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Articulation of Competency: Responsible Influencer

Wendi D. Sparling

Azusa Pacific University


Responsible Influencer

Leader behaviors are under constant scrutiny. Congruence between articulated and

demonstrated values are of interest, especially when the two diverge. Leaders should know their

values, morals, and ethics and use those same principles to be an example to others. Responsible

influencers are considered as such because of their dedication and concern for others. Their

behaviors and interests are aligned with their persona. As influencers, potential impact on others

is known and understood. Creating empowering collaborative communities requires leadership

that recognizes both the need for meaningful, significant engagement between differing people

groups and the structural freedoms and limitations to which they belong. Responsible

influencers know who and what they believe about themselves, their situation and are interested

in promoting growth and wellbeing for others.

Callings, faith lived through different aspects of our work, are designed by God to

promote flourishing, (Whelchel, 2015). Responsible influencers are lifelong learners and show

genuine concern for people. With an emphasis on social justice, responsible influencers should

authentically engage in the stories of the people they lead. I have learned that it possible to

theoretically understand the politics, socio-economics, and cultural influences that are influence

people groups, but never understand those realities until there is an intimate involvement with

the people. Creating empowered communities and teams that promote flourishing need leaders

who truly know and care for the people they lead. It is more than a perspective or mindset shift;

it is commitment to a heart shift. Engaging with people needs leaders who are engaged in

learning about people. A leadership learning task is to learn how to support the growth of others

(Preskill & Brookfield, 2009). People want to know that their contributions, their efforts, their

perspectives are valued and their involvement matters.


Their ability to build collaborative environments that promote flourishing are informed

through several theories and concepts that are indicative of a responsible influencer. Each theory

involves an element of developing the trusting relationships between diverse leaders and

followers that are needed for accomplishing objectives.

Team leadership models are also of importance to a responsible influencer. Collaborative

climate “is one in which members can stay problem focused, listen to and understand one

another, fee; free to take risks, and be willing to compensate for one another,” (Northouse, 2016,

p. 370). Members of a team bring their own unique perspectives. Responsible influencers know

how to create environments that honor those perspectives.

Successful team building involves creating an empowering environment that incorporates

inclusivity that considers diverse thoughts, perspectives and skill sets. This requires a responsible

influencer who is culturally adept. Fostering collaboration and teamwork, particularly among

differentiated communities involves developing cultural intelligence (CQ). Trust as a subjective

term is culturally defined (Lewis, 2006). Developing CQ promotes the ability to develop

establish relationships built on trust as interpreted by differentiated cultures (Livermore, 2015).

Caring about people is modeled. One theory that is of interest to a responsible influencer

is transformational leadership. Transformational leadership emphasizes the influence that

“moves followers to accomplish more than what is usually expected of them” (Northouse, 2016,

p. 161). This involves a leader who is morally and ethically astute. As trusted role models,

transformational leaders are committed to their ideals (Northouse, 2016). It is about motivating

others to “higher standards of moral responsibility” (Burns as cited in Northouse, 2016, p. 177).

Promoting moral responsibility encourages human flourishing.


With an emphasis on service to others, servant leaders are concerned with being

“trustworthy, aware, humble, caring visionary, empowering, relational, competent, a good

steward, and a community builder,” (Center for Servant Leadership Institute as cited in Keith,

2015, p. 11). Servant leaders are not concerned for their own interests, but seek to partner and

empower their followers (Northouse, 2016). Their caring and concern is demonstrated through

their treatment of and dedication to the success of their followers. Desire is for their followers to

do likewise, and serve others.

Authentic leadership emphasizes a process of becoming a leader who is “purposeful,

value centered, self-disciplined, and compassionate” (Northouse, 2016, p. 206). It is in the

cultivation of characteristics to be considered “trustworthy and believable by their followers”

(Northouse, 2016, p. 206). Ultimately, concern is in assisting followers in aligning “interests in

order to create a common good” (Northouse, 2016, p. 207).

