Leadership Presence by Belle Linda Halpern and Kathy Lubar



Exceptional creativity is unleashed when we seek to integrate two usually separate fields and allow our minds to find new insights and generate new paradigms.    That is what has happened as Halpern and Lubar combined together their learning in the fields of acting and leadership into this exceptional volume, Leadership Presence (Gotham Books 2003).    Their work is tremendously important to pastors because of the heavy emphasis upon public speaking that goes with church ministry.  It’s one of those books you can keep going back to for ideas to spur your own professional growth. 

The title thought helps leaders to see that just as an actor succeeds by getting into the moment, so leaders must be very present with those they lead.   “Presence is the ability to connect authentically with the thoughts and feelings of others (p. 3).”  The authors explain the PRES model for developing leadership.   

  • Being Present – “the ability to be completely in the moment, and flexible enough to handle the unexpected.”
  • Reaching Out – “the ability to build relationships with others through empathy, listening, and authentic connection.”
  • Expressiveness—“the ability to express feelings and emotions appropriately by using all available means—words, voice, body, face—to deliver one congruent message.”
  • Self-knowing—“the ability to accept yourself, to be authentic, and to reflect your values in your decisions and actions.” (p. 9)

The book is structured with one chapter to explain the interior conversation and attitudes involved in each point and the following chapter expanding practical suggestions for learning and implementation.      This structure makes it an excellent book for leadership development groups to use.  

The book is full of leadership insights so applicable to pastors that they should really rock us into examining old ways and trying out some new ones.  For example, on flexibility, “The first danger is not so much that we are trapped by the constraints of work but that we feel more constrained than we really are… The second danger is that you, as a leader, have the power to set constraints for others.  You can demand outcomes that are unnecessarily rigid.  And you can force outcomes, from a meeting, for example, that prevent something better or more truthful from emerging (p. 60).”   I suspect that we as church leaders often over constrain–read that control–meetings and don’t realize we are stopping better things from happening by doing so. 

One chapter has handy suggestions for handling fear in public speaking and silencing that debilitating inner critic.  Another topic I found personally powerful concerned connecting with others.  With email and computer research possibilities, I find it too easy to neglect taking enough time to make personal connections.  I suspect I’m not alone.   I think that I and many like me are in danger of thinking that if we just do a good job up front then somehow people will connect.   But Halpern and Lubar challenge us all bluntly, “Creating connections with other people is the leader’s responsibility—your responsibility (p. 80).”   What a good reminder!  Another tremendous section relates to showing authentic emotion and especially investing our work with “passionate purpose (pp. 150-153).”

I highly recommend this book to all pastors and church leaders who want to be challenged and enjoy, as I do, the seminal insights that seem to be most plentiful by integration of varied disciplines.

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