intentionally using strategy. I have pinpointed two mentors who can help me strategize. Working with a mentor is definitely a change in my leadership practice. I typically would have tried to figure things out on my own.

This summer learning has enabled me the space and the tools to see dimensions of myself as a professional that were previously hidden from view. The learning has also given me applicable tools I can immediately implement in my leadership practice.



Bolman, L., & Deal, T. (2013). Reframing organizations: Artistry, choice and                             leadership. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Spencer, Q. (2018). Leadership skills assessment. (Unpublished survey analysis).            Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA.

My Journey as a Doctoral Student

As I reflect upon being a doctoral student, I have learned a lot that I think will be valuable for me over the next three years. But I will focus on three major learnings from this summer semester. The first thing I find valuable is knowing my learning pattern. After taking the Learning Connections Inventory (Johnston & Dainton, 2003), I have a better understanding of how I can best make learning work for me. My highest scores were 32 of out 35 for precision; 28 out of 25 for sequence; and 25 out of 35 for confluence. As a strong-willed learner, my preference is to work alone and lead from in front. However, this doctoral journey is not a solitary trek, but a cohort is moving along with me. I have a greater understanding of the way I learn and work best. Of the same token, I am more aware of my challenges. My Myers Briggs Type is INTJ. I will have to moderate the Introvert in me, particularly when working in groups with extroverts or more outspoken members of the cohort. Overall, having taken these inventories as part of class learning will enable us as a group to discuss who we have discovered ourselves to be in hopes of working better together as a team.

Speaking of working better together as a team, the five dysfunctions of a team as described by Lencioni (2002) is the second valuable thing I have learned. Lencioni’s (2002) model provides a practical framework for team dynamics and strategies to overcome the most common dysfunctions. In the past, I have been at a loss for how to effectively address what I perceived to be lack of teamwork. I looked at individual behaviors rather than seeing the behaviors as patterns common within teams. Viewing individual team member behaviors using the five dysfunctions concept, removes the temptation to judge the person. Instead, I am more inclined to recognize the behavior as part of what happens when working on teams. As stated previously, learning these concepts as a cohort should enable us to be honest and receptive when we see these dysfunctions during our team processes.

The third valuable learning from this summer was discovering my leadership orientation based on the work of Bolman and Deal (2013). My score on the structural frame was 22 out of 24. My orientation toward the human resources and symbolic frames were almost equal, 13 and 16 respectively. I scored the lowest on the political frame, 9 out of 24. I want to increase my skill in engaging in organizational contexts from the political frame. I am intrigued by the idea of intentionally reframing how I approach complex issues using the political assumptions of coalitions, scarcity of resources, and the need for bargaining and negotiating.

I am hopeful that I can apply this new knowledge to improve my leadership practice throughout the next three years. The summer coursework has certainly laid a good foundation for growth in my leadership practice.



Bolman, L. G., & Deal, T. E. (1998). Self-assessment: Leadership orientations.                    Retrieved from

Bolman, L., & Deal, T. (2003). Reframing organizations: Artistry, choice and                             leadership. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Johnston, C. and Dainton, G. (2003). LCI: Learning connections inventory.                               Turnersville, NC: Learning Connections Resources.

Lencioni, P. (2002). Five Dysfunctions of a Team. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Myers, P.B. and Myers, K.D. (2015). Myers-Briggs Type Indicator: Step I                                     Interpretive Report. Sunnyvale, CA: CPP, Inc.

Reimagining Power

It is easy to think about power as a top-down, dominance concept, particularly in the western world. The prevailing conception of power has been promoted by the male-dominated field of business. Even historically, when reflecting on the founding of America, the idea of aggressive male power is pervasive as we use the language “founding fathers”, “pioneering”, and “the conquest of native lands and peoples”. The political use of power especially brings to mind manipulation of others for one’s own purposes, the unequal distribution of resources, and the conflict that arises from that context. Power as a concept seems to be rooted in concepts of masculine aggression that influences through force. Even commercials promoting success refer to conquering the day and being the strongest.

However, Fenner (2002) posits that the lived experiences of women in leadership reflect a poststructural concept of power. The poststructural concept of power is the idea of “power with” others in relationship. It seems women in leadership positions, particularly in the context of school administration, make use of their power in ways that engender trust, use emotions, nurture growth, reciprocity and collaboration (Fenner, 2002). Women in leadership tend to use power in non-traditional ways, although we hardly see these actions as use of legitimate power. We rarely see those concepts as positive examples to be emulated.

In this current era of empowering women, the view of empowerment seems to be the more aggressive idea of power associated with masculinity. Drive, boldness, and assertiveness are elevated. Even young girls are encouraged to exert their personal power in these ways. But I wonder if framing power in this context will exclude yet other girls, and even boys and men, from recognizing their power as legitimate if it is not expressed in these traditional ways. I think we need to use caution in limiting what power looks like while we seek to progress beyond traditional male-dominated leadership stereotypes. We are still modeling ourselves after the very image we say has been damaging to our society. It is time to discover a different model for power that makes room for all the ways power is expressed regardless of gender.



Fennell, H. (2002). Letting go while holding on: Women principals’ lived                                             experiences with power. Journal of  Educational Administration, 40(2),                             95-117. Retrieved from                                                   accountid=14780


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