I have been told that voting was my duty because of the black people who died for my right to vote. My . motivation for voting comes from thinking about my obligation to the current and future generations. I can’t be certain, but it seems those who died for my right to vote were thinking of making life better for future generations not necessarily martyring themselves on my behalf.
I have been told that if I don’t vote, I don’t have a right to complain about what happens in society. Honestly, I have yet to see how not voting removes my right to complain. My not voting could be a protest about what happens in society when the political process is not accessible to “regular” people; when partisan politics alienates the country; and when corporate interests remove what power my vote might have.
Speaking of the power of my vote, I have been told that my vote is my voice such that if I don’t vote I don’t have a voice. I believe voting is not that straightforward, cause-and-effect process we would like it to be. If voting were straightforward, would the electoral college exist? Would lobbyist have access to politicians? Would political ads be as prolific and profitable for the media?
It is my responsibility as a citizen to know why I am voting for a particular candidate beyond sound bites and dog whistles. It is my responsibility to reflect on my priorities and determine which candidate truly aligns with my priorities as far as it is possible. As an educator, I think it is important to help students think critically about the electoral process in this country and their participation in it.
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.
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 http://proxy.library.vcu.edu/loginurl=https:// search-proquest-com.proxy.library.vcu.edu/docview/220453370? accountid=14780