As a responsible influencer, challenging perceptions, assumptions, and comfort zones to

promote community and engagement is something I enjoy. Working with international students

and their parents have provided me with opportunities to be involved in cross cultural

experiences. There is an appreciation for these differentiated learning experiences that enhance

relationship and understanding. I would hope that they have been influenced by these

experiences as much as I have.

Hosting students has provided the opportunity to not only introduce them to a new

culture, but to new experiences. My experience has shown that empowerment comes from

accomplishing something never thought possible. Bearing witness to those experiences is fun!

One such experience was with Gina, a 14 year old international student from Paraguay who came

to stay with my family. During her stay, we went to Zion National Park with the youth program

we are involved with, Venture Crew. Having never camped before, she had no idea what to

expect. She stood at the top of Angel’s Landing, went canyoneering, and became part of the

team. American students taught her about adventure. Gina taught them about being a Youtuber in

Paraguay. They found commonality. Establishing cross cultural relationships and accomplishing

shared objectives is evident in pictures (see Figure 1) and through my communication with her

family on WhatsApp (see Figure 2). The impact that the experience had on her, and her with us

is evident her thank you note that she left on my dresser (see Figure 3).

In working with parents of international and TCK (Third Culture Kids) I have been asked

to serve on parent panels to share experiences a parent of college age students. Included is other

pertinent university information, but the concept is parent focused. Included in the presentation is

personal advice based on experiences with our own children and working with students (Figure

4). What I have learned is that as parents, we are not so different. We all want what is best for

our children, manifested differently. Concepts like Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act

are unfamiliar and specific to American university culture; struggle in procuring the necessary

financial resources is not. Assisting in facilitating conversation in small group settings, other

parents can meet and connect. Representing at least 10 different cultures and countries, there is a

sense of partnership and camaraderie. We are all a little less alone.

What is of interest to me is the redemptive analogies that are imbedded in different

cultures (Richardson, 2005). Knowing that God has already written stories in hearts of all his

people, there is an interest in learning more about the cultures He has created. This concept

changes the perspective in how I should be interacting with people. Future growth opportunities

involve increasing knowledge and interacting with different stories.


1. Read at least four books per year related to person or people group differentiated from

my own. Consideration given to historical, political, and cultural differences. This is

roughly one book every three months.

2. List five facts about each person or people groups that are of interest. Include information

on food, historical monument, or moment in history.

3. Further explore one of those five facts that are of interest. This is done through

interpersonal interaction, internet, museums, or factual movie.

4. Share the experience. Social media, book club or other outlets could be useful.


George, B. (2015). Discover Your True North, Revised and Updated. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

Keith, K.M. (2015). The case for servant leadership (2 ed). Westfield, IN: Greenleaf Center for

Servant Leadership.

Keller, T. (2012). Every good endeavor. Connecting your work to God’s work. New York, NY:

Penguin Books.

Lewis, R. (2006). When cultures collide. Leading across cultures (3rd ed). Boston, MA:

Nicholas Brealey Publishing.

Livermore, D.A. (2015). Leading with cultural intelligence: The real secret to success. New

York: American Management Association.

Northouse, P.G. (2016). Leadership: Theory and practice (7 ed). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Richardson, D. (2009). Peace child. Bloomington, MN: Bethany House Publishers.

Thomas, R. (2008). Crucibles of leadership. How to learn from experience to be a great leader.

Harvard Business Press.

Whelchel, H. (2015, October 26), “What is the most meaningful job in America?” Retrieved

from https://tifwe.org/the-most-meaningful-job-in-America.


(Fig. 1. Group picture taken from the top of Angel’s Landing. It was Gina’s first hike!)

(Fig. 2. From WhatsApp updates sent to her parents. Pictured is Gina and my daughter, Alora.)

(Fig. 3. Email sent to families after Gina left.)


(Fig. 4. Slide and accompanying notes from Global Student Orientation prepared parent