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Culmination Paper

Wendi D. Sparling

Azusa Pacific University


Culmination Paper

Embedded in this program is an appreciation for relationships and interactions between

differentiated people who, together, pursue individual or collective vision. Identification and

utilization of diversified skill sets, unleashes creative potential to achieve common goals and

purposes. Previous thought considered successful leadership to be a prescriptive or innate

attributes connected to a personality. Challenging this assumption is the idea that effective

leadership skills can be taught. Reflecting upon the time spent in the Master of Arts in

Leadership program reveals changes in perspective with regards to this limiting definition of

leadership. Exploration of the understanding of leadership, the meta-competencies and leadership

development considerations reveal an interest in developing intelligent, encouraging leadership

as reflected in self and others. The journey of leadership elaborates on interpersonal narratives.

With an interest in the spiritual significance of purpose, relationships, and the journey of

discovery, re-conceptualizing these ideals involves considerations towards altered perspectives,

and adaptability in thought.

As a leader, there should be interest connecting value to work and assisting others in

realizing full potential. There is a spiritual connotation and connection to work that matters to

God (Keller, 2012). God is creative, and all are included this creativity to accomplish his work

(Keller, 2012). Cornerstones of Christian Leadership and Understanding Vocation both highlight

the spiritual significance of leadership. Jesus as the example, he was first a follower of his

Father’s will. His purpose was not his own, but to serve his father. Assuming the same posture,

leaders do not lead for themselves, but out of obedience to the work in which God has called

(Keller, 2012).

Work is a blessing (Keller, 2012). Considerations for finding purpose and meaning in

work recognizes that this as a spiritual need whether it is realized by the follower or not (Clark,

2016). Defined as common grace, God bestows blessing upon all people without regard to

personal spiritual condition (Clark, 2016). Leadership, with the emphasis on the other, should be

encouraging the connection between developing individual aptitudes and attributes to promote

flourishing that comes from engaging in meaningful work (Whelchel, 2015).

Leadership is a “relational and collective process in which collaboration and shared

understanding are deemed axiomatic to getting things done,” (Preskill & Brookfield, 2009, p. 3).

Concepts like team-building, mentoring, creativity, empowerment, support are reoccurring

themes through this program that involve interpersonal relationships and building community.

Recognition and desire for meaningful engagement is evidenced in the authentic,

transformational, and servant leadership theories as presented in Foundations of Leadership

Theory. The three theories incorporate a moral or ethical component that signifies interest in

developing trust for the betterment of others (Northouse, 2016).

Chittister (1991) states that, “alone we may be little but together we may be something,”

(p. 117). Elaborating further, Chittister indicates that the “art of community life in general lies in

the balance of the person and the group,” (p. 109). There is support, encouragement and an

appreciation for the contributions of others in community and relationship. Preskill and

Brookfield (2009) elude to the importance of community in their nine learning tasks of

leadership. Learning leads to building communities that are “authentically empowered to make

important decision for themselves.”

Meta-competency of spirituality and faith reveal a spiritual obligation to leadership.

Christians serve God through their work (Keller, 2012). Redefining work as a spiritual blessing

first involves a leader who is willing to embrace the true self as God created a leader to be to

accomplish his purposes (Benner, 2015). Concepts like adaptability and transformation should

reflect that desire for authentic engagement with calling. Keller (2012) states, “faithful work

requires the will, the emotions, the soul and the mind - as we think out and live out the

implication of our beliefs on the canvas of our daily work,” (p. 7). Self-reflection involves an

honest appraisal and understanding of personal relationship with Christ. Relationship demands a

response. Reflection is not a selfish ambition, but a process of revelation of who a leader is in

Christ. There is honesty that comes from engaging in the true self. True self reflects His glory

through submission to his will. Benner (2015) states, “we do not find out true self by seeking

it…we find it by seeking God,” (p. 83). Christian leadership is not without consequences.

Responsive action to his will requires change (Stearns, 2014). Spiritual process of change occurs

as “we become aligned and revitalized because we are committed to the truth,” (Quinn, p. 79).

As Stearns (2014) states, “God expects our lives…to be characterized by authentic signs of our

own transformation: compassion, mercy, justice, and love – demonstrated tangibly,” (p. 45).

Meta-competency of emotional and social intelligence incorporates concepts that are of

personal, social, and cultural significance. Development and understanding of emotional and

cultural intelligence addresses the interpersonal nature of relationships. Emotional and social

intelligence highlights the influence a leader has on their followers through leader behavior,

actions, and reactions. Implicit leadership theory suggests that an effective leader is not solely

based on the skillsets of a leader, but reflected in the expectation of followers (Livermore, 2015).

Perception of leadership skills and abilities are influenced by emotional reactions to situations.

Adept leaders are cognitive this relationship.


Reality, or what is believe to be true for a culture is subjective and based interpretation

and what is agreed upon by the group (Lewis, 2006). Emotional and social intelligence

development influences and challenges perceptions of worldview. Worldview is the narrative in

which groups or cultures identify their reality as the “accepted answers to big questions and

shared idols,” (Keller, 2012, p. 157). These cultural realities are also true for organizations.

Repercussions for these realities is that they can influence or prohibit personal and organizational

change (Quinn, 1996).

Understanding these concepts starts with emotional intelligence (EQ). Considered a

valuable leadership trait, emotionally intelligent people are sensitive to their emotions and their

effect on other people (Northouse, 2016). EQ as identified as Bradberry and Greaves (2009)

comprises the personal and social competencies that indicate successful processing and

management of emotions.

In tandem with EQ, cultural intelligence (CQ) involves an awareness of self and other

from a more inclusive perspective. Concepts like motivation, trust, and values have a cultural

connotation and significance and vary among cultures (Lewis, 2006). What is considered

normative for one culture is not necessarily true for another. Cultural intelligence (CQ) is the

concept that a leader can be effective in any cultural context (Livermore, 2015). A leader who

has developed CQ is motivated to learn about themselves and others. Learning influences

thought. For example, in learning other languages can assist in culturally “gain(ing) deeper

insight into the nature of reality” (Lewis, 2006, p. 128). Additionally, learning creates “empathy

with the views of others...seeing ourselves from that perspective,” (Lewis, 2006, p. 128).

Changes in perspective challenges assumptions.


Meta-competency of academic inquiry encourages the leader as a learner in earnestly and

intelligently pursuing answers to pertinent questions. Leaders should be engaged in life-long

learning that encourages critical thinking and intelligent reflection. Determining relevance,

application, and ability to make informed decisions that are of benefit to self and others should

be a desired skillset. Critical thinking includes considerations on the source material. Academic

inquiry in the Master of Arts in Leadership program involved individual and group exploration

of relevant topics as determined by coursework and academic interests. Analyzing pertinent

literature, examining different research methodologies that comprise qualitative, quantitative,

and mixed research, exploration research limitations, motivations, and research ethics were

emphasized in the Research Methods and Design and Applied Research courses.

As indicated by Preskill & Brookfield (2009), there are nine learning tasks of leadership.

These nine learning tasks emphasize the importance in learning in leadership. Continued

engagement in learning not only aids in the personal narrative and growth of the leader, but

influences the community in which the leader is involved. Learning leaders critically reflect,

analyze the experiences, and question oneself and others. The influence that this has on

community is evidence in the statement, “when leaders make learning the most salient habit in

any community, movement or organization, the members are much more likely to claim their

own empowerment and change the world,” (Preskill & Brookfield, 2009, p. 19).

Continued leadership growth, there is sustained interest in self-revelation and

improvement. Concepts like authenticity, and transparency involve a leader who is actively

engaged in transformative processes (George, 2015). Offering and soliciting feedback,

influencing motivation, and casting vision involves a leader who is interested in authentic

engagement with themselves and with their followers. Vulnerability requires an honest appraisal

(George, 2015). Leaders should be engaged in the process of understanding their own

experiences (George, 2015 & Thomas, 2008).

As discovered through the course Leading Across Cultures, part of the reflection process

is in the examination of implicit biases. Assessments like Harvard’s implicit association bias test

( reveal those previously unknown or hidden aspects that affect perceptions

and interactions with others.

Leaders are attentive listeners. Theories like servant leadership, highlight leaders that are

defined by their ability to listen (Keith, 2015). Chittister (1991) states that, “spiritual life is

achieved only by listening to all of life and learning to respond to each dimension wholly and

with integrity,” (p. 16). Learning to be a better listener comes through the development of EQ.

Assessments to determine EQ would be beneficial in designing strategies to promote growth.

Life is a journey of transitions and reactions to those transitions (Bridges, 2004).

Leadership development embraces the journey at every stage. Encouraging a guided journey of

self-reflection connects what motivates, values and inspires to a purpose and calling. These

narratives are important for a leader, but also in the development of others.

Reactions to transition experiences provide valuable insight into skillsets, motivations

and determining what is valued (Schein & Van Maanen, 2013). As a progression of experiences,

eventually there is a need to more fully integrate and find alignment between the talents,

experiences and motivations (Schein & Van Maanen, 2013). Re-evaluating priorities is a natural

progression for sustained, relevant growth. As stated by Schein & Van Maanen (2013),

“everyone has a career, and that career is ‘anchored’ by the person’s self-image of his or her

competencies, motives, and values,” (p. 3). Assessments like Career Anchors considers past

decisions and future career possibilities through self-reflection (Schein & Van Maanen, 2013).

Reflected Best Self Exercise from the Center for Positive Organizations is another

invaluable resource for engaging in the narratives of others. It engages in self-reflection and

considers honest appraisal from others. Through understanding of an individual’s own narrative

from both the perspective of self and others, participants are better able to build a reflected self-

image that understands their own needs and aptitudes. This is beneficial in creating a future

action plan. Participants see their narrative as possibilities and opportunities. As exercise in goal-

setting, it considers feedback in identifying strengths and talents.

Provided with the opportunity to reflect upon experiences in the Master of Arts in

Leadership, there is greater understanding in leadership concepts, the meta-competencies that are

encompassed in the program, and implications for future leadership development.



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